OXFORD, Miss. — Maybe the offense isn't such a weak spot after all.
Facing a team many thought would provide the Longhorns' first true challenge, Texas rang up 676 total yards in beating Ole Miss 66-31, scoring the most points since the Longhorns blasted Colorado 70-3 in the 2005 Big 12 Championship Game. The yardage fell just short of an all-time record for the Longhorns, behind only a 692-yard performance against Rice in 1998.
The Longhorns also had 676 yards in a 1969 contest against SMU.
Further, Texas finally found the balance that Texas coach Mack Brown has coveted for awhile. Brown consistently points to his 2005 team as a model of perfection because they gained 250 yards per game both through the air, and on the ground, and averaged 50 points per game. But Saturday, the Longhorns exceeded all of those marks, rushing for 350 yards on 54 carries and passing for another 326.
While the rushing attack technically had the bigger day, most will focus on the latter number, the second week in a row that Texas quarterback David Ash has set a career high in passing. He completed 15 passes in a row at one point and finished 19-of-23 for 326 yards and four touchdowns. He also completed four deep shots of 45 yards or more, with two of those plays going for scores.
Out of those four passes, three were underthrown and allowed the receivers to come back and make a play for it, leading Ash to quip afterward that "I think I mastered the underthrow."
"It's not always that easy," Ash said. "But I thought we played well tonight, just as a team. Each guy did their job. When that happens, it's amazing what you can accomplish.
"We finally took advantage of the opportunities that had been there the previous two games," Ash said. "And I had some guys out there that really made some plays for me. So it was a lot of fun."
The Longhorns were salty on both sides of the ball in the first half in building up a 31-10 lead at intermission. Included in those scores was a game-opening 22-yard interception return by linebacker Steve Edmond, who nearly tripped on his scoring return.
"My feet were telling me to fall, but my mind was telling me to go," Edmond said. "After I got past that first dude, I was [thinking] either run them over or jump over them."
The Longhorns forced two overall turnovers — both interceptions — in the half, while sacking versatile Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace five times.
When the Longhorns scored again to start the second half, taking a 38-10 lead, it seemed like Texas would run away with it. Instead, it started a scoring flurry that included touchdowns on each of the next four possessions, including long touchdown plays by Ole Miss wideout Donte Moncrief and running back Jeff Scott.
But in the end, Ole Miss couldn't earn the stops to make those scores mean something, and Texas closed out the Rebels with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Ash to Marquise Goodwin on one of Ash's underthrows. Brown said afterward that the throw — which came on a third-and-five in the fourth quarter with Texas leading 59-31 — was actually an audible out of a short pass, made by Ash.
"Every time Ole Miss scored, the offense came back and answered," Brown said. "So I was really, really pleased with that."
Ash wasn't the only offensive player to put up big numbers. The passing game was successful due in part of a mashing running game topped by 128 yards and two touchdowns from Malcolm Brown. Mike Davis set a career high in receiving yards with 124 on five catches, while Goodwin caught two passes for 102 yards and rushed twice for 80 yards, scoring once each way. Goodwin's performance was especially impressive given that he arrived at the team hotel late on Friday night after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama as part of an Olympic contingent to visit the White House.
"I thought the defense really started it," Mack Brown said. "With the interception, with the Steve for a touchdown, I thought that set the tempo for the night. And there were early sacks against Ole Miss that really, really I thought sent a message to our offense that we would be OK defensively.
"And then I thought the offense just kind of started a little methodical, did what they were supposed to do," Brown said. "After Marquise's big play [a 69-yard touchdown run in the second quarter] I thought they really took off and played with confidence."
Moncrief had 144 yards and a 75-yard touchdown on seven catches for the Rebels. Jeff Scott rushed eight times for 95 yards and a 48-yard score. Wallace was just 13-for-24 with three interceptions, and he was held to eight yards rushing on 12 carries.
The Longhorns (3-0) are finished with non-conference play and have a bye week this week. They will next travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State in two weeks.
TEXAS — Steve Edmond 22 INT return (Nick Jordan kick), 9:41 1Q
TEXAS — Jordan 31 FG, 3:07 1Q
TEXAS — Marquise Goodwin 69 run (Jordan kick), 13:34 2Q
OLE MISS — Rose 39 FG, 8:50 2Q
TEXAS — D.J. Grant 3 pass from David Ash (Jordan kick), 6:34 2Q
TEXAS — Ryan Roberson 1 pass from Ash (Jordan kick), 0:12 2Q
TEXAS — D.J. Monroe 10 run (Jordan kick), 11:40 3Q
OLE MISS — Donte Moncrief 75 pass from Bo Wallace (Rose kick), 10:31 3Q
TEXAS — Malcolm Brown 5 run (Jordan kick), 6:51 3Q
OLE MISS — Jeff Scott 48 run (Rose kick), 4:41 3Q
TEXAS — Mike Davis 46 pass from David Ash (Nick Jordan kick), 2:30 3Q
TEXAS — Brown 12 run (Jordan kick), 14:23 4Q
OLE MISS — Jaylen Walton 100 kickoff return (Rose kick), 14:05 4Q
TEXAS — Goodwin 55 pass from Ash (Jordan kick), 11:27 4Q