Longhorns defeat Wyoming in the season opener

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Running back D.J. Monroe scores a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against Wyoming.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

David Ash may have been the headliner heading in, but it was the Texas rushing attack that stole the show.

Texas’ running backs combined for 280 yards and four touchdowns, pacing the Longhorns to a 37-17 victory over Wyoming.

“The running backs did great,” Ash said. “They really wore the D-line out during the game. As the game went on, we saw some big runs. Joe [Bergeron] and Malcolm [Brown] did a great job tonight.”

The backs would agree, heading into the game the goal was to rush for over 250 yards and thanks to a strong second half performance they were able to eclipse that total. Most of the mileage came on the legs of Brown and Bergeron, who each surpassed the 100-yard mark (Brown had 105, Bergeron got 115) and contributed three touchdowns, Bergeron with two of them, between themselves.

Most of their success came late in drives, when the backs' size and ability to rotate in and out wore down the Cowboys’ defense -- a process that Bergeron compared to construction work.

“You have to pound them and eventually they’ll give it up,” Bergeron said. “It’s like hitting a wall basically, and after a while that wall will just crumble and you’ll get to go through and the you will get those big runs.”

While the backs were busy wearing down the Wyoming front seven, Ash was efficient in his role as a leader and a game manager.

He went 20-for-27 in the pocket for 156 yards and a touchdown. But, most importantly, he avoided the costly turnovers that derailed many of his appearances in 2011. Ash did have one fumbled snap that gave Wyoming premium field position in Longhorn territory in the fourth quarter, but other than his handling of a low snap, he controlled the game well.

Ash worked the underneath routes all game long, and was accurate on his short and mid-range throws. He left a few long pass attempts short, but overall the coaches were pleased with what they saw.

“I thought David did a nice job, said co-offensive coordinator Brian Harsin. “David did everything we asked him to do. As far as decision making goes, I am really proud of what David did. With the way they played us that’s where those balls needed to go.”

However, the biggest play of the game didn’t happen on offense, the momentum of the game changed after a spectacular pick from senior safety Kenny Vaccaro early in the second quarter in a 9-7 game. The free safety turned on the jets to undercut, and pick a deep pass over the middle from Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. Before Vaccaro entered the frame it looked like a sure big gainer, instead Texas reclaimed possession and went on a 17-0 run to enter halftime.

It was a play that head coach Mack Brown labeled as “the play that made the difference in the game.”

It wasn’t all perfect for the Texas defense. As a group they gave up some big plays through the air, and the 82-yard touchdown pass it allowed in the second quarter really bucks the team’s mantra of not allowing game-changing completions.

But as a group the Longhorns did cause two turnovers blocked an extra point. They were also stingy on third downs, only allowing the Cowboys to convert on 1-11 attempts. Still, even with decent numbers the defense wasn’t thrilled with their play, as they attempt to live up to the lofty standards that have been placed upon them.

“We have to be able to be the defense everybody has been hyping us as,” said junior linebacker Jordan Hicks. “We have to tighten up and fix some of the things we messed up."

Still, the win laid the foundation for the Longhorns rise back to prominence. It wasn’t the cleanest execution, but it’s a start.

“Our motto right now is R.I.S.E. and I feel like we rose to the occasion,” said sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. “It was sloppy here and there, but it’s good that we got the W.”