It happened again.
The worst fears of Texas Longhorns fans this season played out again early on Monday, as head coach Charlie Strong announced that starting quarterback David Ash was suffering from concussion symptoms after the win against the North Texas Mean Green.
As a result, Ash won't play this week against BYU, the same game last season in which he sustained the hit that started his concussion problems and eventually resulted in him missing the rest of the season with the exception of the first half against Kansas State.
Behind a makeshift offensive line that by the end of the game featured five new starters from the group that started the 2013 opener, Ash took a number of hard hits in the pocket against North Texas, even though he managed to slide and avoid hits in the open field.
According to Strong, Ash took a hard hit early in the game that may have triggered the recurring symptoms, but didn't feel the effects of it until after he left the stadium. He later met with the training staff, who eventually determined that he was once again suffering from concussion symptoms.
Despite some rust, Ash finished the game 19-of-34 through the air for 190 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for another score on what looked like a broken play.
The news will once again raise calls for Ash to give up football for his long-term health. Heading into the season, Ash said that he had never seriously considered giving up the game after missing all that time last fall, but he may have to re-assess that position after the latest news. Or the Texas training staff may have to step in.
Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes earned the back-up job over true freshman Jerrod Heard during fall camp and will replace Ash as the starter against the Cougars this weekend. The Whitewright product had his redshirt burned last season when he appeared in six games. How much good those appearances did for his development has been under serious scrutiny, as he completed only 5-of-13 passes for 26 yards. He also ran 20 times for 79 yards and one touchdown.
So it seems that the most important player on the team may have played his last snap as a Longhorn, a reality now setting in hours after multiple reports emerged that perhaps the most important offensive lineman on the team may be out for the season in senior center Dominic Espinosa. Strong confirmed on Monday that Espinosa is out with a fractured right ankle after he was rolled up on Saturday night, though it's not clear how much time he will miss.
Combined, the injuries significantly reduce the upside for the Horns in their first season under Strong, especially if Ash ends up missing more than one game.
Losing Ash again was the nightmare scenario, but it was hardly unexpected. And right now concerns about his long-term health truly outweigh the concerns about the immediate future of this football team.