Five Thoughts from Texas-Wyoming

Five thoughts from Texas's 37-17 season-opening victory over Wyoming.

1) I love where Kenny Vaccaro's at. The star Texas safety was arguably the best player on the field Saturday, and was a destructive presence, making five tackles, forcing two turnovers, hurrying the quarterback twice and making a huge hit on a Wyoming receiver. His interception and forced interception helped turn the game on its head. It's rare to have that kind of player make an impact from a safety position, and when your safety can make plays rushing the passer, knocking down opposing runners, and lock down slot receivers, you really have something.

2) But I don't necessarily agree with his statement that Saturday's defensive efforts were affected by players reading their own press clippings. To recap, here's Vaccaro:

"The main focus we wanted to do this year was to start strong, and I really don't think we did that. Honestly, we need to get our heads out of the magazines and start faster and play stronger."

That wasn't what I saw. I saw a fluke 82-yard touchdown that occurred when two defenders knocked each other off a ball-carrier. I saw the other touchdown, a 22-yarder, come via a blown coverage. Those weren't the only good plays for Wyoming (nor for that point the only bad ones for Texas). But without those, the defensive performance looks vastly different. Then, you're talking about allowing just 241 yards and three points, and everyone is psyched about the defensive performance.

Of course, I realize that you can't take those plays off. Plays like that can get you beaten. I'm not absolving the defense of blame. I just don't think the reason Texas "struggled" was because the players were otherwise occupied.

3) Malcolm Brown was more explosive. In 2011, Brown carried the ball 172 times, and his longest rush was a 27-yarder. Not only did Brown top that in the first half on Saturday with a 31-yard burst, but he added runs of 21 yards and 16 yards, with all three of those big plays coming in his first seven carries. But perhaps most impressive was the speed that he showed in doing so, beating defenders to the edge on multiple outside runs. With all of the team's backs, it would be highly unlikely for one Longhorn runner to emerge as a 25-carry guy. But with Johnathan Gray likely to get more carries as the year goes on — Saturday's five carries for nine yards performance notwithstanding — it bodes well for Brown to keep his current touches.

4) The offensive line performed well. Any time you rush for 280 yards, averaging six yards per carry when you do so, your coaches are typically going to be happy. Add in that the Longhorns only had two negative plays — a five-yard loss when David Ash fumbled the shotgun snap, and a one-yard loss late in the game with Case McCoy at quarterback — and you're really looking good. But the running game wasn't even what impressed me the most. No, that was the pass protection. Ash had a pristine pocket when he dropped back to pass. Not only was he never sacked, but he was only pressured three times, and when Texas elected to go downfield, he was able to sit back without any worries. Texas coach Mack Brown has been hollering for awhile that he wants balance, and the offensive line has shown the ability to provide that balance.

5) The quarterback battle had one definite winner. So much for the "rotation." Ash was the guy, and McCoy didn't see his first action until he entered the game at the 2:48 mark in the fourth quarter, with the Longhorns holding a 20-point lead. For his part, Ash certainly did well enough to hold onto that job, completing 20-of-27 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown in a pretty efficient day. And the Longhorn coaches did a nice job of giving him plenty of easy, confidence-inspiring completions. If there's one gripe (and there's always at least one gripe), it's that Ash hesitated on his two chances to connect on a deep throw. On the first, he actually had Jaxon Shipley more open, but chose to go deep to a more covered Mike Davis, and didn't put enough air out of the ball. On the second, he waited too long, until Davis was outside of his arm-strength range, though Davis did come back from the ball and earn a 15-yard pass interference penalty. He also didn't do well when he tucked the ball down. Other than a QB sneak up the middle on a third-and-one, Ash ran for five yards on four carries.

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