Keys to the game

Matt Warden

Inch by inch, and brick by brick the Texas Longhorns have prepped and adjusted for the upcoming season. With a stellar group of running backs and a solid group of hungry defensive specialists, sophomore David Ash will be complemented nicely heading into week one.

Traditionally, matchups with Wyoming have been automatic for the Longhorns, as they hold a 4-0 record in head-to-head play, with a combined score of 126-27. However, there are still a few keys in the game plan Texas must follow to continue this streak.

Battle of the Quarterbacks

This season all eyes are on sophomore quarterback David Ash. Will he continue to improve and lead Texas back to prominence, or will his inconsistency continue from last year? Although it’s more important for the Longhorns to establish their dominance on the ground in this game, Ash must stay composed and showcase his improvement by attacking the Cowboys through the air. Wyoming has a solid secondary with cornerback Blair Burns and safety Luke Ruff and Ash needs to find ways to minimize their impact by pressuring them to make plays. If Ash can pick apart the Cowboys’ defense, a huge rushing attack won’t be necessary. Wyoming’s offensive leader is quarterback Brett Smith who led the team in passing and rushing last year. The Longhorns need to disrupt his composure and slow down his impact on the ground to motivate their own true sophomore quarterback.

Controlling the Trenches

In order for the Longhorns to have the confidence to execute their game plan this week, their defense must control the line of scrimmage. Wyoming features one of the premier offensive lines in the country, which allowed only 12 sacks in 13 games last season. Texas must penetrate the line and get pressure on Brett Smith, who has proven to be inconsistent when pressured. The Longhorns need solid performances from guys like Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, who will have to apply constant and unrelenting pressure to slow down Wyoming’s running game which ranked 33rd in the nation last season with 181 yards per game. If they can do this, Ash and the offense should have all the momentum they need to sink Wyoming.

Establish the Running Game

With Ash starting at quarterback, Longhorns fans should expect the team to pick up a lot of yards on the ground. Ash has showed an improved passing prowess this spring, but a year of inconsistency is still hanging over him. In order to get him going, the team needs to use their excellent trio of backs to pick up yards and get the game moving at a tempo better suited for the mobile Ash. Sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were the feature backs for a team that ranked 22nd in rushing yards per game last season. Add 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year Johnathan Gray to the mix, and the Longhorns have the tools to dominate Wyoming on the ground. If it can pick up yards and dial the tempo up, Texas should be in control to win this game easily.