AUSTIN — Walking off the field with sweat from pit to hip, David Ash smiled as he joked with receiver Mike Davis about two long misconnections.
Despite a pair of underthrown deep passes to Davis, only one of which resulted in an incompletion, the former Belton standout did everything else the Texas coaches were asking of their sophomore quarterback.
“David’s confidence is so much better,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I thought he made some really good decisions, he threw some balls away that I thought he might have tried to force this time last year. He never panicked. I feel like he’s got a good presence about him now.”
Of course, with a ground game that combined for 280 rushing yards and a defense that held Wyoming to just 69 yards on the ground, Ash wasn’t asked to do much.
Tailbacks Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown combined for 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns as No. 15 Texas rolled over the visiting Cowboys for a 37-17 season-opening victory Saturday evening at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
“Sometimes things don’t go perfect, but we had a great attitude, a great mentality — a winning mentality,” Ash said.
After being named the starter a week ago, Ash showed why his coaches made the right call going with him over backup Case McCoy, finishing 20-of-27 passing for 156 yards and one touchdown — a 16-yard strike over the middle to receiver Jaxon Shipley that put Texas ahead for good, 14-9, with 7:20 left in the second quarter.
“David did everything we asked him to do,” Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “As far as decision-making goes, I’m really proud of David. With the way they played us, (over the middle was) where those balls needed to go.”
Criticized last year for trying to hit home runs on every single play, and not taking the check-down when a play broke down, Ash showed his maturation on the Longhorns’ second series of the game.
Stepping up in the pocket when a play downfield closed up, Ash looked ready to run for the first down when suddenly he saw a wide-open Davis over the middle for an 11-yard completion.
“Well, I was just trying to move the chains,” Ash said. “On those third downs, you just want to get a completion, get it into somebody’s hands and let them get the first down for you.”
The conversion helped Texas get on the board after Wyoming scored first. Bergeron capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead.
Following an 82-yard touchdown run-after-the-catch by Cowboys receiver Robert Herron put Wyoming back on top 9-7, the Longhorns didn’t find the end zone again until their defense started making plays.
After senior safety Kenny Vaccaro returned an interception of Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith 19 yards inside Cowboys territory, Ash seemed to find his comfort zone, connecting with D.J. Monroe down the left sideline for 15 yards.
Four plays later, Ash hit paydirt when he found a diving Shipley over the middle of the field for a 16-yard score.
That was all the spark Texas needed as the Longhorns outgained Wyoming 194-31 in net yardage in the second quarter, as Monroe scored on a 7-yard reverse and kicker Nick Jordan put them ahead 24-9 at halftime with a 31-yard field goal.
The Longhorns offense continued its charge in the second half, beginning with a 17-play, 77-yard drive that ate up nearly 8 minutes and was capped by a 1-yard touchdown by Brown for a 31-9 lead with 3:30 left in the third.
Brown finished with 101 yards on 14 carries. Bergeron led the night with 15 carries for 110 yards and two scores as both running backs averaged more than 7 yards a carry.