Everyone knew the Longhorns were running a play out of the wishbone in their first play from scrimmage. No one thought it would be a play like this.
With his unit backed up inside its 10-yard line, co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin put a 21st century twist on the formation that the late Darrell K Royal used to help Texas capture three national titles during his legendary 20-year tenure as the Longhorns’ head football coach.
David Ash motioned fullback Ryan Roberson to his right before the snap and tossed the ball to receiver Jaxon Shipley, who lined up as a running back off-set behind Roberson. Shipley threw it from one side of the end zone to the other back to Ash, who hit a wide open Greg Daniels for a 47-yard gain.
“Coach [Royal] said, ‘When you throw a pass, three things can happen, and two of them are bad,’” head coach Mack Brown said. “So I thought if you throw it twice, that means two good things can happen. That was the only way I could figure out how to make it work.”
A perfect tribute to Royal, who died last Wednesday, when Brown said he “just sat down on the floor and cried.”
But it wasn’t just his team’s opening play that honored Royal, the program’s all-time winningest football coach. The Longhorns went on to pummel an overwhelmed Iowa State team that embarrassed them in Austin two years ago — a 33-7 victory reminiscent of many from the Royal era.
Ash threw for two touchdowns and a career-high 364 yards, his second straight stellar performance since his struggles against Kansas. Texas’ running game was productive and its defense put on a display that would leave Royal smiling.
Royal once described linebacker Tommy Nobis as someone who would “laugh and jump right in the slop for you.” That’s what the Longhorns did this weekend, limiting the Cyclones to a lone touchdown in the final minute of the first half and 64 yards on five second-half drives.
“When I got up Wednesday morning and found out that we’d lost Coach [Royal], I just wasn’t ready for it,” Brown said. “I should have anticipated something like that ... I think, whether I realized it or not at the time, Coach Royal filled a void in my life when I lost my dad and my granddad four months before I came here. He’s just been such a great friend.”
Texas dedicated everything it could to Royal — the first play from scrimmage, the decals on the helmets and the logo at midfield, numerous festivities and even a fourth-quarter rendition of “Wabash Cannonball.” It would have been impossible to honor Royal and the legacy he built over decades in just a few days.
But the way the Longhorns played Saturday came close.
Printed on Monday, November 12, 2012 as: Horns honor Royal with wishbone play