- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The stats do deceive.
Check that: They flat out lied. This week at least.
Sure, the scoreboard was accurate as No. 17 Texas rolled up New Mexico 45-0 in front of 100,990 at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. But before belting out that Ric Flair "woo," hang on. There are a few issues lurking beneath the numbers of the one position that carries the weight of the Texas program.
To be sure, Texas quarterback David Ash was efficient and effective. He finished 16 of 22 for a career-high 221 yards with two touchdowns. Sterling, right?
The polish was not exactly blinding. Not upon further inspection.
Ash's two touchdown passes? The 22-yarder was a pitch and catch in which wide receiver Mike Davis did the work with his feet and Marquise Goodwin did the rest with his blocking. The 45-yard touchdown pass to Daje Johnson? That was a two-foot shovel pass that Johnson turned into something special.
"I didn't do much there," Ash said. "Stats are for losers, though."
Sure, got it. But for those who take a glance at the stats, here is something to consider when considering how long Texas will keep winning games.
Of Ash's 16 completions, only one pass traveled 20 yards before being caught. The rest were a mix of screens, crossing and comeback patterns. Maybe that was to be expected from the quarterback whose 27 attempts went 3.7 air yards per in Week 1. But let it be duly noted that Texas coach Mack Brown and company repeatedly said this week there would be a concerted effort to get the ball downfield.
"You are feeling your way early to see who can do this and who can do that," Brown said. "But we haven't shown everything yet for sure, because we haven't needed to."
Now there is the argument out there that Ash is doing exactly what is asked of him, as well as exactly what is needed for the Texas offense. Those are valid points.
There is also another argument floating that what Ash and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin are doing is not enough. A glance at some other scoreboards -- ahem, 52 for Kansas State against Miami -- and it is empirically clear the latter argument carries more weight than Perry Mason.
Sure, Texas doesn't play KSU until the end of the season. But the Longhorns do play at Ole Miss next week. And the Rebels' quarterback, who just happens to have a quarterback Texas danced with in recruiting, Bo Wallace, has thrown for 438 yards and has touchdown passes of 55, 53, 51, 25 and 3 yards.
OK, yeah, those stats came against bad competition. But what exactly are Wyoming and New Mexico?
As for stepping up in competition, in some areas Texas appears ready to do just that.
The defense, a week after giving up an 82-yard touchdown pass, held the Lobos to 35 yards in the third quarter and a paltry 177 yards while the starters were in the game. The Longhorns punched the ball loose once and picked another.
"If they are not getting big yards or big chunks, you always have a chance to stop them," said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. "We never gave the big one away."
On special teams there was a blocked punt by Mykkele Thompson as well as a 35-yard punt return by Quandre Diggs. Nick Rose continued to float kickoffs. Dalton Santos continued to punish any opponent who dared return the aforementioned kicks.
The run game, supposedly the crutch on which this team leans, was more pedestrian than normal. New Mexico's long, time-consuming drives played a large role in that lack of production. So, too, did Texas' concerted effort to pass the ball in the first half.
It wasn't until the second half, when Brown told the offense he wanted to put the game away, that Texas started to run the ball -- five straight times before the two-foot pitch to Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown play -- that Texas leaned in the run.
Joe Bergeron, Texas' leading rusher, had just 49 yards. Johnathan Gray had 30 yards on half the carries Texas wanted to get him. And Malcolm Brown had two carries for five yards. It was actually Ash who had the most explosive run play, a 49-yard touchdown run in the first half.
"It's a feel thing," Harsin said about the personnel decisions in the run game. "And it is by play call as the game flows. We wanted to try and get it in the playmakers hands and wanted to spread the ball around a little bit."
Texas also wanted to check and see just where the passing game was before the meat of the season started. That was why Ash threw the ball 16 times and Texas rushed it only 11 times in the first half. It's also why Texas led only 17-0 at halftime. Not that the stats or score mattered.
"We're not into stats," Brown said. "We're into winning the game."
1hEthan Sherwood Strauss