AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has apparently found its leader at quarterback.
But first-time starter David Ash couldn't lead Texas where it wanted to go.
Instead, for the second straight week, against its second straight top-10 opponent, Texas fell. This time it was No. 6 Oklahoma State with a 38-26 win over No. 22 Texas in front of 100,101 fans at Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium. The loss wasn't as hard or the fall as far as last week's loss to Oklahoma, but neither landing was all that pretty.
"We're just getting so close," defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said.
What Texas is close to is falling off the college football map -- again. And the Longhorns, in the midst of a two-game slide, are questioning where they can go from here.
Out of the Top 25 would be the first answer. Back to the defensive playbook would be the second -- UT gave up touchdown runs of 30 and 74 on Saturday. And finally, Texas might want to question how it can get Malcolm Brown more involved. The freshman had a career-high 135 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. But Texas abandoned the run with 11 minutes to go, down by 12 at its own 41.
"The coaches do what they think is best," Brown said.
What the coaches did, getting the ball back after a safety, was call three straight pass plays. Texas went three-and-out.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said the attempt was to mix the run and the pass. But following the safety, with 11:20 remaining, Texas had one rush -- by wide receiver Jaxon Shipley.
"We tried to take some shots," Harsin said. "We still ran the football in there. We tried to get the ball out on the perimeter a little bit and get some one-on-ones. You could see them, they were putting more guys in the box. That's what happens when you run the football like that. They're going to bring more guys down. So now you get some one-on-one outside, and we tried to take advantage of that."
Needless to say, Texas, with a new quarterback facing a rush on each play, didn't succeed.
The Longhorns also missed an opportunity with Fozzy Whittaker alone on the goal line on a fourth-and-3 situation. Ash, faced with a rushing defensive end, threw the ball too low. Whittaker grabbed it, but fell before making it into the end zone.
It wasn't Ash's only mistake, nor his most glaring. There was an early interception.
"It seems like I am always good for a pick in the game," he said.
There were also plenty of negative plays in which Ash held the ball too long, looking too hard for the perfect play. Those, coupled with some busted blocking assignments and broken play calls, put Texas into 10 third downs where it faced 7 or more yards to get a first down. The Longhorns converted on two of those. One was on the last drive of the game. Ash finished 22-of-40 for 139 yards with two interceptions and five sacks.
"I feel like I'm ready," Ash said of being the solo starter. "I have a lot of room to grow. Obviously, I'm not there yet. I know I'll get there. I will do everything I can to get there."
In that sense, Ash is no different than the entire Texas team, coaches included. After all, it was Harsin with the head-scratching offensive play calls in the fourth. And it was defensive coordinator Manny Diaz who rolled the dice on an alignment on a first-and-10 in the second quarter. The dice came up craps as Jeremy Smith went through the defense untouched for 74 yards and OSU went up 21-10.
"All six DBs were out there turning their backs and play coverage and we gambled a little bit," safety Blake Gideon said. "It's one of those things where we gambled a little bit and they nailed the call. That happens sometimes."
It has happened to Texas three times in the last two games. Oklahoma's Dom Whaley went for 64 and a score. Smith also had a 30-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter.
"Any time you try something new, there are going to be some leaks in it," linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "We've got to patch it up."
The Longhorns have plenty to patch. Whether they have enough glue is the question. Right now, it appears that Malcolm Brown will be that glue, at least until Ash gets more comfortable leading the offense.
"We're obviously better at running it than we are passing it," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We are not near where we need to be in the passing game."
At least -- for now -- Texas knows who will be in charge of that passing game.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation
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