RRS breakdown: David Ash vs. OU safeties

DALLAS — Longhorn Digest's Kevin Flaherty and Sooners Illustrated's Joey Helmer analyze the battle between Texas quarterback David Ash and the OU safeties in the Red River Rivalry this weekend.

The lowdown:

David Ash has been outstanding this season, as evidenced by the fact that he's the country's third-most efficient quarterback, completing 77.5 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and one interception. He's especially come on of late, throwing for 300-plus yards against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. Last week against West Virginia, he was 22-of-29 for 269 yards and a touchdown, but was just a play or two from a third-straight 300-yard game. Joe Bergeron dropped what likely would have been a long touchdown pass on a fourth-down play, while Ash was hit on another throw that fell just away from a tight end that would have been another big play. If both were completed, Ash might have wound up with something like 320 yards and three touchdowns. As is, he actually threw for one more yard than Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith, and, as a sophomore, Ash still has plenty of time, and room, to improve.

This is one of the most improved positions on the Sooner defense in 2012, simply because defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has put guys in the right positions. Last year under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Aaron Colvin and Javon Harris played at strong safety and free safety, respectively. Stoops moved Colvin out to corner, pulled Tony Jefferson to the back line at free safety and moved Harris to strong. That has shored up the secondary and allowed Jefferson to get in more of a playmaking position. That'll be key as this group goes up against a much improved Ash in this year's version of the Red River Rivalry.

--The Edge--

Flaherty: Push

This may be one of the best matchups on the field. Ash is playing at an incredibly high level right now while not trying to do too much. He's poised, accurate, and with the Oklahoma State win, now has a fourth-quarter comeback in a hostile environment to his credit. It's hard to believe that this is the same guy who entered the season with a career-high of 158 passing yards. But at the same time, he's going against one of the best positions on the Oklahoma defense. Longhorn fans are familiar with playmaker Jefferson, Oklahoma's answer to Kenny Vaccaro. And Harris is playing at a high level, coming off 12 tackles against Kansas State and a pick-six against Texas Tech.

Helmer: Oklahoma

Though Ash is undoubtedly a much better signal caller this time around, he hasn't faced a defensive backfield as solid as what the Sooners will throw at him Saturday. The safeties are much better than the ones he's previously seen and even the ones last year in the game when he threw for just 107 yards and a touchdown but two interceptions. Again, they're better mainly because the right guys are in the right positions now. Because of their improved secondary play, the Sooner defense ranks eighth in the country in passing efficiency defense, letting opponents complete just 54.3 percent of their passes with only one touchdown throw so far this season. Put that up against the nation's third-most efficient passer in Ash, who as mentioned has completed nearly 78 percent of his passes, and you can see why this is such a good match-up.


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