How else would the Longhorns (2-0) wind up with a night where quarterback David Ash threw the ball almost twice as many times (22) in three quarters as co-starting running backs Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown had combined carries (13)? In all, eight players carried the ball and 12 players caught passes, while Ash passed for a career-high 221 yards … without throwing a pass in the fourth quarter.
It seemed like most of those yards came after the catch. After all, for two game-changing touchdown passes, Ash threw the ball just three yards downfield … total.
The first of those came with Texas clinging to a 10-0 lead just before halftime. Cornerback Quandre Diggs set the Longhorns up in scoring position with a 35-yard punt return that put Texas at the New Mexico 27 with 2:37 left in the first half. But Texas faced a third-and-16 from the Lobo 22 when Ash hit receiver Mike Davis at the 19. Davis then turned, hot-footed around a textbook block from fellow wideout Marquise Goodwin and found the end zone for a 22-yard score and a 17-0 lead with 28 seconds left before half-time.
"It felt great," Davis said. "I just have to thank David Ash and that line for protecting him long enough to get it out. It felt really good. I hadn't been to the end zone in a minute."
Texas received the ball just after halftime, when speed threat Daje Johnson showed a glimpse into why Longhorn fans are so excited to watch his development. After telling Davis before the game that every time he touched the ball, "you're going to hear the fight song," Johnson put in his promised "Texas Fight" request.
It went into the books as a pass, but it essentially was a toss play, and Johnson exploded for a 45-yard touchdown, a 24-0 lead, and essentially, a game-ending score.
"I told [Mike] that. I was just joking … well, not really," Johnson said of his boast. "I guess I was right."
Not exactly right — the touchdown came on his second touch of the game — but Davis and Johnson finding the end zone, essentially in back-to-back fashion, removed all doubt from a first half that had plenty.
New Mexico (1-1) rushed for 110 yards in the first half, holding the ball for nearly 20 of the 30 available minutes and going 4-for-8 on fourth downs. The Texas defense held, as New Mexico never had a chance to attempt a field goal. But that time of possession limited the Longhorns to four first-half offensive opportunities. And while the Longhorns averaged 6.5 yards per play in the first half, a field goal and a missed field goal among Texas's first three possessions meant a slightly uncomfortable 10-0 advantage before halftime, just before Davis started the Longhorn rout.
"The first half, we did some good things," said Bryan Harsin, Texas offensive coordinator. "We made some adjustments in the second half with just some of the things we were seeing and some of the personnel and things like that."
Bergeron ran in from the one on Texas's next drive, and the backups added two scores in the fourth quarter, one on a powerful six-yard run from D.J. Monroe — his second physical touchdown in as many games — and a second when tight end M.J. McFarland halted in a 13-yard Case McCoy pass.
Overall, Texas scored on seven of its nine possessions, with only one punt. The other stop came on Nick Jordan's missed 45-yard field goal try.
Ash, who entered the game with a career-high of 158 yards through the air, finished 16-of-22 for 221 yards and two touchdowns. He also kicked off the game's scoring with a weaving 49-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-one play. About the only thing that went wrong for Ash was that he wasn't able to connect with Davis on a deep shot on the Longhorns' first offensive play of the game.
"I wanted to get some shots, and we started off the game with a shot," Ash said. "I wanted to get it to Mike, but it didn't work out, and that's OK. We went to work after that."
Defensively, Texas put up its second shutout in 15 games under coordinator Manny Diaz, keeping a New Mexico team that entered the game fourth in the nation in scoring from ever entering the red zone. The Longhorns held the Lobos to a combined 85 yards in the decisive second and third quarters.
"I think it's a testament to what we talked about last week," Diaz said. "If you don't give up long runs or passes for touchdowns, you always have a chance.
"We were out there for more snaps at times than we wanted to be, but we never gave the big one away," Diaz said. "They never got in our red zone. I don't know what their furthest penetration into our part of the field was, but that's a pretty strong testimony to [the Texas defense's] ability to finally make a stand."
And on a night that saw just about everyone get a chance to play, the Longhorn third-string defense clamped down and held the shutout for the starters.
"That's what you strive for, not allowing teams to get into the end zone," said defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. "It's big for us, and it's great for us. It's good momentum for our next game."
That next game will provide the Longhorns' biggest challenge of the non-conference season, when Texas travels to play at SEC foe Ole Miss. Game time is set for 8:15 (CT).
TEXAS — David Ash 49 run (Nick Jordan kick), 8:50 1Q
TEXAS — Nick Jordan 38 FG, 13:03 2Q
TEXAS — Mike Davis 22 pass from Ash (Jordan kick), 0:28 2Q
TEXAS — Daje Johnson 45 pass from Ash (Jordan kick), 12:12 3Q
TEXAS — Joe Bergeron 1 run (Nick Rose kick), 5:10 3Q
TEXAS — D.J. Monroe 6 run (Rose kick), 11:06 4Q
TEXAS — M.J. McFarland 13 pass from Case McCoy (Rose kick), 3:02 4Q