Updated at 10:25 PM September 16, 2012
Texas stepped into SEC country to play Ole Miss but felt right at home in what ended up being a Big 12-style shootout.
The Longhorns’ offense exploded for 676 yards en route to a 66-31 victory over the Rebels. David Ash was 19-for-23 on the night, passing for 326 yards and four scores, setting career highs in each category.
“Whenever you get 66 points on a team, you know the offense was very prepared for this week,” defensive end Alex Okafor said. “They just executed the game. They went out and dominated.”
However, despite Ash’s incredible stat line, it was the players around him who really engineered the sophomore’s breakout performance.
Per design, the rushing attack once again set up the Texas passing attack. The Longhorns pounded the Rebels early with Joe Bergeron, and after he exited the game with a shoulder injury in the second half — Mack Brown says he should be fine — Malcolm Brown picked up where he left off, rushing for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In total, the Longhorn ground game combined for 350 yards and four scores, with nine different players registering positive yardage.
The rushing production has been there; the real question entering the season was whether the passing attack could provide a complement to the ground game.
If tonight was any indication, the answer is yes.
Ash was more than efficient in his role as a game manager, and more importantly, he showed no hesitation on his reads. When he saw one-on-one coverage to the outside he threw it deep. It wasn’t always perfect, but his playmakers compensated for any mistakes he made.
Marquise Goodwin and Mike Davis made Ash look brilliant on his deep throws. Both compensated for underthrown balls with acrobatic catches, turning potential picks into scores. Actually, Goodwin did it twice, and he also netted a 69-yard touchdown run on an end-around in the second quarter, a play in which he sprinted away from the pursuit.
“I was really excited about the number of explosive plays we had tonight,” Mack Brown said. “After Marquise’s big play, our offense really played well and played with a lot of confidence the rest of the way.”
It wasn’t all about the receivers though. Ash had some very nice throws. He was deadly on short and mid-range passes, and his 45-yard completion to Davis in the second quarter, a play in which he placed the ball perfectly in between the corner and the safety on a deep post, was beautiful.
Those are the kind of throws that display how much Ash has grown since last season. The chances were there for him last year and through the first two games of this season, but Saturday he was finally able to capitalize.
“We finally took advantage of opportunities that have been there for two games,” Ash said.
Still, despite all of the positives the offense displayed, the defensive performance was troublesome.
The Longhorns — who were the eighth-ranked defense in the nation entering the game — were gashed by the Rebel attack for 399 yards. But not only that, most of those gains came on explosive plays of 10 or more yards.
Even the Longhorns much maligned “Wild Bunch” kickoff coverage unit showed weakness, allowing a 100-yard return early in the fourth quarter.
However, the defense did flash signs of their potential. In between long completions Quandre Diggs picked off a pair of passes, and linebacker Steve Edmond jumpstarted the Longhorns’ scoreboard assault with a pick six early in the opening frame. Texas’ pass rush was also fierce, registering five sacks in the first half, numbers that help put a shine on what was a poor defensive effort.
“After every game you have concerns,” Mack Brown said. “But when you win 66-31 you have to be pleased.”
Printed on Monday, September 17, 2012 as: Horns pass first road test at Ole Miss