Sep 8, 2012; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Daje Johnson (27) runs for a touchdown against the New Mexico Lobos during the second half at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Texas beat New Mexico 45-0. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
I guess some are upset that this team hasn't been thoroughly obliterating opponents right out of the gate, but I'm pleased with things overall, continuing to take a longer-term outlook on team assets and growth trajectory. I'm not expecting national title contention this year, but for confirmation that we're headed there soon. Your expectations may be different, but on that count I continue to like what I see.
And anyway, you did see Daje Johnson's touchdown run/reception/whatever, didn't you?
Alright, let's hand out some post-game awards and talk about the game a bit.
OFFENSIVE MVP: Team. It feels lame to punt on naming someone, but come on: tabbing everyone tonight makes a lot more sense than singling any one guy out. For the second straight week, David Ash played well, without playing well enough to make everyone start to get excited about his ceiling. (More on that in a bit.) Case McCoy showed why he's a valuable asset as Texas' back up quarterback. Daje Johnson exploded for his first TD, and though Gray did not, you can see the excellence -- the results will come. I'm a big fan of what we're seeing from Bergeron so far, and am amused by his early season detractors. And Texas got a much better all-around effort from its receiving corps, including a desperately needed encouraging performance from Mike Davis. There are still open questions about this group's ceiling in 2012, but everyone chipped in to a solid effort tonight, the group again got better and better as the game wore on, and there are glimpses of a strong unit if things all come together this season.
DEFENSIVE MVP: Jackson Jeffcoat (7 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 FF, 1 QBH). More on why I remain very high on this defense in a moment, but for now I'll tip my cap to Jeffcoat for his fine individual effort tonight. After a slow start in the Lobos' opening drive, Jeffcoat's remaining effort continued to show why he seems poised for a First Team All-Big 12 season.
STANDOUT COACH: Major Applewhite. No coach is more responsible for the abundance of riches Texas has stockpiled at the running back position than Major Applewhite. Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Jonathan Gray, Daje Johnson -- it's ridiculous, and they're here in large part because of Major's exceptional work on the recruiting trail.
1. I'm told Anthony Fera is probably two weeks from returning, but whenever it is won't be a moment too soon, as Texas' place kicking continues to struggle without him.
2. Although the long-term concern remains exactly zero, the development still needed from our inexperienced linebackers looks like it could be costly as the competition ramps up.
3. The depth at defensive tackle is certainly a plus, but the first two games suggest Texas lacks an impact player at the position right now. My guess is that statement may not hold true by November, but the play has only been so-so to this point.
Three Things To Like
1. As expected, the defense had its fair share of issues dealing with the triple option -- a challenge that will pay dividends as this season progresses -- but one thing I love is the competition for snaps that we're seeing due to the outstanding depth that this Texas defense possesses. From Kendall Thompson to Dalton Santos and on up and down the roster, there are talented, capable, hungry players pushing starters at just about every single position on the defense, and as the season progresses, the snaps for players who can't execute what Diaz wants are going to dry up very quickly.
2. Four of Texas' touchdowns were "explosive" plays -- both as Mack Brown uses the term (18+ yards) and in the more general sense. Possessing that explosive ability is to critical in college football, and has been sorely lacking in Austin for a good while now. We'll see how he responds the next time he faces adversity, but Mike Davis at least reminded us tonight why he has the potential to be an impact player.
3. The efficiency and ball control of our offense is substantially ahead of where it was at any time last year, and it's difficult to overstate the importance of that. Every first down picked up, or turnover avoided -- however underwhelming otherwise -- is another opportunity to break an explosive play in the next one. That's why I'm overall so pleased with what we've seen from David Ash, even though he still has plenty of improving that he can and needs to do. For now, most immediately, it was important that he develop from where he was last year to where he is today -- and he has. And that's not only hugely important for the short-term, but provides reason to believe that further improvement can and will follow. Through two games, Ash has completed 74% of his passes (36-of-49) with 2 touchdowns (3 if you count Daje's) and 0 interceptions, and ripped off a 49-yard TD run tonight. Whatever further development he needs to do, his performance so far has been hugely encouraging and important.
With the win, Texas moves to 2-0 in concluding the cupcake portion of its schedule. Next week the Longhorns head to Oxford for their first-ever game at Ole Miss, 28-10 winners over UTEP this evening. For all things Rebels, head on over to Red Cup Rebellion.
And now your turn: who gets your game balls? What are your causes for concern, and sources of optimism?