As mentioned in the post-game thread, I was looking at this game from a high-level perspective, evaluating the Longhorns' performance in a manner specific to the game and opponent. Today's performance would be subject to a different evaluation in, say, November against Kansas State. But for the season opener, against Wyoming, Texas largely got what it needed in the critical areas that will define this team's ceiling for the season as a whole. This was just a start. But all things considered, it was a solid one about which fans can feel satisfied.
There's lots of interesting stuff to discuss during the in-depth game analysis, but let's get to some post-game quick hits while the final score is still fresh.
OFFENSIVE MVP: RB Malcolm Brown (14 rush, 105 yds, 7.5 ypr, 1 TD). He dropped a high but catchable ball that would have converted a first down, but that was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar night from the sophomore. Brown's quick feet, excellent vision and feel, and ability to accelerate and get to the edge were on full display on Texas' first touchdown drive of the game, when Brown provided the spark that got the Longhorns offense going for the first time.
DEFENSIVE MVP: Defensive Line. This was far from the best performance that this Texas defense is capable of delivering, and on several occasions they flat out got beat by a damn fine quarterback, but as they started to flood Wyoming's backfield with pressure, QB Brett Smith succumbed, the running game had no chance to bail any water, and the Cowboys offense was effectively drowned. No one player on the defensive line dominated, but a swarm of capable players contributed valuably to what amounted to the difference-making performance in the game.
STANDOUT COACH: Stacy Searels. I'm giving the nod to Texas' offensive line coach, who has done an admirable job turning around the disaster he inherited. This isn't likely to be a great Texas offensive line, but after a slow start, tonight's performance wound up that of a good one, and if they stay healthy, they should help Texas' power ground game overwhelm a majority of the opponents on the schedule.
1. Nick Jordan is a true freshman playing in his first game. But as of now he is also our starting place kicker. A shaky, if understandable, debut.
2. Although Texas gave all the signs that it will be in good shape to control outmatched opponents, the offense will need to develop some downfield playmaking ability to deal with the top teams in the league.
3. It's just impossible to work up actual concern with this Texas secondary, but you can bet that group is already dying to get back on the field to atone for tonight's uneven performance.
Three Things To Like
1. The ability to make some plays downfield is the last key ingredient still missing, but in every other regard Ash was everything Texas hoped and needed for him to be. He was efficient, mistake-free (the fumble seemed more a bad snap), and gave the Longhorns offense enough through the air to let the ground game do the rest.
2. If the sloppy execution of a season opener left plenty to be desired, there was a lot to like about the way this group of coaches has assembled this team, and the ways they use their various weapons to attack opponents. This is a staff that has very developed, well-conceived sets of ideas about what they want to do, how they want to do it, and why. When it all comes together, Texas is going to be fearsome to deal with.
3. D.J. Monroe. I'll have more to say about him in the game analysis, but an immediate salute is needed and thoroughly deserved.
4. And a fourth, because college football is back in Austin, Texas. That in and of itself is worth celebrating, and all the more so after an opening night victory. Pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, and join me in toasting the kick off of the 2012 season.
And now your turn: who gets your game balls? What are your causes for concern, and sources of optimism?