Countdown: New Mexico State vs. Texas

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
9:00
AM ET
The 245-day wait is almost over. To help you pass the time while counting down the final Here’s one final preview of No. 15 Texas’ season opener against New Mexico State on Saturday (7 p.m., Longhorn Network).

Five notes

1. Texas is 7-0 all-time against New Mexico schools and is averaging 50.4 points per game in games against New Mexico and New Mexico State. Texas has never won a game against those two schools by less than 30 points.

2. First-year New Mexico State coach Doug Martin went 1-3 against Big 12 schools during his stint as head coach at Kent State from 2004-2010. The lone victory came against Iowa State in 2007. In its past three games against Big 12 schools, NMSU went 0-3 and averaged 7.7 points per game.

3. In Mack Brown’s first game as Texas coach, the Longhorns blew out New Mexico State 66-36 in 1998. Ricky Williams kicked off Brown’s tenure and his own Heisman Trophy campaign with 215 rushing yards and a school-record six touchdowns.

4. On the injury front: Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson have been practicing this week and have a good chance of playing Saturday. Texas’ staff has been coy about how it will use Tyrone Swoopes, citing the hamstring issue that has slowed him, but don’t be surprised if he enters in the fourth quarter against NMSU.

5. Texas has only three true freshmen – Swoopes, receiver Jacorey Warrick, guard/tackle Kent Perkins – listed on this week’s depth chart. Mack Brown said Wednesday that “very few” freshmen will play in 2013 and most will redshirt, unlike the past two seasons.

Four quotes

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesSophomore Johnathan Gray will start the season as Texas' first-string tailback. Can Gray begin with a bang?
1. “It's a unique opener, more than most, because we don't know anything about their offense. We don't know anything about their defense. We've heard a few things, but we don't have a clue about what they're going to do.” -- Mack Brown

2. “The team theme is, ‘For the man on my right and the man on my left.' What that means to us in the military is all the training you're going through, everything that you're doing when you're in combat or in a situation, it's about making sure the guy next to you is successful, keeping him safe, keeping him alive.” -- Texas deep snapper Nate Boyer

3. “I am excited. I see improvement, I see hope. I have worked as hard as I can possibly work for three years to get this team to where it will get back into the mix and I am excited about seeing if we are. I think we are, but we have to play and you have to do it every week.” -- Mack Brown

4. “I was confused. Man, that's cool. I doubt she really knows who I am. She's from Texas, she probably saw the jersey. If she did know who I was, I'm not going to not think that [is cool].” -- Texas quarterback David Ash, on a photo of Beyonce wearing his No. 14 jersey.

Three keys

1. Establish the run early. Ash is at his best as a big-play passer when the run game is creating those opportunities. A hot start from Johnathan Gray with help from Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will make Texas’ play-action game hard to stop.

2. Avoid turnovers. Don’t make this opener – against one of the worst teams in FBS last season -- anything more than it needs to be.

3. Depth up front. How will Texas’ offensive line react and rotate when going up-tempo, and how effective will its defensive line be at pressuring NMSU while throwing as many as eight or nine different linemen into the game?

Two key players

1. Texas LB Jordan Hicks: Texas knows so little about what NMSU will throw at it offensively that it’s easy to see why Hicks’ return is vital. As the veteran leader of the linebackers, he’ll be trusted to get everyone else lined up correctly and make adjustments as needed. He’s experienced and smart enough to handle the unknown this week, and he’s been looking forward to this start for a long time.

2. New Mexico State P Cayle Chapman-Brown: I know, he’s just a punter and so what? Yes, but he’s one of the better ones in the country, and the Australian has a big leg. If NMSU wants to give Texas a real fight, field position will be important. Pin the Longhorns in their own territory repeatedly and it’s a safe bet their untested tempo plans will get thrown off. That could mean turnovers, and a chance.

One prediction

No. 15 Texas 45, New Mexico 10

Major Applewhite goes for some fireworks early – think a bomb to Mike Davis or Daje Johnson – as the Texas up-tempo makes its debut. There will be a few hiccups here and there, and the Longhorn offense will slow down as needed, but the first impression will be solid. Jackson Jeffcoat will get right back to business and lead a pass rush that overwhelms the Aggies, and Texas pulls away thanks to two interceptions. This one isn’t close.

Max Olson | email

Texas/Big 12 reporter

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