PASADENA, Calif. — The trip out to UCLA marked several young players' first trips on airplanes. So how did it go? According to defensive back Adrian Phillips, the flight was smooth sailing the entire way.
That's also a fitting metaphor for the way Saturday's game went, as the Longhorns cruised to a 49-20 statement victory highlighted by the play of Case McCoy and Malcolm Brown, two players starting their first games as Longhorns.
Here was McCoy, capitalizing on a short field, scrambling and finding D.J. Grant for a 45-yard score and a 7-0 lead. Later, with Texas leading 14-0, there was Brown losing a shoe and bulling through UCLA defenders anyway for a 16-yard touchdown.
"That's what we hoped for," said Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin of the personnel changes. "You're going to come on the road against a great opponent and you don't know about crowd noise, you don't know what factors are going to come into play, and I thought those two did a great job."
The final verdict: McCoy completed 12-of-15 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, while Brown topped the century mark for the first time, rushing for 110 yards on 22 carries, including the aforementioned touchdown. Add in a surprising come-from-nowhere performance by Grant — six catches for 77 yards and three touchdowns — and the Longhorn offense, called unstable just a week ago, demonstrated a bevy of weapons that the Bruins just couldn't contain.
And the defense also got into the action, forcing four turnovers — two by Phillips — and holding the Bruins to 317 total yards.
"Not a lot of people thought we'd be 3-0 at this point," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "We played a tough non-conference schedule, but the 3-0 start is a statement of improvement."
It's also a statement on just how quickly a group of young players can drastically increase a team's talent and swagger.
"I don't think we worry about that at all," McCoy said. "You can be a freshman, you can be a senior, but if you're a playmaker, you're going to play. We're putting the playmakers on the field that we need."
And those playmakers are opening things up for other players. Shipley commanded plenty of defensive attention, but still caught five passes for 46 yards, rushed for 15 yards on one carry and completed a five-yard pass for a touchdown to Grant. Meanwhile, Brown's play opened things up for Fozzy Whittaker to have his best game of the season, an eight-carry, 63-yard, two-touchdown effort.
"This is probably the biggest role any group of freshmen has had to play (during) my time at the University of Texas," Coach Brown said.
The 2010 class wasn't looking too shabby, either. In addition to McCoy, Mike Davis had catches for 45 and 25 yards, and Phillips and Carrington Byndom combined to force three of the four UCLA turnovers.
"You think about playing with your classmates and putting the best 11 on the field," Phillips said. "If our class is in that 11, then (it's) that much better. Even though we're young, we want to show everybody we can play."
Mission accomplished, as the Longhorns avenged last season's defeat at the hands of the Bruins.
"We never like to talk about revenge," said Blake Gideon, Texas safety. "But we all remembered what happened last year."
It was a different story this year. Texas moved to 3-0 with the win, and the Longhorns are set to take on fellow unbeaten Iowa State (also 3-0) in Ames. Like the Bruins, the Cyclones were able to pull off a win in Austin last year. But after watching Saturday's game, the Cyclones would be wise to assume the Longhorns are better than they were a year ago.
"We have a lot of maturing to do," McCoy said. "At the same time, it's going to be a fun ride."
TEXAS — D.J. Grant 45 pass from Case McCoy (Justin Tucker kick), 11:20 1Q
TEXAS — Fozzy Whittaker 8 run (Tucker kick), 1:56 1Q
TEXAS — Malcolm Brown 16 run (Tucker kick), 11:36 2Q
TEXAS — Grant 2 pass from McCoy (Tucker kick), 0:21 2Q
UCLA — Locke 51 FG, 0:00 2Q
UCLA — Locke 49 FG, 12:39 3Q
TEXAS — Grant 5 pass from Jaxon Shipley (Tucker kick), 9:38 3Q
UCLA — Coleman 1 run (Locke kick), 4:29 3Q
TEXAS — Whittaker 36 run (Tucker kick), 1:40 3Q
TEXAS — Cody Johnson 7 run (Tucker kick), 2:57 4Q