Holiday Bowl Offensive Notes and Quotes

Early struggles on offense gave way to a steady performance and offensive MVP honors for true freshman signal caller David Ash.
The yardage results of UT’s first 18 offensive plays: 0, 5, 4, 1, -4, 0 (incompletion), -1, 2, 0 (incompletion), 0 (incompletion), 4, 0 (incompletion), -4, 2, 1, 2, 4, 0 (incompletion). That’s 16 yards of offense in a quarter and a half of football. With two five-yard offensive penalties included, the Texas offense netted just six yards up to the 7:27 mark of the second quarter. I asked OC Bryan Harsin what changed from those first 18 plays to the far more successful final two and a half quarters. “We got into a rhythm and hit some big plays and that’s key to what we want to do,” he said. Harsin added that he wants to see five- or six-play scoring drives that include big chunks coming on one play. The Horns’ three Holiday Bowl scoring drives were four plays, four plays and three plays and included explosive plays of 14, 30, 19, 47 and 37 yards. A ‘trick’ play got the Horns on the board. After a play-action fake to Joe Bergeron set up a 30-yard catch-and-run by Blaine Irby that put Texas at the four midway through the second quarter, Harsin dipped into his bag of tricks. On first and goal, David Ash took the snap, handed the ball off to Malcolm Brown who pitched the ball to Jaxon Shipley who threw the ball to a wide open Ash who had slipped unnoticed into the right flat for the walk-in touchdown. It was Shipley’s third TD toss on the season. Shipley caught four passes for 14 yards. Ash, for the most part, was on the mark in the passing game, finishing 14-23. Two of those incompletions were balls that Mike Davis could have caught, two others were balls that Marquise Goodwin did catch but just out of bounds (one was actually ruled illegal touching) and one was a drop by Malcolm Brown in the left flat. Of the remaining four incompletions, one was batted at the line, one was a low throw intended for Goodwin, one was an overthrow of an open Shipley and one was a deep flea flicker attempt for a wide open Mike Davis that was thrown just a split second too late because of Cal defensive pressure (a roughing the passer call on the play gave Texas a first down anyway although the drive ultimately stalled). It was certainly Ash’s best performance since the Kansas-Texas Tech game stretch. “… I felt like I let down my team during a certain portion of the year and felt like we could have won more games had I played better,” Ash said, “but to get through all that and come out and get a great bowl win versus Cal, it’s been a long journey, and great to finish on that.”Post-game, Ash said that the week before the team left for San Diego, he felt that he would get the start based on practice reps. Mack Brown said Ash’s skill set better fit the Cal defense. “Cal is a West Coast team that didn’t see option much,” Brown said, “… and they have one of the best front fours that we have seen all year and we knew we weren’t going to block ‘em all the time so we felt like David’s strength and his ability to run the option gave us a few opportunities early.”The Horns longest run of the game didn’t come from Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron or even David Ash. It came from Marquis Goodwin. Late in the third quarter, the junior speedster motioned from the right side of the formation and took an Ash handoff left, cut to the center of the field and then angled to right sideline before being chased out of bounds at the Cal seven after a 37-yard run. Texas scored two plays later to make it 21-10 seconds into the fourth quarter. Malcolm Brown’s longest also proved big. Brown burst through the right side of the line for 19 yards on UT’s opening possession of the second half just after Cal had taken the lead at 10-7. That run helped set up successful play action three plays later as Goodwin slipped behind the Cal coverage for a 47-yard, go-ahead TD pass from Ash. Bergeron carried the ball just three times for nine yards, one of the three a pitch that resulted in no gain. Overall, Texas ran the ball 33 times (excluding two sacks for -20 yards) for 129 yards for just under four yards per carry. David Ash earned offensive MVP honors but a case could be made for Goodwin. He either scored or set up the score on two of the Horns’ TD drives and accounted for 82 of UT’s 255 yards on offense. And it could have been more, as mentioned above. On the first what-might-have-been, late in the second quarter, Goodwin was pushed out of bounds along the Texas sideline, came back in to make a great catch but was called for illegal touching. Then, in the third quarter with Texas clinging to a 14-10 lead and facing a third-and-18 from its own two, Goodwin got behind Cal corner Marc Anthony again along the Texas sideline and made the catch near midfield but just missed getting his full foot inbounds. “You’ve got to have a go-to guy and we’ve got to improve our passing game and that started tonight,” Mack Brown said of Goodwin’s performance. Texas converted just three of 14 third downs, including zero of seven in the first half. The Horns faced third and long (five yards or greater) nine times and converted none of them. Harsin said that given the way the defense was playing, the plan was to remain patient, don’t turn the ball over and take some shots when in positive down and distance or field position situations. “I was really happy with the way David managed the game tonight,” Harsin said. “That’s a big part of what we talk about at the quarterback position. If we can go into a game and not turn the ball over we have a chance to win every single game.”