A slow start from the Texas Longhorns defensively allowed the offense only a small handful of plays in the first quarter, but a score right before the half and a touchdown directly after created separation and allowed the Longhorns to rumble over the Lobos, 45-0.
Here are 10 thoughts from the hip after witnessing the game from the top row of the upper deck on the west side, which did afford a nice view of the spectacular sunset that blessed the unseasonably cool day in Austin. Fall is coming, the summer is ending, the football season is starting to hit full stride, and the Longhorns are 2-0.
Feels good, don't it?
01. First Half Finish
The touchdown before the half was extremely important in the overall momentum of the game, letting the Longhorns head into halftime with a 17-0 nothing lead, momentum consolidated with a score on the first possession of the second half to essentially put the game out of reach. It was the most critical portion of the game, and Texas responded in the best way possible.
02. Ash Stays Strong
David Ash started the game off a little bit slowly, completing only three of his first seven passes and nearly having one picked off on the second drive, then missed Marquise Goodwin on the third drive on a pass that he needs to complete. In sum, however, the performance was solid, as he again avoided an interception, now the third straight game doing so as a starter. The vertical game wasn't there again, with no attempts well downfield, but his back-shoulder throw to DJ Grant on a third down in the third quarter was one of his best as a Longhorn, allowing Grant to sit in an open spot to make the catch with two defenders closing. His touchdown run was also his best at Texas on the ground, featuring a cutback across the field to make two Lobos miss. The effort produced a career-high 221 yards passing (stats bolstered by the flip to Daje Johnson that counted as a pass and went for the 45-yard touchdown) and over 10 yards per attempt.
03. Case McCoy Delivers in 4th
Playing the entire fourth quarter, Case McCoy started off slowly, going three and out on the first drive and bailing on a pocket a little early. It was the first time that Texas didn't have a chance to score points in the game. After that, McCoy was excellent, notably stepping into a pass with a free blitzer right in his face. In the past, McCoy would have thrown off his back foot, but he stepped into this particular effort and delivered a ball that John Harris went up and caught as he took a significant hit. Had Ash performed poorly, the effort from McCoy would surely have produced more talk about a potential quarterback controversy. As it stands, McCoy was efficient, hit just about every available play, and showed why some people believe that he could be the best back-up quarterback in the conference.
04. Daje Johnson's Explosive Debut
Daje Johnson. The former Pflugerville Hendrickson star had a DJ Monroe-esque debut, taking his third touch at Texas 45 yards for a touchdown on a little flip pass coming across the formation. The elite speed is definitely there and it was clear from his usage that co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin does intend to use him in a significant way this season. Johnson even saw the field lined up at running back with Monroe in the offset I next to Ash in the pistol, with Monroe motioning into the flat prior to the snap.
05. Hellboy Makes A Mark
Dalton Santos is in Austin and he brought hell with him. The lovable maniac absolutely leveled a New Mexico return man on a kickoff in the second half, continuing his stellar play on that unit. Overall, the kick coverage team was once again a major asset.
06. Diaz's Defense
The defense struggled with the triple option early and gave up way too many third-down conversions, especially on third and long. After the game, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz called the New Mexico offense annoying. The problem wasn't in defending the dive, a concern heading into the game, but rather with the speed option out-flanking Texas on the pitch. Still, the defense didn't give up any points to an offense that every defense that faces off against New Mexico this season will struggle with at times. The two turnovers created also help to relieve worries that surfaced when the group failed to produce them during the fall in scrimmages.
07. Place Kicking Struggles
The placekicking game was once again an adventure, as true freshman Nick Jordan missed another field goal. Anyone else miss Justin Tucker? Anthony Fera can't get healthy fast enough. If he's not ready to go next week against Ole Miss, look for another true freshman, Nick Rose, the current kickoff specialist, to get a look. He converted an extra point Saturday.
08. Malcolm Brown?
After the game, head coach Mack Brown said that running back Malcolm Brown was healthy at halftime, though the sophomore back only had two carries the entire game. Not sure what was going on there.
09. Flexing Depth
Lots of players got into the game. In all, 11 players caught passes and eight carried the ball. Johnathan Gray got his first significant time and averaged a little over four yards per carry, Johnson was impactful, Santos had the big hit, and the fourth quarter served as an opportunity to let the second team work on both sides of a ball, a major priority heading into the contest. Kendall Sanders had a catch. Offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle played again, so it looks like he won't be able to redshirt this season, which is hardly ideal, even if it benefits him in the short term.
10. Interior Rushing
The inside running game still wasn't creating much in terms of holes for the Texas backs. It was supposed to be a strength of this team, but so far that hasn't been the case through two games. Texas will need some improvement in that regard to win the tougher games on the schedule. If there has been a significant disappointment through the first two weeks of the season, it would be that, as the defense cleaned up the communication issues from last week and didn't give the big gains that led to touchdowns for Wyoming.