Texas Longhorns: Brett Smith

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel was better than Texas’ David Ash.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
AP Photo/Reed HoffmannQuarterback David Ash finished the regular season with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The sky is blue. The Earth is round. Texas is an eight-win program. There, just wanted to go ahead and state all those obvious things right up top. Because what is not so obvious, not to those who watched Ash get yanked from two games and benched for one, was that while Manziel was better than Ash, not many other second-year quarterbacks (redshirt freshmen or true sophomores) were.

In fact, only five other second-year quarterbacks had better passing efficiency numbers than Ash. And Manziel wasn’t even the leader of that group. Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh finished the regular season as the highest rated in passing efficiency among first- or second-year guys with a 165.67 passing efficiency rating.

That’s the same Walsh who threw a very costly interception against Texas and who could not lead OSU back after Ash led Texas on a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Now, it was Walsh’s first career start. Ash was in his ninth start. And Walsh ultimately would up as the higher-rated passer although he did not win as many games as Ash.

Ash went 8-3 as a starter -- really 7-3 when taking into account the fact that he was benched in the Kansas game with Texas trailing in the fourth. Among the six top young passers in pass efficiency rating, those seven wins ranked just a shade past the middle.

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Texas prepared for dual-threat QB 

September, 13, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- For as well dressed and sophisticated as those that make up The Grove appear, they were probably ready to smash fine china and hurl hors d’oeuvres after the season Ole Miss had in 2011.

The Rebels went 2-10 and ended the season winless in their final seven games, signaling the end of Houston Nutt’s time in Oxford, Miss.

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireNew Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has been an improvement so far, but Texas' defense presents a challenge.
With two wins in their first two games of 2012 it appears that order has been restored throughout those famous tailgaiting grounds. Much of that has to do with the new system under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze and the dual-threat capabilities of junior college transfer quarterback Bo Wallace.

The 6-foot-4, 204-pounder has stabilized an unsure quarterback position coming out of fall camp and given life to a passing game that was one of the worst in the nation a season ago.

He is 35-of-46 for 438 yards, including touchdown passes of 53, 25, 55, 51 and 3 yards already. He has also rushed 24 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Wallace is on pace to throw for 2,628 yards, which would far exceed the 1,820 yards Ole Miss had in 2011.

Wallace has completed 76.1 percent of his passes (Ole Miss completed just 49.4 percent in 2011), is averaging 9.5 yards per completion (5.8 in 2011) and has a passer efficiency rating of 187.6 as opposed to the 99.5 the Rebels attained a season ago. All three of those 2011 statistics were among the 10 worst in the FBS.

“You can watch on tape what he's doing when he carries himself,” Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He can make bad plays, good plays for them. What he's also doing is he's not making bad plays disasters.”

The Longhorns know full well that if they want to win their 14th straight road game in September they are going to have to contain a quarterback that once flirted with the idea of transferring to Texas.

“I think it's exciting. I'm up for the challenge,” senior safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “I mean, it puts stress on the defense to have a dual-threat quarterback. We've got to load the box and bring people out. So it will be a good challenge for us and a good ballgame.”

There’s only a small sample size to go on of Wallace’s capabilities against non-junior college competition, and it came against Central Arkansas and UTEP. But he’s put up admirable numbers throughout his career.

He led East Mississippi to a 12-0 season and the NJCAA national championship last season while setting NJCAA single-season records for passing yards (4,604), total yards (4,810) and touchdown passes.

And his running abilities have made Ole Miss’ read-option ways turn like a well-oiled wheel. The Rebels’ 283.5 rushing yards per game is tops in the SEC whereas, last year, they were 11th.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Longhorns and dairy products don’t mix.

Just ask Texas strong safety Adrian Phillips, who thinks the Longhorns defense ate the cheese attached to the complacency trap prior to its mediocre performance against Wyoming in their season opener.

“We might have been feeling ourselves a little bit,” Phillips said. “We had people out and about telling us how good were are. Last week we kind of ate the cheese and Wyoming got after us.”

[+] EnlargeAdrian Phillips
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireAdrian Phillips and the Texas defense will know turn their attention to Ole Miss' balanced attack.
It led senior All-American safety Kenny Vaccaro to call out the defense for reading too many press clippings about how vaunted Texas’ defense was supposed to be.

“Honestly, we need to get our head out of the magazine and play hard,” he said after the Longhorns beat Wyoming 37-17.

If articles were read this week, the Longhorns defense made sure they were about the 66 points New Mexico scored in its season opener. The focus paid dividends as Texas dominated the Lobos’ triple-option attack in a 45-0 shutout. It was the program’s third shutout in the last 87 games.

“This week we made sure that we were going to go back to the basics and not worry about what anyone says because at the end of the day this is our defense,” Phillips said. “We are going to do what we have to, to come out with the win.”

On Saturday, that largely consisted of being disciplined on reads to try and contain a New Mexico run game that rushed for 347 yards and five touchdowns against Southern last week.

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First glance: Breaking down New Mexico 

September, 3, 2012
Campus location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Nickname: Lobos
Conference: Mountain West
Record: 1-0
All-time record vs. Texas: 0-2

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Good not good enough for Texas defense

September, 2, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas -- Kenny Vaccaro wasn’t smiling.

The senior safety stared straight ahead during Texas’ postgame press conference late Saturday night, focused not on what happened but what he felt should’ve happened.

