Texas finding offensive balance

Ash becoming more comfortable recognizing opportunities to run or pass

Updated: September 12, 2012, 12:29 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- It only took Week 1 for Texas Longhorns to prove their running game -- two backs rushed for more than 100 yards and the Longhorns accumulated 280 overall yards on the ground.

In Week 2 it was on to the passing game -- 285 passing yards, the highest total in a win for Texas since Colt McCoy put up 309 against Texas A&M in 2009.

"We are starting to get more balance," Texas head coach Mack Brown said.

Malcolm Brown
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireRunning back Malcolm Brown only got four touches against New Mexico but his workload could increase this week.
Just not in the same game -- althought that's the goal. At least that's what it appears to be every time Brown harkens back to the halcyon days of 2005, when Texas averaged 274 rushing and 240 yards passing. That was balance. What has happened since is that one side of the teeter totter has been heavy, either with passing (2008 to 2010) or running (2011).

This season there has been a concerted effort, both in the words chosen to describe the offense and plays for that offense, to achieve a symmetry between the run and the pass. Given the personnel -- a more seasoned quarterback, three running backs, veteran line and receivers -- Brown thought 50/50 with a margin for error to 55/45 in favor of the run was plausible. Now, after watching two games, the coach thinks that goal is possible.

"We can throw it better now than we could at any time last year," he said. "We're improving in that area. So if people are going to do what Wyoming and New Mexico do with better players, and they are going to stack the line of scrimmage, we are not going to be stubborn."

Stubborn was not exactly what the Longhorns had been in the past. Handcuffed by who they had in the game and on the sideline might be a more apt description.

It's not as though the shackles have been shed, exactly. There are still issues. This is not an offense that can dictate what it wants to do yet. Instead it has taken to taking what the defense allows. And, quite frankly, that has been the adroit move to date.

Wyoming and New Mexico just didn'thave enough firepower to win, no matter the route No. 14 Texas took to the end zone. But Ole Miss (2-0) might. At least it has some SEC-caliber athletes and a defense that attacks.

"You have to attack back," Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said of his offense.

As everyone knows, attacking on two fronts -- run and pass -- is much more effective than being one-dimensional. To that end, Texas has outfitted its quarterback with another weapon: either/or plays.

Part of David Ash's development has been reading the defenses at the line and making a snap decision at the line where they might be vulnerable. During the New Mexico game, he checked more than Bobby Fisher.

For instance, Malcolm Brown was in the game for 22 plays and touched the ball four times. Harsin said more than a handful of those plays were designed to go to Brown, but Ash made the correct check.

"We end up getting a box count that we need to throw the ball outside or check the play, or they give us a look to throw a perimeter bubble screen out there and then we have to take it," Harsin said.

So while Texas would like to have more balance, "we're not going to be stupid and just pound it," Brown said. "We would like to take what's there."

The key, however, is that Texas can at least attempt to take what is there with either the run or the pass. The Longhorns proved that to themselves in the first two games.

Now, given that they will most likely play a defense that believes it can stop both facets rather than just selling out to stop one, Texas has to prove to itself that it can run and pass equally in the same game.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation