Sunday, September 30, 2012
Ash's growth, poise key Texas' road rally
By David Ubben
STILLWATER, Okla. -- This time, there was no time for David Ash to lean on his running game. A go-ahead touchdown drive with seven runs and two short passes didn't put Texas ahead for long enough, and down two points, Texas had 2 minutes, 34 seconds to become the first team to win in Stillwater since Oklahoma won a Big 12 South title at Boone Pickens Stadium in 2010.
The Longhorns sideline wasn't lacking for confidence in the eventual 41-36 victory over Oklahoma State that sent Texas to 4-0 and, most likely, into the top 10.
Texas coach Mack Brown was clear with his defense on the previous drive: "Hold them to a field goal, and we're going to win the game," he said.
"We were going to win the game," running back D.J. Monroe said. "That's just our mentality."
Ash stared a fourth-and-6 in the face with the Cowboys crowd louder than it had been all night. With three receivers on his left, Ash dropped back and hit D.J. Grant over the middle for a 29-yard gain on a play he admitted after the game was his first read all along.
The Cowboys were taking away the sidelines and his check-down throws to running backs. He had to get adventurous and test the middle of OSU's defense.
"It was not a time to be scared to make a mistake," Ash said. "It was a time to give it everything you had."
Two plays later, Ash indulged receiver Mike Davis, who, earlier in the night, begged him for a another chance after dropping what would have been a long touchdown grab. Blanketed by a future NFL cornerback in Justin Gilbert, Ash let it fly. Davis hauled in a jump ball for a 32-yard gain down to the 5-yard-line and Texas was officially in position to log the biggest victory for the program since a Big 12 title win at Cowboys Stadium over Nebraska all the way back in 2009.
"He will not be under any more pressure than this, and he couldn't have done this this time last year. He's really grown up," Brown said. "He's the leader of this football team."
Mike Davis hauls in the 32-yard jump ball over Justin Gilbert that set up Texas' winning score.
When it was over, Brown joined his quarterback for a triumphant trot past a delirious pocket of Texas fans in the northeast corner of the stadium. Both flashed a "Hook 'Em" hand sign on their way to the locker room with a feeling that has been all too unfamiliar in Austin these past few years.
One drive to win a game, and Texas' quarterback led it to victory.
"It's a lot of fun. When you grow up and learn the position, it's what you dream of. What you lay down at night thinking about," Ash said. "Joe Montana, Joe Cool. Tom Brady. The guys that did it in the clutch."
Texas' brand-new quarterback grew up Saturday night. It's one thing to stay calm in blowouts against New Mexico or even on the road at Ole Miss. It's another to do so on the road against a team that beat you at home in each of the past two seasons on the way to 23 wins in two years. It's another to do so against that team facing a game-deciding drive when the probability of a loss is high.
Ash's teammates couldn't stop talking about his poise and composure in the difficult, frenzied environment.
"He stayed real composed the whole time and that's how we like him," Monroe said. "We don't like him to get all frustrated. We like him to stay the David Ash that we know: quiet, calm and collected."
He finished 30-of-37 for 304 yards, and three touchdowns, just one fewer touchdown than he threw all of last season.
"The four games this year, he's been near perfect," Brown said. "He's run the offense well and he didn't get flustered tonight, even with the sacks, because we didn't do as many things up front well offensively."
He also threw his first interception of the season, but he bounced back to lead the Longhorns to a pair of go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter, including the final one that clinched the win. After the interception, Texas scored touchdowns on three of its final four drives.
"Last year, he had bad body language. He was hard on himself," Brown said. "He moved on, forgot it and left it alone."
Texas was better off for it on Saturday night, and the scoreboard showed the evidence.
"He's a lot more mature, and he makes better reads," said receiver Jaxon Shipley, who caught all three of Ash's touchdown passes. "He's always had a great arm, but he's making a lot better decisions this year."
That will lead to plenty more outcomes like Texas saw Saturday, and maybe even a few more heroics.