"You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.' He paused, considering what he had just said. 'Yes', he repeated. 'In the end, it's all a question of balance." - Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
One aspect that I liked about the Longhorn game plan against Wyoming was that, despite its risk aversion, it gave Ash 30+ passing game decisions/play executions to perform under game conditions. David will see much better defenses than Wyoming, but the smart decisions he made are transferable to any opponent, and the primary sin he exhibited - being late on three different throws to Mike Davis - is surmountable as he gains experience and relaxes.
If you break down Ash's pass attempts by distance, the risk averse tale is told:
0-9 yards: 18 of 23 for 125 yards
10+ yards: 2-4 for 31 yards and 1 TD
Those flares and screens will be a big part of our offense given our talent at RB, and throwing them well is an underrated skill, but for Texas to achieve ambitious goals, Ash is going to have to exhibit growth in three key areas:
- Converting downfield in play action to punish safety creeping and cornerback peeking.
- Hitting balls to TEs/slot receivers in the intermediate middle to punish LB cheating.
- Converting 3rd and 6+ in 4 wide against a defense expecting pass.
We're not going to lose to New Mexico. This game is about development.
So can we maintain a fine balance between an imperative to rep those three growth areas with our desire for Ash to experience success, walk the stepping-stones of positive failures, and not betray our burgeoning physical identity? It might be helpful to Longhorn QB development to play the entire first half of the New Mexico game in a hurry-up offense running 4 wide (and Kendall Sanders getting as many reps as possible), but it would undermine too many of our broader goals and identity.
Is there a realistic balance?
My thought: continue with the Wyoming game plan with respect to passing attempts; let Ash audible into what he sees available on the field - whether pass or run; and in at least two different drives in the first three quarters, manufacture two minute drill game situations (a real one would be great, too) or play sequences that force Ash to make reads, throw on time, and generally grip and rip it.
The continued development of David Ash, Game Manager is imperative for finding our floor. Catalyzing David Ash, Potential Playmaker will determine our ceiling.
What say you?