After a slow start, the Longhorns dominated their first outing of the season against New Mexico State, 56-7. Here are four things Texas showed improvement on since the end of last season.
Go back a year or two ago and Texas most likely wouldn’t have been able to lead the comeback it had Saturday evening. The team showed a new sense of maturity to settle down, realize what it needed to do and then accomplish it.
Part of this new development is Texas’ experience. The Longhorns returned 19 of 22 starters this season, most of whom have been together since 2011.
“We’re not happy in the way we played the first half but that’s the sign of a mature team,” co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “Not to say that it doesn’t matter but we internalized it, put it in its own place and moved on. I was proud to see them do that.”
This season, head coach Mack Brown and Applewhite introduced a quicker, faster, more aggressive style of offense. The Longhorns hoped their up-tempo attack would produce more opportunities to put points on the board and add an additional 12-15 snaps per game.
The offense stumbled early, but the third and fourth quarter showed how effective the up-tempo pace can be. The Longhorns came out of halftime with a six-play, three minute drive that resulted in a touchdown.
For an up-tempo attack to work, a team needs to have two viable options at nearly every position. The Longhorns substituted well on offense and defense, and the second stringers played effectively.
“In our past we wouldn’t have been able to play that many second and third guys and not give up 21 points,” Brown said. “Our depth is much better and that should help us.”
Fewer mistakes on defense
The Longhorns struggled considerably on defense last season, and while some of those same mistakes resurfaced on Saturday, the defense still looked improved.
The team didn’t miss a tackle until the second quarter when Carrington Byndom whiffed trying to stop a screen pass. The team was able to identify mistakes at halftime and came out much stronger defensively, dominating the line of scrimmage and backfield.
Perhaps the biggest positive defensively is the Longhorns’ run defense. Last year, Texas surrendered 4.6 yards a carry. Saturday evening? Only three.
The Longhorns have lacked a leader since Colt McCoy exited the 40 Acres. David Ash hopes to change that.
Despite a slow start, the junior quarterback guided his team to an explosive and efficient second-half performance. Ash became only the fifth Longhorn quarterback to put together more than 400 yards of total offense, which included 343 yards passing, 91 rushing and five touchdowns.
The Ash-led offense picked up 715 yards of total offense, which set a school record.