College football Week 1 has come and gone with the Texas Longhorns earning a 37-17 victory over the Cowboys of Wyoming, and, while not blowing anyone away with his performance sophomore David Ash showed why he should remain the team's starting quarterback.
After an offseason when he was put under more scrutiny than a presidential candidate, Ash responded with one of the best games of his career despite the early struggles from the defense. The running backs certainly did the bulk of the heavy lifting, but Ash's rising above the scrutiny is a welcome sign for a program that has struggled so mightily at quarterback the past two seasons.
Here's what I liked and did not like about Ash's performance against Wyoming as well as what you can expect to see from the young signal-caller in Saturday's game against New Mexico.
We all have heard fans and experts alike say that if David Ash could perform this season like he did in the Cal game, then the sky would be the limit for the 'Horns.
Well, Ash was better in Week 1.
A season after which he threw eight interceptions against only four touchdowns, the barometer for Ash's success in 2012 is how efficient he is with the ball. He proved he could be efficient in the Holiday Bowl win over Cal in which he completed 14 of his 23 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown and no picks. The aftermath left fans wanting more of the proficient version of Ash and had them salivating at the prospect of how good this team could be if he could imitate that performance week in and week out.
So far, so good.
On Saturday against the Cowboys, Ash was 20-of-27 for 156 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions—the only blemish being due to a bad snap from center Dom Espinosa.
Yes, that means Ash threw for more yardage and had a higher completion percentage than in the Cal game for which he has been praised for eight months. He also was not sacked a single time the entire night. What more can you ask from the kid?
There is still room to improve as far as him getting the ball down the field, but you have to be encouraged by the fact that Ash could have the best statistical game of his career after spending an entire summer under the microscope.
Another aspect of David Ash's performance against Wyoming that stands out is the confidence he displayed throughout the entirety of the game, and that type of confidence is contagious.
One thing you worry about after having a quarterback competition that lasts almost all of the offseason is that the player who wins the job will be looking over his shoulder the entire season.
This did not seem to be a problem for Ash the entire game against Wyoming, as he managed the game with impressive poise the entire night.
The game started about as poorly as it could have for the Longhorns after going 3-and-out on the first possession and the defense getting burned for nine points on the Cowboys' first two drives. But you could not tell it by Ash's demeanor, as he quarterbacked his team to score 24 straight points.
Not once the entire night did Ash seem bothered by missed field goals, a defense that showed up 15 minutes late or even the turnover that could have put Texas in a serious predicament in the fourth quarter. Ash deftly escaped pressure the whole night, his fakes and execution of Bryan Harsin's trick plays were both on point, he ran the two-minute offense to set up a 31-yard field goal and even threw a monster block during Jaxon Shipley's 18-yard rush in the second.
Ash set an example for his team the whole night and showed that he was ready to lead them to victory. He may not have stuffed the stat book, but he proved he can handle the mental part of this job.
The only complaint there is to have about David Ash's performance against Wyoming was the fact that he failed to connect with his receivers downfield, evidenced by his 5.8 YPA for the game.
One aspect of his game that Ash must improve upon is his ability to hit his receivers for big downfield gains. Otherwise opposing defenses are going to just be able to stack the box and make him beat them with his arm.
Some of the blame goes to the conservative play-calling, which gave Ash only two opportunities to throw the ball more than 20 yards down the field. Neither pass was completed, but on the bright side, he did not miss so badly that he turned the ball over.
Ash likely will get more opportunities this weekend when Texas faces a New Mexico team that is perennially among the worst overall in the FBS.
And it is not like Ash cannot make these throws; he completed four passes last season that went for 45 yards or more and showed great zip on the 16-yard touchdown he threw to Jaxon Shipley against Wyoming. More than likely Ash just needs more opportunities to stretch the field.
In any event, Ash needs to find a way to take advantage of the opposition stacking up against the run and get the ball downfield.
Heading into another matchup against a team with a matador-type run defense, the Longhorn game plan will likely be very run-heavy for the second consecutive week.
But there should still be plenty of action for David Ash.
There are two reasons Ash did not get to air out the ball more on Saturday. First, he did not need to since the running backs were able to churn out 260 rushing yards as a unit. Second, the defense drastically underperformed, and Bryan Harsin was not yet ready to let his young signal-caller take some chances.
That should change this week against the lowly Lobos of New Mexico, who were second-to-last in rushing defense last season and are favored to lose by 38 to the 'Horns. If the defense shows up and is ready to play this go-round, Texas should jump out to a very comfortable lead, which should give Ash more of a chance to show off his arm.
Expect Ash to connect on some of those longer throws this Saturday and eclipse the 200-yard mark for the first time of his career. But to do that he will need help from his other receivers not named Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, who were the only two players on the roster to record more than 20 receiving yards against the Cowboys.
I would like to see Ash throw it around 25 times again, except for more than 200 yards and with a higher YPA than his previous two victories—even if it means he throws a pick.
If Ash does that, it will prove further that Texas has finally found a quarterback who can play well enough to get them back to a BCS bowl.