Texas entered this season with several key changes to their football program, including new coordinators, three more new coaches, and 18 true freshmen on the field. They didn’t make a change at quarterback, however, until their second game when they’d fallen dangerously behind BYU at home in the second quarter.
The Longhorn QB depth chart entering the season listed Garrett Gilbert first and Case McCoy second – just as they were last season – with true freshman technically third but seeing pockets of playing time as a change-up. Gilbert struggled badly in the first half on Saturday, hitting two of eight passes for just eight total yards and throwing two ill-advised interceptions.
Mack Brown decided to turn to the youngsters, and Case McCoy and David Ash came through. With Texas down 13-3 at the half, McCoy and Ash alternated at QB, sometimes swapping out after just one play. With new play-caller Bryan Harsin on board from Boise St. and Major Applewhite assisting on the coordination, Texas made it work.
The pair led Texas on two second half touchdown drives, keyed by heroics from Jaxon Shipley and Malcolm Brown, to save the day in Austin and carry Texas to a 17-16 win. Their first scoring drive came largely on the ground, as Ash’s athleticism allowed Texas to run options and get to the edge of BYU’s solid front. The game winner was courtesy a familiar hookup – McCoy to Shipley – as the pair hit two tight passes for 34 yards, converting a key third down in the process.
Cody Johnson finished both drives with short runs, but Malcolm Brown established himself as Texas’ true finisher as he totaled 14 carries for 68 tough yards – mostly in the second half. D.J. Munroe was explosive out of the backfield, carrying three times and running a bubble screen for a total of 68 yards.
The same young players helped Texas ice the game late, as Harsin called a receiver end-around pass from Shipley to Ash to convert another key third down draining BYU of their timeouts. On Texas’ final 3rd-8, Harsin called Brown’s number on a toss left, and Brown ran through a clear tackle – a common scene on the night – and avoided another to pick up the first down and allow Texas to run out the final seconds.
McCoy finished with 57 yards on 7-8 passing, but he made the necessary plays at key moments to lead Texas to the win. Ash showed his versatility, catching the 23-yard pass, running for 36 and passing for another 35 on just three throws.
None of the offensive heroics would have been possible if the Texas defense hadn’t completely shut BYU’s offense down in the second half. BYU had five second half drives and made a first down on just one. That was an 11-play field goal drive in the third quarter that gave them their 16-10 lead. After a nice first half, Jake Heaps could not get the ball down field late in the game, settling for several passes that barely or did not result in gains. BYU ran for just 45 yards on the night, averaging under three yards per carry, and they finished with just 237 total yards on the night. Two of Texas’ young secondary members – sophomore Adrian Phillips and freshman Quandre Diggs – picked off Heaps, balancing out Gilbert’s two early INTs.
The win gives Texas an exciting – probably more exciting than they would have liked – 2-0 start, but they now have to determine whether to roll with their two young QBs moving forward or if Gilbert receives another chance against UCLA. Based on tonight’s results, the Longhorns are best served with youngsters on the field.
As always, be sure to check out Burnt Orange Nation for all of their postgame discussion and analysis.