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Sunday, November 25, 2012
Film review: Understanding Ash's game

By Max Olson

When rewatching David Ash’s performance against TCU, you can’t help but be reminded of a quote he dropped in his first preseason chat with reporters in August.

“People say leadership is a lot of different things, but when it comes down to it, it is a really abstract term that has a different meaning to everyone,” he said then. “I think guys want to follow a guy who’s going to put them in the end zone. So that’s my goal.”

Ash was pulled from Texas’ 20-13 loss to TCU twice last Thursday, and with good reason. He couldn’t get his team in the end zone.

For this week’s film review, we offer a look at what can be learned from Ash’s failures against the Horned Frogs.

David Ash
Texas QB David Ash had three turnovers before being benched in the loss to TCU.
1. Just a little off

When Ash is off, he’s usually just a little off. That’s been the case in each of his poor starts, and once again small mistakes plagued his first-half play.

His interception on Texas’ opening drive could’ve be a touchdown if he’d led Mike Davis a bit. Instead, Ash put it up too high and Jason Verrett caught up.

On the next drive, a red-zone pass to Ryan Roberson on third down could’ve picked up a first had he put the ball right in the fullback’s numbers. Instead, Roberson has to reach out and dropped it.

A few more passes were slightly underthrown. For the most part, though, that’s not the product of TCU pressure. A little fine-tuning and Ash might’ve been off to a strong start.

2. The second interception

Ash was solid for the game’s first 24 minutes. But it was his second interception that started getting him in trouble.

Ash had second down and 10 at the TCU 18. He faked a handoff to Joe Bergeron, turned and made a quick read.

The play is supposed to force TCU safety Elisha Olabode to make a decision. Jaxon Shipley runs a post route that breaks right in front of the safety. At the same time, Marquise Goodwin runs a flag route and breaks toward the sideline. Olabode can only help with one, right?

Wrong. Olabode turned to his left to indicate he’s taking Goodwin. Ash made the throw to a should-be-open Shipley. Then Olabode broke right and jumped the route for the easy pick.

It’s an understandable mistake by Ash. He got tricked by the safety and made a hasty decision. But that can’t happen in the red zone.

3. Benchings weren’t unfair

Texas coaches pulled Ash for the final drive of the first half after his third turnover of the day. The move made sense considering the circumstances.

TCU scooped up Ash’s fumble and scored three plays later to go up 14-3. That drive took only 65 seconds of game time. Throwing Ash back on the field when it was clear he needed the halftime to calm down and make adjustments didn't make sense.

So the Longhorns went with Case McCoy for one drive, seeking a spark. Didn’t work.

Ash came back in the second half and got three drives to make amends. He led Texas to a field goal, a punt and a turnover on downs. On the final two drives, Texas called only one run play.

It’s not as if Ash didn’t get a more than fair chance to win the game. But again, he didn’t get his team in the end zone.

4. Rhythm

Ash led drives of 45, 49, 62 and 42 yards against TCU. Texas averaged 4.8 yards per play on those four drives. Getting into a rhythm was not the issue.

On each drive, Ash was locked in from the get-go. He picked up first downs and took advantage of TCU’s man coverage. He knew what he was doing.

In the second half, he got diminishing help from Texas’ run game. Johnathan Gray picked up 9 carries for 39 yards in the game’s first 20 minutes. He finished with 15 for 47. Blame falling behind for that stat.

But this wasn’t the Kansas game, where Ash seemingly couldn’t get anything started. This time, Ash just didn’t finish. He was lucky Texas’ defense kept the game close.

5. Where’s the creativity?

In fairness to Ash, the glaring absence of D.J. Monroe and underuse of Daje Johnson didn’t help him much.

Monroe is averaging 7 yards every time he touches the ball in 2012. He’s instant offense. Against TCU, he didn’t record a catch or carry.

Those touches went to Johnson. He picked up 12 yards on a sweep on his first carry of the game, so Texas ran the exact same play again in the fourth quarter. He got two yards. That’s all he got for the night.

At this point, it’s getting tiresome and repetitive to demand they get the ball more. Yes, Texas has lots of weapons. But when an offense is sputtering as badly as the Longhorns did, their absence is inexcusable.