The Texas Longhorns didn't open strong against New Mexico State in their season opener, but they sure did finish strong in a 56-7 rout last weekend.
The challenge gets considerably tougher for the Longhorns as they make the trip up to Provo, Utah where the always battle-ready BYU Cougars will be looking to give the visiting 'Horns a stiff road test on Saturday.
Quarterback David Ash struggled for most of the first half against the Aggies, throwing two interceptions after some 28 minutes of play. But just before the break and into the fourth quarter, Ash found his groove as he finished with four touchdown passes and rushed for another.
The junior Ash finished 20-of-28 passing for 343 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, eight carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. Mind you, it was against one of the worst teams in the FBS a season ago, and much will be expected of Ash this weekend.
Texas set a school record in total offense with 715 yards on Saturday night, and it will take that confidence on the road.
But as always, quarterback play will be key, especially at altitude—which could cause some concern early on.
Ash made a short appearance as a freshman when BYU came to Austin in 2011, and he was 2-of-3 passing for 36 yards to go with 36 rushing yards on nine carries.
No. 14 will have much bigger impact in this year's matchup, to say the least, and let's just say it could be another strong game through the air.
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite found some big-play material from his backfield, which was put on display in the short passing game against New Mexico State.
Texas running backs accounted for eight of the 22 receptions, totaling 183 yards. Granted, the defensive matchups were favorable, but credit to the Longhorns for exploiting those advantages and executing well.
The Longhorns have a strength in their passing game, and it comes with the likes of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Daje Johnson—Texas' home-run threat.
The game-planning appeared to center around getting the ball into space, and Texas should be looking to exercise those same opportunities this weekend.
The Return of Kendall Sanders
Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley each caught five balls against the Aggies, at least two more than the next pass-catcher.
The Longhorns will look to get a bump in production at the receiver position this week when sophomore Kendall Sanders returns from suspension (and injury).
Sanders had a strong summer and fall camp with both top receivers missing workouts while recovering from offseason surgery. The emergence of Sanders to fill in for the departed Marquise Goodwin is a welcome one, an opening that could see another big playmaker kick-start his career with the Longhorns.
If the Cougars blanket Davis and Shipley, a daunting task as is, Sanders could find himself with a huge opportunity.
BYU's Injury Bug
The Cougars have been taking massive injury hits to their defensive line and secondary.
Six BYU defensive backs are limited or have been ruled out at the moment, although that did not appear to be the biggest of hindrances in its 19-16 loss at Virginia to open its season.
Still, it will be a tall task for an injury-ridden secondary to deal with a receiving corps that is flush with athleticism when accounting for the plays out of the backfield as well.
The Longhorns' passing game has slowly become a strength, and it will be on full display on Saturday night.