PROVO, Utah (AP) — This wasn’t exactly the type of start the Texas Longhorns’ new fast-paced offense envisioned: Fumbling the football on the first drive and then stalling out the rest of the opening quarter.
Just a minor glitch, though, as the No. 15 Longhorns soon got things revved up in routing New Mexico State 56-7 last weekend as they rolled up a school-record 715 yards of offense. Texas quarterback David Ash led the way by throwing for 343 yards and four touchdowns, along with running for another score.
“Started off slow. Turned the ball over. Didn’t look good,” Ash said. “Then, we got together and we played like we’re capable of. There (were) a lot of points, a lot of yards, we left out on the field.”
This weekend, Texas faces a stingy BYU defense that was one of the country’s best last season. Led by linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the Cougars held Virginia’s offense largely in check during a season-opening loss.
“They pride themselves on being a tough team,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, who can tie Woody Hayes for 10th place on the NCAA all-time wins list with a victory Saturday. “I’m challenging our team because I think Brigham Young is as tough as anybody in the country.”
One thing’s for certain: The Longhorns have BYU’s attention.
“We feel like if we just cut down on some of the mistakes and keep executing and do what we need to do, they’re going to get tired,” running back Jamaal Williams said. “They’re going to bow down to our will and we’re just going to go out there and do our thing.”
Here are five things to watch when the Longhorns meet BYU:
MATURING ASH: Ash received his first significant playing time in a 17-16 win over BYU in 2011. He split snaps with Case McCoy against the Cougars in ’11 as Ash completed just two passes and ran for 36 yards. Now the undisputed No. 1 quarterback, Ash passed for four TDs to four different receivers and ran for another score last weekend. “The feel I had wasn’t like I had played a great game. I felt like I played good, but made some mistakes that didn’t need to happen,” Ash said. “I feel like I have a lot to improve.”
STRONGER UP THE MIDDLE: Linebacker was a weak spot for Texas last season as Jordan Hicks missed most of the year with a hip injury. The Longhorns will be counting on Hicks and Steve Edmond to contain a mobile, dual threat quarterback such as BYU’s Taysom Hill.
HERE’S THE CATCH: The Cougars were missing one of their top offensive threats in the season opener against Virginia as wide receiver Cody Hoffman sat out with a hamstring injury. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is hopeful Hoffman will be ready by Saturday. Hoffman needs just 19 catches to eclipse Dennis Pitta’s school record in receptions. Hoffman also is three TDs away from breaking Austin Collie’s career mark.
BOUNCING BACK: Williams is trying to forget about the pass he tipped that led to a late Virginia interception, setting up the decisive touchdown. “It’s over now. I had my boo-hoos after the game,” Williams said. “I should have caught it. It touched my hands. I should have caught it.”
HILL TO CLIMB: Mendenhall isn’t reading too much into Hill’s final numbers. In a rain-drenched game, Hill was 13 of 40 for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception. “I don’t think delivering the ball was as much an accuracy issue as the guys catching it,” Mendenhall said. “I thought he had a good game. A strong game.” Said Hill: “Our passing game needs to get better. We need to be on the same page — receiver and quarterback — so we know exactly what we’re seeing.”
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