The Texas Longhorns upset over the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners would not have been possible without the efforts from running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray, and the game management from backup quarterback Case McCoy. McCoy took on the persona of his older brother Colt McCoy to help Texas bust out of the 1,457-day drought of losing to Oklahoma.
But the win only magnifies the elephant in the room: What in the world is going on with quarterback David Ash?
Ash left in the fourth quarter of the Longhorns game at BYU on September 7 due to a concussion. Ash did not attend Texas' game the following week against Ole Miss because the game day atmosphere could affect his condition.
"Concussions are so different now," Texas head coach Mack Brown said following the Longhorns game against Ole Miss. "They [Texas medical staff] did not want him [Ash] in the heat. They did not want him around all of the moving parts of game day. They did not want him around all of the lights and the movement. They actually put him in a room by himself."
According to Brown, the Texas medical staff will not clear a player to return to practice until 48 hours after concussion symptoms have disappeared. But Ash was cleared to practice mid-way through the week following Ole Miss and returned to the gridiron September 21 against Kansas State. Ash posted 14 completions for 166 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but did not return after halftime due to experiencing concussion-like symptoms.
Ash has not been seen since.
He did not travel with his team to Ames for the Longhorns game against Iowa State or to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. He has missed classes and has not attended practices.
"When you have a re-occurrence of symptoms, which is what David had, they [Texas medical staff] now say you have to have a week of being clear with absolutely no symptoms before they will allow you to play," Brown said the Monday before the Red River Rivalry. "Friday he had symptoms so he would not have been released to play until at least a week from Friday. The 48 hours is no longer the issue."
Following the Red River Rivalry, Brown caused an uproar when discussing Case McCoy to the Longhorn Network.
Mack Brown on Case McCoy: "This is his team now. And he knows that."— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) October 12, 2013
Brown later clarified his comments Monday on the Big 12 coaches conference call: "At this point, it is Case's team. When David returns, we'll have to look at it, but that's not an issue at this point."
The Road Ahead
David Ash entered the 2013 season with a lot of hype, but he has not finished a game since August 31. With no current timetable set for his return, the Longhorns' future will be week-to-week with backup quarterback Case McCoy leading the charge.
If Ash continues to experience recurring concussion symptoms and does not return for the 2013 season, Texas offensive coordinator and play-caller Major Applewhite will need to replicate the game plan from Texas' game against Oklahoma. In other words, Texas' game plan needs to be centered around running the football, regardless of the Longhorns opponents' strength against the run. McCoy's history proves he is at his best when Texas relies on the run.
In games McCoy has started in his career, Texas is 4-1 when the offensive play-calling contained more than 55 percent of rushing plays. But McCoy is 1-3 when the game plan has contained less than 55 percent of running plays. The good news for Texas is the Longhorns have more than enough talent at running back to carry the load for the offense, with their main four backs—Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson—averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
The Longhorns' win over Oklahoma was a needed confidence booster for Texas heading into the bye week. But without a healthy David Ash under center, Texas will continue to face a week-to-week battle as it progresses through Big 12 conference play.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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