In the early going, the Texas Longhorns stumbled against the New Mexico State Aggies in their season opener in Austin. After the first-game jitters wore off some, and a half-time “pep talk” surely raised some hackles, it was a whole new world in the second 30 minutes of football as Texas finished off the evening with a total of 715 yards of total offense, setting a school record and easily dispatching the over-matched Aggies 56-7.
Throughout the season, we’ll break down each Texas positional grouping and provide our observations on how the units performed throughout the evening. In blowouts, this is perhaps a little more challenging task, but there were some obvious positives and negatives in this contest, in spite of the massive divide the scoreline might have suggested.
This will be a two-part series each week. First, the offense.
To put it lightly, David Ash was poor during the first half against New Mexico State, under-throwing a wide open Mike Davis for one potential touchdown catch on a sideline route, under-throwing him again on another sideline route for an interception and getting another pass picked off after it being tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Ash appeared to be trying to place his passes rather than just throwing– something he’s had a tendency to do in the past. Against NMSU, however, we saw what Texas coaches were hoping would be the difference between his sophomore and junior seasons– his ability to bounce back after making mistakes instead of them becoming compounded.
Ash finished the evening 20-28 for 343 yards and four touchdowns– each of which were long-strikes which technically count as explosive plays in Texas internal grading system (plays of 20 yards or greater). The second-half Ash looked like a whole new quarterback, checking down and finding receivers with ease both out of the backfield and on traditional routes in the new up-tempo offense which looked entirely more polished as the game went on.
Overall, it was a solid start for a quarterback that will be as scrutinized as any in the country this fall.
Running Backs: A
The flood of running backs which Texas threw at the New Mexico State Aggies were all successful in their own right. Among the pack, Daje Johnson was the standout, finishing with 129 yards on nine touches both in standard carries and catching passes out of the backfield. Johnson’s 66-yard touchdown reception to end the first-half gave Texas some nice momentum heading into the locker room, and his 24 yard touchdown run began to deflate the Aggies defense. His lightning speed in the open-field was a positive sign of things to come.
Malcolm Brown and Jalen Overstreet both also made a mark on the game in different ways. Brown caught three passes for a total of 109 yards out of the backfield, looking very confident in a new hybrid role. Overstreet came in late in the 4th quarter and shredded the Aggies’ defense with great field-vision running, tallying two touchdowns on 9 carries and totalling 92 yards.
The Texas running backs “flood” could be a nightmare for defensive coordinators across the country this season. A case could be made that it is, in fact, the deepest unit in college football.
Wide Receivers: B-
It’s increasingly difficult these days to define a “wide receiver” in the traditional sense for Texas, but if we’re looking at those actually slotted in the position on the Texas roster, their performance was, well, ok.
Mike Davis‘ early fumble set a troubling tone for the unit, but he and stalwart junior Jordan Shipley both made some nice plays later on the evening that turned things around. The duo finished with 103 yards and a touchdown between them, and were complemented by a long touchdown catch by John Harris, who could prove to be a huge X-Factor for Texas going forward.
Jordan Shipley’s first-tier blocking along the sideline opened up David Ash’s 55-yard touchdown scamper, putting the finish on a massive second-half for the offense. Even if Shipley doesn’t always light up the box score, the little things he does always make a difference, and those little things will make a huge difference as the opponents get more challenging.
Offensive Line: B
While they struggled to get push off the line in the early going, the Texas offensive line eventually wore down an overmatched New Mexico State D-Line that showed visible signs of conditioning issues in the Texas heat as the game wore on. Newcomers Desmond Harrison was particularly impressive and the veterans who would be expected to hold the line and open up things for David Ash and the Texas backs did just that.
As a whole the offense put on a show for the 101,000 plus at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium and hinted at what could be a fun season ahead for Longhorns fans.