Texas couldn't even get a much-needed win Saturday against Kansas State without some accompanying bad news. Shortly after reports began surfacing Sunday that linebacker Jordan Hicks had sustained a major injury, the school confirmed Hicks would miss the rest of the season recovering from surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon.
It's the second year in a row the 'Horns have lost Hicks early in the year to injury. Last season, Hicks sustained a hip injury against Ole Miss, an injury that was originally only supposed to sideline him for a few weeks. Instead, Hicks never returned to the field in 2012 and received a medical redshirt this summer.
Because of Hicks' previous injury, Texas was able to get other linebackers some experience that should prove to be beneficial this time around.
According to Max Olson of ESPN, the 'Horns defense started seven linebackers last year with Hicks out.
But losing Hicks is still a major blow as he led the team with 41 tackles. Yes, Texas' defense looked vastly improved against K-State, but it's nowhere near a group capable of shutting any team down at the moment.
Kansas State isn't anywhere near the best offensive team in the Big 12, and one game isn't going to force opponents to give up running the ball against the 'Horns. The point being, Texas' defense still needs to prove it can keep up that kind of performance consistently without arguably its best playmaker.
If the defense cannot, the next question becomes whether the offense can keep up in a shootout.
Hicks' injury is a tough one to digest, but the offense is even more banged up at the moment. Per Texas' Twitter account, quarterback David Ash will continue to be evaluated for head injury symptoms he had against the Wildcats.
Ash didn't appear to have any lingering effects of his previous head injury, which he suffered in Week 2 against BYU on Saturday, but it's a legitimate concern to wonder how he's going to do for the rest of the season. Recall that Ash did not attend the Ole Miss game in Week 3 because, reportedly, doctors advised him to avoid noise and light, via Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle.
Seven days later, Ash was back on the field but couldn't finish the game because of head injury symptoms. Our #analysis tells us that's not good. When Ash returns this season, it's reasonable to question whether he'll look like the same quarterback as he did before. Head injuries can have that effect.
If Ash cannot play against Iowa State—the good news is that Texas has an extended break between now and next Thursday (Oct. 3) when it travels to Ames—Case McCoy will get another start. McCoy doesn't exactly have an exemplary win-loss record when it comes to being asked to carry the offense for an entire game, but that shouldn't be an issue if he starts against the Cyclones.
It's the following game against Oklahoma that looms most important for Mack Brown's team. Once again, the positive for Ash is that he'll have two more weeks to recover.
By then, Texas may be healthy on offense. Receivers Daje Johnson and Mike Davis are nursing ankle injuries, and offensive linemen Mason Walters and Josh Cochran had also been dealing with knee and shoulder injuries, respectively.
If there's one thing that can really hush the hot-seat rumors with Brown, it's a win over the Sooners. Texas hasn't defeated OU since 2009 and have been outscored by an average of 40 points in the past two meetings.
Getting a win in the Red River Rivalry has never been more important to Brown. The Longhorns are going to need to be at full strength for this meeting, too.
Winning the final eight games of the season is going to be a factor if Brown is going to shed the criticism about his future with Texas, but there's no game more crucial to that future than the one in Dallas a little less than a month from now.
It's not going to matter if Texas is banged up heading into the game. There were no more excuses for Texas heading into the season, and that continues to hold true.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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