Texas’ touted defense gave up 17 points to Wyoming. Good enough to win a game. But not good enough.

“Honestly, we need to get our head out of the magazine and start fast and play hard,” Vaccaro said.

[+] EnlargeKenny Vaccaro's interception in the first half against Wyoming helped Texas surge ahead.
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireKenny Vaccaro's interception in the first half against Wyoming helped Texas surge ahead.
Chalk it up to first-game jitters if you want, but this Longhorns defense got a bit of a wake-up call -- and perhaps a much-needed one, if you ask Vaccaro -- when Wyoming came out firing in the first quarter.

After forcing a quick Texas three-and-out, the Cowboys got to work on a well-scripted opening drive that moved 56 yards on 10 plays.

Though that drive ended with a field goal, it’s exactly what the Cowboys needed to start off. Wyoming’s slippery sophomore quarterback Brett Smith was locked from the get-go, undaunted by the pressure of Texas’ elite defensive line.

His next pass, on Wyoming’s second drive, went along the left sideline to Robert Herron. Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips whiffed on a tackle. The wideout made them pay with an 82-yard dash.

Next possession, another bust: Smith, standing in the shadow of his own end zone, fits in a perfect 45-yard pass to Herron.

By the end of the first quarter, Wyoming was sitting pretty with 178 total yards.

And Texas? Well, the defense had learned its first valuable lesson of the 2012 campaign.

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Notebook: Texas 37, Wyoming 17

September, 2, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith and the Texas defense altered Johnathan Gray’s day.

Because the latter could not stop the former, Gray had to settle for far less carries than had been planned. The freshman running backs settled for five. Four of those came in the fourth quarter. He finished with nine yards.

"We wanted to get Johnathan in more," said Texas head coach Mack Brown.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Phillips
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesAdrian Phillips and the Texas defense gave up 345 total yards to Wyoming.
That will be the plan as Texas moves toward New Mexico. And this week, unlike last, there is more reason to believe it might execute it. New Mexico was 119 out of 120 FBS teams against the run last season. It allowed 246 yards per game and 46 rushing touchdowns.

Texas should have close to or possible more offensive plays than the 75 it had against Wyoming. That means the Longhorns should have another game in which they run the ball 45-plus times. That is right where Brown wants to be.

"Carry it 45 times a game and all of a sudden when you throw it another 25 to 30 times, you're in the 80s and 90s in play selection, and that's where you'd like to be," he said.

Where Texas hopes to be after the New Mexico game is sitting with a more equitable split among the three backs. The duo of Malcolm Brown (14 carries) and Joe Bergeron (15) had just that. D.J. Monroe and quarterback David Ash combined for 10 carries.

Some of those carries could shift to Gray for the New Mexico game.

"Hopefully he'll play more next week," Brown said.

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Stat of the half: After allowing 178 yards and nine points in the first quarter, Texas' defense allowed Wyoming just 26 yards in the second quarter.

Player of the half: Kenny Vaccaro had his hand in both of the biggest plays of the first half for the defense. The first of those was an interception by the safety in which he used his speed and cut the angle to grab a ball in the middle of the field. The senior returned the pick for 19 yards. The Texas offense took over from there, going 44 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Vaccaro was back at it moments later as he was sent on a safety blitz. He was untouched and forced Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith into a quick throw that was picked by Texas cornerback Carrington Byndom.

What’s working for Texas: After a shaky start, the Texas defense started to get pressure up the middle and get to Smith. After Smith passed for 158 yards in the first quarter, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz disguised some blitzes and got to Smith. The result was two picks by the Texas defense over a span of six Wyoming offensive plays.

What is not working for Texas: The passing game has not exactly been sterling. Starting quarterback David Ash has been very efficient but has not at all been explosive. His long touchdown pass in the half for 16 yards to Jaxon Shipley was a much better catch than throw. He has also not thrown a ball for more than 20 yards yet. The lack of downfield throws had been the knock on Ash all of last season. Texas did nothing to change the opinion of many with its play-calling in the first half.

What Texas needs to do to keeping winning: Just maintain composure and Texas should be fine. The running game has started to take over and Wyoming is starting to wear down due to the heat -- 99 degrees at kickoff -- and the depth of the Texas offense. The Longhorns have used four different running backs and run wide receivers, D.J. Monroe as well as Shipley, on runs.

Staff predictions: Wyoming at Texas 

August, 30, 2012
Texas 43, Wyoming 13
This is statement time on a number of fronts for the Texas Longhorns. Will the defense live up to the hype and play up to its potential? Will David Ash be the quarterback that everyone expects he can be leading this team? Wyoming comes into this game with a team that can contend for its conference's crown but is running into Texas at the wrong time.

Texas is good and on its way to great up front on both sides of the ball. Texas will control the line of scrimmage throughout the game. Don't expect a huge passing game from David Ash, but he will test the Cowboys deep on a few occasions. Expect the rushing game to reach 250 yards with 150 in the first half. The Texas defense will play really well but will give up a couple of big plays. Wyoming will move the ball but will struggle in the red zone.

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First glance: Breaking down Wyoming 

August, 27, 2012
Campus location: Laramie, Wyoming
Nickname: Cowboys
Conference: Mountain West
All-time record vs. Texas: 0-4

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Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.