Only three things can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad, the
iconic Darrell Royal was known to say. And that’s why Texas threw twice
on the same play when it lined-up in the wishbone on the first snap of
its 33-7 win against Iowa State Saturday.
“I thought if we threw it twice,” coach Mack Brown said, “then I thought at least two good things could happen.”
Jaxon Shipley’s throwback pass to QB David Ash out of the south end zone set up a 47-yard completion to TE Greg Daniels.
“I was trying to trick those guys into thinking I was going to run the ball,” Shipley said. “That’s all I was focused on. I turned back and so David was wide open. At that point, I knew it was going to work.”
It’s just that few of the Longhorns even knew what the wishbone was.
“I didn’t what the wishbone was until we implemented it,” Ash concedes
It certainly wasn’t to be found in the voluminous Longhorn playbook. But Brown insisted on basing out of the ‘bone on Texas’ snap after Royal’s passing was announced Wednesday morning. Still, he was surprised when his “crazy young coaches” opted for a double-reverse pass out of the formation.
“You’re kidding!” Brown said to his offensive staff. “That would make him madder than anything if we did that.”
But Royal would have approved of the “spunk” of the play call, Brown believed, even if it was run from the Longhorn six-yard line. Then again, it would be hard for even two things to go wrong against an Iowa state defense that ranked 109th nationally.
QB David Ash completed his first 11 passes, and finished 25-of-31 for 364 yards and two TDs. He completed passes to 10 different receivers, while Shipley and Mike Davis each tallied more than 100 yards in receptions.
“David didn’t throw a bad ball,” Brown noted.
Mixing pass-and-run, Ash orchestrated a crisp 73-yard scoring drive in six plays to put Texas on the scoreboard on its second possession. RB Johnathan Gray is growing up before our very eyes. He followed a six-yard run with a 13-yard dump pass over the middle. Daje Johnson exploded for 16 down the left sideline to the Cyclone five. The middle opened for Gray when Texas faked the speed-sweep and grabbed a 7-0 leaded with 4:34 left in the opening frame.
Ash’s perfectly-placed, play-action pass on Texas’ third possession resulted in a 61-yard strike to Davis. The 14-0 scoreboard with 3:23 left was Texas’ first double-digit, first-quarter lead since the September 15 game at Ole Miss.
Big props should go to Texas’ O-line. The big uglies up front have kept Ash upright by allowing no sacks in consecutive weeks.
RB Malcolm Brown saw his first action since suffering an ankle injury at Oklahoma State on September 29, but the starting spot is Gray’s to lose. Gray notched the first multiple-TD game of his career with his 13-yard scoring run to make it a 30-7 scoreboard with 12:32 remaining. The freshman finished with 75 yards on 14 totes, but Joe Bergeron turned in the kind of blue collar afternoon that would have made Royal proud. Bergeron was at his leg-churning, stiff-arming best, to lead all rushers with 86 yards on 12 carries.
Royal may not have approved of the double-reverse pass, but he certainly would have recognized the 609 yards of total offense that Texas generated. Davis got things started on Texas’ final possession of the first half with his 10-yard out-route. He collected 14 more three plays later on a crossing pattern. The big play, however, was Shipley’s 26-yarder on the post pattern to the ISU eight. It set up Ash’s three-yard throwback toss to Barrett Matthews to cap a nine-play, 65-yard drive. It was a 20-0 Longhorn lead after Anthony Fera missed the PAT with 2:53 left until intermission.
Iowa State responded with a nine-play, 65-yard TD drive just before intermission. It was the only points Texas surrendered all day, but it left a sour taste in the pit of Brown’s stomach.
“I just hated that,” Brown said. “That takes away our momentum heading into the half. It makes me want to throw up.”
Otherwise, it was a day when nearly everything worked for Texas, including a defense that held Iowa State to just 33 rushing yards in the second half. The Horns limited ISU to 144 rushing yards on the day, and it was almost enough to make DE Alex Okafor take back everything he said about Texas’ previous failures to stop the run. Okafor was one of a handful of Longhorns who expressed “zero confidence” in their run defense shortly after the blowout loss against Oklahoma.
“I’m slowly gaining some confidence,” Okafor said following a game-high nine tackles. “We’re getting better, but we have a ways to go.”
Still, it was a good start for a beleaguered unit that forced three punts and came away with a pick on ISU’s first five possessions. Cyclone QB Steele Jantz generally managed to outrun the blitzes coordinator Manny Diaz dialed-up on passing downs, but the senior was harassed into an ineffectual 15-of-29 afternoon for 133 yards, including two interceptions.
“This game was about third-down conversions,” Diaz said. “They couldn’t get us off the field, and they couldn’t stay on the field.”
Indeed, Texas was 8-of-14 on third downs while ISU was just 3-of-12.
Freshman WLB Peter Jinkens logged his first start. Starter Kendall Thompson (concussion) was held out for precautionary reasons. Jinkens’ six tackles tied for the second-most on the afternoon. Meanwhile, freshman DE Shiro Davis showed teammates how to defend the zone read with his five-yard TFL on 3rd-and-one midway through the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t a good day at the office for Fera. The Penn State-transfer missed a PAT and saw his 32-yard FG attempt blocked. Freshman Nick Jordan booted a 37-yard FG into a stiff southerly breeze on Texas’ first series of the second half.
All told, it was dominating performance against an outmatched foe. Obviously, some of the league’s lesser lights had managed to hang around as of late, but Texas is starting to resemble the overall team that coaches have been expecting since the opening whistle. It happened on a day when the program wanted to honor Darrell K Royal. “I lost a huge part of my life,” Brown said, adding that, at least on the opening snap, Texas may have had some “divine intervention” from above. And the eyes that continue to gaze upon Texas now include its legendary coach, albeit from a distant shore.
“He’s watching us,” Brown said.