AUSTIN — Much like Heather Locklear in the late 1990s Nike commercial, Texas coach Mack Brown digs the long ball.
But only so long as it’s not going to come at the expense of a great ground game.
After saying he wanted to see Belton product David Ash air it out a little more, the longtime Longhorns leader shifted gears in the second half and rededicated to running the ball.
And with a bend-but-don’t-break defense that held New Mexico’s triple-option attack outside the red zone all night, the No. 15-ranked Longhorns shut out the overmatched Lobos 45-0 Saturday evening at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“I told them the whole thing was kind of slow at halftime and I wanted more fun, I wanted more energy,” Brown said, “I wanted the crowd picked up and I wanted to get this thing over with.”
From the first snap of the game, the Longhorns tried to hit the home run as Ash uncorked a deep pass toward a streaking Mike Davis down the home sideline. But the ball landed a few yards past the outstretched arms of the junior speedster for an incompletion. It’s the third time this season the two failed to connect on deep routes.
“For sure I wanted to get some shots (downfield), we started out the game with a shot and I wanted to get it to Mike,” Ash said, “but it didn’t work out, and that’s OK. We just went to work after that.”
Despite being pulled after the third quarter in favor of backup Case McCoy, Ash had a career night, finishing 16-of-22 passing for 221 yards and two touchdowns — including a nifty 45-yard shovel pass to true freshman Daje Johnson midway through the third quarter.
“That’s a stat-builder right there, because I really didn’t do much,” Ash said. “But again, stats are for losers.”
But Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin wouldn’t let his sophomore quarterback get away with such modesty, adding, “It was a good flip.”
“I’m really proud of what David did as far as operating out there,” Harsin said. “He had a couple of touchdown throws, no turnovers, and those are things we talk about wanting to work on.”
Texas’ much-ballyhooed run game struggled to get going in the first half, mostly for lack of trying. In the first 30 minutes of action, the Longhorns only managed 26 total plays from scrimmage, 10 of those being run plays for just 50 rushing yards.
New Mexico on the other hand amassed 26 plays just on runs, totaling 110 rushing yards to go along with 32 yards on 10 pass attempts.
But coming out of halftime, Texas realized its mistake and returned to the ground with five straight rushes for 30 yards to the New Mexico 45.
“We wanted to throw it more, we knew we were going to win the game and we were trying to get more balance (in the passing game),” Brown said.
“We’re not into stats, we’re into winning the game.”
Ash faked a handoff to Johnson in motion only to shovel it to him on a makeshift screen that Johnson took 45 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. The play put Texas up 24-0 with 12:12 to play in the third.
From there, after proving they could run again, the Longhorns alternated between run versus the pass, finishing with 431 yards of total offense, including 285 passing on 30 attempts and 146 rushing on 31 carries.
Unable to connect on some passes downfield on the opening drive, Ash took it himself on 4th-and-1, faking it to Malcolm Brown before rolling around the right side of the line. But once he crossed the first down line, Ash kept going, cutting left across the field, weaving around two Lobos tacklers on his way to a 49-yard touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.
“It was part of the read, I was just doing what I’m coached to do,” Ash said. “There was some great downfield blocking, and it helped out. (But) I was just going through my read there.”
The short game continued to pay dividends for Ash, who found Davis wide open over the middle for 7 yards and the usual deep threat danced and darted his way behind a block downfield for a 22-yard touchdown with 28 seconds left in the first half. After an extra point by Jordan, the Longhorns entered halftime up 17-0.
“It was a great play by (Davis), and my offensive line gave me plenty of time because I took a little too long to get through my progression there,” Ash said.