Fast start propels big day for Texas

PASADENA, Calif. -- Forget brick by brick. Texas threw up a couple of I-beams, riveted some steel girders and looked like it was ready to add a few floors to its rebuilding project.

In front of 54,583 at the Rose Bowl, Texas left UCLA in its dust.

Now, before celebrating the idea that Texas is once again in the high-rent district of college football, keep in mind UCLA is most assuredly a lower-floor, no-view type of team. Still, the 49-20 win was a chance for Texas to exorcise some mental and emotional demons.

"This is huge for us right now," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "There were question marks with Brigham Young, and we started so slow. Today we started well. We answered well. We looked like a good football team today."

With a pretty good quarterback to boot. Case McCoy, the also-ran of the preseason quarterback battle, ran the offense up and down the field against the Bruins. With uncanny accuracy and a bumper-car scrambling style, the sophomore directed three first-half touchdown drives to give Texas a 28-10 lead. McCoy finished 12-of-15 for 168 yards and two touchdowns in his starting debut.

"He has it," freshman quarterback David Ash said of McCoy. "He has it."

The "it" factor is what has been missing for Texas, and not just last year, but through the first two weeks of this season, too. Sure, Texas (3-0) won those games, but not like this. Not in dominating fashion. Not by forcing four turnovers, and not by scoring 21 points in the first 20 minutes.

"We feel like we are taking the right steps, and we are taking them fast," said cornerback Adrian Phillips, who had an interception.

No more slow starts.

Or mercy.

Not that Texas is in the position to be showing any. Youth needs confidence. Confidence is born of success. Add that up and figure out why Texas refused to let up. From the start of the game, Malcolm Brown made sure the Bruins knew it.

The freshman was the starter and continually finished his punishing runs with a lowered shoulder and pumping legs. Never was that more evident than when Brown took off for the end zone from 16 yards out only to be held up at the 2-yard line. Brown, in the "oh yeah?"-moment of the day, lost his shoe, still gained ground and powered through a tackler for a touchdown.

"We didn't know after the Rice game whether Malcolm was for real and he could step up and do it in a game against Brigham Young or go on the road and do it against UCLA," Mack Brown said. "Obviously he has proven, in both cases, he can."

Malcolm Brown finished with 110 yards on 22 carries. Texas, as a team, rushed for 284 yards.

But Brown was, by no means, the only Texas freshman shine in sunny Pasadena. Jaxon Shipley atoned for an earlier fumbled punt with a touchdown pass to D.J. Grant to put the Longhorns up 35-13.

For Grant, it was his third touchdown of the day. For Texas it was the rediscovery of the position. A Texas tight end had not caught a touchdown pass since last season's game against Kansas State.

"If a tight end can block and find a way to get open, he is going to be a big player in our offense," McCoy said.

With Grant's emergence, co-offensive coordinator has Bryan Harsin now has another legitimate weapon at his disposal. That is probably not welcome news to Texas' upcoming opponents after seeing how Harsin's offense confused Rick Neuheisel and his staff.

"We've got to get guys to the ground," the UCLA head coach said. "We're in position to make plays."

But the Bruins never could. Even when UCLA appeared to be in position to get back in the game, things bounced Texas' way. Faced with a third-and-18 at the UCLA 27, the Bruins sent everybody after McCoy. McCoy took it from there, spinning out of three tackles, weaving from one sideline to the next before finding Mike Davis at the 2.

"A play like that is going to raise everybody's level for the rest of the game," Ash said. "A play like that one kills the opponent. It is hard for the opponent to come back from that. They had him three times, and then all of the sudden they didn't have him, and we are on the 1-yard line and we score."

The offense continued to score, and continued to lay the bricks of its foundation.

"We will have to handle some people bragging on us for the first time," Mack Brown said. "What we have got to do is keep working, because we are not near as good as we could be."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.

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