The Austin Chronicle


By Russ Espinoza, September 6, 2013, Sports

UT lost something of value on Saturday night against lowly New Mexico State, but the Longhorns' school-record 715 yards of total offense deserves its own memorial library.

Mack Brown and co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite harped on the importance of ball control like a two-headed parrot this summer, with a target offensive output of 80 plays each Saturday. That plan went spectacularly awry opening night, though only as a result of UT's reintroduction of the big play.

Despite trouncing New Mexico State 56-7, Texas actually lost the time of possession battle 36-24, and their revamped, up-tempo offense fired only 72 plays to the Aggies' 84. UT's belated scoring outburst (six second-half touchdowns) couldn't help fill their preordained quota. So much for an 80-by-80 romp.

Nothing will be so quick and easy Saturday when the 'Horns head up to Utah to take on the Cougars of Brigham Young, a squad strapped with an impenetrable defense that would give the Oregon Ducks pause. Offensively lackluster and turnover prone during head coach Bronco Mendenhall's nine-year tenure, the Cougars (8-5 in 2012) finished last season with the nation's third-best D.

BYU surrendered 223 yards and two rushing plays of six yards or more Saturday in a 19-16 loss to Virginia, a demoralizing defeat characterized by miscues on both offense and special teams. Mendenhall's troop held a 16-12 lead and the ball with three minutes remaining before an interception in Cougar territory set up Virginia's go-ahead score.

BYU sports a remodeled offense this year, one spearheaded by fresh faces like first-year starting quarterback Taysom Hill and returning offensive coordinator Robert Anae, though Saturday's storyline should revolve around the battle between Texas' speedy O and BYU's stonewall D. Swarming linebackers Uani Unga and Kyle Van Noy, and run-stuffing lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna (10 tackles last week), comprise the heart of the Cougars' imposing crew.

Which is to suggest that if last week served as UT's field day, week two doubles as boot camp. Longhorn QB David Ash remains on trial each week: Is he the Big 12's best quarterback, the one who threw four touchdowns in week one, or last year's two-time bench warmer who New Mexico State intercepted twice in one half?

UT and BYU last met on Sept. 10, 2011, in Austin, when the Cougars chased Longhorn starter Garrett Gilbert. Who was it that helped rescue a 17-16 victory from defeat?

David freaking Ash.

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