David Ash came out showing no ill visible ill effects from his head and shoulder maladies and helped the Texas offense look as crisp as it has against K-State since the 2006 shootout in Manhattan. His play-action strike to Kendall Sanders in the first quarter was a thing of beauty, and he was throwing crisply and on-time and using his legs well when (frequently) asked to do so. With Mike D out, Ash was sharing the wealth with everyone from Swaim to Marcus Johnson getting into the act, though it was Jaxon Shipley coming up as Mr. Reliable when Ash needed a key conversion in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Ash was lost at halftime with what looks to be an aggravation of his existing concussion. More on the decision to have him in this game later, but the good news for Texas was that Case McCoy kept his friends Herp and Derp on the sidelines and turned in a credible effort to help the Longhorns lead hold up in the second half. Inexplicably soft coverage from the K-State corners let him do the kind of work on hitches and comebacks that he's capable of doing, and he never came close to making a game-changing mistake.
Johnathan Gray showed how good he can look when he gets the space to feature his special lateral quicks and open-field burst. The OL did a good job of preventing the kind of up-the-gut penetration that has bedeviled the Texas ground game, and Gray responded by winning the corner and flying up the field. His second TD was aided by a linebacker wrong-gap shot that was right out of the Manny Diaz playbook, but when he was able to keep K-State defenders from lightly swiping one of his ankles he was dynamite.
Malcolm Brown proved that he shouldn't be an afterthought no matter how well Gray is running, showing off his power/speed/vision combo platter and turning in a really impressive TD run in the fourth to help salt the game away.
It was a good showing from the OL - not only did they do their best job all season in preventing interior penetration and actually winning some vertical displacement battles in the run game, but they also kept the QBs clean and prevented the kind of pocket pressure that could have turned the game KSU's way. It's not hard to imagine a hard-charging DE causing a game-changing Derp from Case, but the Horns front kept him clean and throwing off his back foot in rhythm. Kennedy Estelle is making a strong argument to claim the RT job, and Sedrick Flowers was solid if unspectacular in relief of Mason Walters. They'll need to keep proving it against squads more depth and talent than what KSU is bringing to the table at the moment, but Searels probably likes what he sees from this five as much as anything he's lined up at Texas to date.
As long as KSU chose to be one-dimensional, Texas' defense looked sharp. Sams for KSU was totally unwilling or unable to throw the ball, and the Longhorn D was able to outnumber the run and avoid assignment gaffes against Snyder's vast array of option looks. When Waters subbed in early, Texas went to more anti-pass looks and was successful in keeping the Wildcat's throwing QB from getting going early.
Unfortunately for the Texas defense, the Tyler Lockett show was about to get underway. Lockett absolutely massacred by Lockett - long, short, regardless of game situation, the Texas secondary had zero answer for Lockett's jets and body control. Just about every Longhorn DB took a turn being abused by Lockett at some point, and he had to be giving Quandre Diggs some Terrance Williams nightmare flashbacks from 2012. Lockett dropped a potential TD that would have added a whole hell of a lot more drama than the Longhorn faithful wanted with two minutes to go. Other than that, though, he was absolute nails and his show did little to make you feel confident that DBU is ready to lock down the kind of downfield weapons that Baylor, OU and Okie State will bring to the party.
On a night where most of the Longhorn front seven was playing well, Steve Edmond's slow reads and sub-par footspeed stood out in even sharper relief than normal. His targeting penalty likely wasn't malicious, but it was mindless and helped to get KSU right back in the swing of things late in the game. Texas was fortunate that an injured Dalton Santos was able to step up and step in once Edmond was tossed, and showed good awareness against the run and in pouncing on the game-clinching butt fumble from Waters. Hopefully Santos came out of this one healthy and we'll see Double Nickel almost exclusively in the middle from here on out.
Kudos to Jackson Jeffcoat for a big game with the great Jim Jeffcoat looking on from the stands. It's easy to forget how this defense was SUPPOSED to look, but consistent pressure from the DE's on third and long was supposed to be a big part of the equation and both Jeffcoat and Ced Reed filled the bill when KSU got behind the chains.
The highlight for Texas was a well-executed fake punt call on fourth and two, with Alex de la Torre fielding the snap as the upback and powering ahead against little resistance. Mack has been money on those kinds of calls over the years, and it was nice to see Texas put one over on the Purple Wizard for a change.
Texas managed to get pressure on the punter without committing a fifteen-yard infraction, so we've got that going for us. Which is nice. Fera hit a gimme and missed his only try from a legitimate distance, so Texas' unfortunate glimpse at how the other half lives on field goals continues. Punt cover team nearly gave up the booty with a long return for KSU late, but at least the kick cover unit held up and was never made to pay for crowding one side of the field.
There's a good amount of advanced stats research that shows that teams frequently benefit from going for it on fourth-and-short or even fourth-and-medium, and that could be good news for Texas - it's pretty much impossible to trust Fera from 40 yards and out at this point, so Texas may be rolling the dice quite a bit in Big XII play.
The Bottom Line
For a team as beleaguered as the Longhorns have been over the last couple of weeks, any win feels good and you can never discount a victory over a squad that has tormented Texas the way KSU has. Make no mistake, however - this was a bad, bad KSU team that will do well to win three games in conference, and they made a game of it. It's a good righting of the ship and a chance for the team to collect itself, but this is little proof that Texas can execute at anything close to the level we hoped for going into the season.
They won't be executing anything against legitimate contenders without David Ash, and just how long he'll be gone and the kind of shape he's in are massive questions. The word was that his concussion was 'minor' and that he was held out more for his shoulder than anything last week, but there was also word that he didn't attend Ole Miss because he was still not up for lights and loud noises - which doesn't sound very minor on the concussion scale. There's no question Ash is a tough kid who was campaigning like hell to get back into the starting lineup, but that's why those decisions have to be left in the hands of the adults. I don't know if anyone knows just how severe his concussion was and how ready he was to play football tonight, but I do know that the constant stream of spin, message control, half-truths and outright lies from Bellmont over the years have completely eroded any credibility they could have on that or any other topic.
David, here's hoping you get well soon and that we see you on the field when you're 100% healthy. And not one second before.