1) Nobody will mention this, largely because most people feel finished with the Garrett Gilbert era, but the offensive playcalling was much more vanilla when Gilbert was in the game.
That's not necessarily to say it was conservative — obviously one of Gilbert's picks came on a called deep-ball — but there just weren't as many wrinkles.
Additionally, Gilbert didn't have the luxury of support from the running back position. When Case McCoy and David Ash led the two touchdown drives in the second half, they did so with heavy support from Malcolm Brown and D.J. Monroe. Over all of Gilbert's possessions, Brown and Monroe had one touch apiece, with Monroe's touch coming when Gilbert was subbed out for an Ash package play.
I mention this in that it seemed like McCoy and Ash were more supported, both by play calls and by personnel, on Saturday night. But of course, play calls had absolutely nothing to do with Gilbert's turnovers. I'll admit that I didn't mind the second one as much. It was a deep throw, and Gilbert laid it up for a jump ball that the safety won. Last year, Gilbert wouldn't have thrown that ball, a major gripe that I had with him a year ago — he wouldn't ever just lay the ball up on a deep route to let his playmakers try to make a play.
But the first turnover was just a terrible decision, throwing into tight coverage. Gilbert got away with that a few times against Rice, but he didn't this time. And because of that, his next shot at quarterback, if he gets one, will likely come only if McCoy and Ash fail.
2) Let's be careful about anointing the quarterbacks just yet. McAsh, as the duo was called on Twitter, didn't turn the ball over. And the Longhorns obviously seemed to get a boost of energy from when they were in the ball game.
But that doesn't change the fact that both had minimal impacts on the Longhorns' scoring drives. The field goal drive was set up by an interception just outside the red zone. And out of the 114 combined yards traveled on the two touchdown drives, just 34 — or 29.8 percent — came via the air. Additionally, one of those throws was actually a poor decision that was rescued by a great play from Jaxon Shipley.
And none of that takes into account the fact that, when the Longhorns faced a third-and-eight with the game on the line, they asked Shipley to throw the pass. That's not something you typically do if you have confidence in your quarterback situation. Shipley completed the Longhorns' second-longest pass of the day (somewhat ironically, to Ash). The longest was a 26-yard play to D.J. Monroe, who caught a short swing pass and created the rest. So the quarterbacks didn't exactly create a lot via the air.
Having said all of that, there was a lot to like from what they delivered on Saturday. McCoy's poise while being pressured on a fourth-and-four was impressive, and it was a big play that he was able to hit D.J. Grant for the first down there. If he misses, Texas doesn't get a chance to flip field position on the Cougars and likely has to travel the length of the field for the winning touchdown. And Ash showed what he can do with his legs, running some exciting option plays with Monroe.
In all, there are some things to be excited about, but let's wait to see what they do over a full game, when a defense has film to watch and the ability to prepare for them.
3) That was the defense I expected to see last year. Before the game, Emmanuel Acho said the he expected the Longhorns' speed to play a role. And it absolutely did in the second half. In the first half, Texas took away the run from a very physical football team. The Cougars adjusted and quarterback Jake Heaps was able to find holes in the Texas zone at times.
But in the second half, it was another story. Texas held BYU to 67 second-half yards, but it was even more than that. The Longhorns just LOOKED good. Players were flying to the ball. They were physical at the point of attack. The pass rush created incompletions. The zone created confusion (how about Alex Okafor with a pass breakup over the middle of the field?), and seemed to swallow up the BYU receivers whole.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said that after last week's game, the defense had a film session where he showed the players what would have happened had they gone all-in with their trust of the system. He showed plays where a player hesitated to hit the gap — thinking too much — and missed a big play by a step or two. Well, Saturday the players took that advice to heart, and wound up closing the door on an offense with a lot of weapons.
Diaz likes to say that the offense asks the questions, and the defense has to come up with the answers. Well, the Longhorns found the answers in the second half on Saturday, and it was impressive enough to think that defense could become a major strength for this team as the year goes on.