Consistently balanced offense needed to propel Longhorn football

Peter Sblendorio

At first glance, the statistic that sticks out most from the Longhorns’ 56-7 victory over New Mexico State on Saturday is the 715 yards of total offense they compiled, a school record.

The more impressive feat, however, was Texas’ ability to shred the New Mexico State defense with equally dominant attacks through the air and on the ground.

The Longhorns rushed for 359 yards and passed for 356 in the victory. Five players tallied at least 40 receiving yards, and four rushed for at least 60. While head coach Mack Brown realizes this type of production is difficult to repeat, he says that balance on offense is a necessary facet of a championship-caliber team.

“We really want to be balanced if we can,” Brown said. “If you can run the ball every week then you’ve got a better chance to win. If we can keep a good balance and make sure that, in a spread offense, we can stay physical and still run the football, it’ll really help us on days our passing game is just not in touch.”

Junior quarterback David Ash led the aerial attack with 343 passing yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 91 yards and a score. Brown wants to see Ash in a more active role as a runner moving forward. The addition of a mobile quarterback gives Texas a dangerous offensive dimension.

“David ran the ball well, so that really helped us,” Brown said. “That’s something we need to do, is have our quarterback be an extra runner in key situations. I thought he looked for the run [Saturday] tonight. That’s something he didn’t do very much last year.”

Texas also benefited from featuring running backs capable of contributing in the passing game. Sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson defined the Longhorns’ balanced attack in week one, rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown while hauling in three passes for 67 yards and a score. Junior running back Malcolm Brown led Texas with 109 receiving yards.

“It’s something we’ve been working on all of camp,” Brown said. “[Co-offensive coordinator] Applewhite does a great job with his play-calling in having a balanced attack and not really focusing on one [phase]. We have a lot of athletes and coach Applewhite knows how to get everyone out on the field and how to use everyone.”

Texas’ depth and experience along the offensive line and at the skill positions allow it to match up well against most defenses. Ash believes the offense must capitalize on what the defense gives it to be successful each week, and the ability to run and pass allows the offense do so effectively.   

“You always want to be able to take what the defense is giving you,” Ash said. “If they’re loading the box, you want to be able to throw it. If they’re playing the pass, you want to be able to run it. We just want the ability to do both things.”

Saturday’s game marked the fourth time in school history that Texas both rushed and passed for at least 300 yards in a contest. While it is unrealistic for them to expect such productivity every week, the Longhorns know that executing a consistently balanced offense will make them difficult to beat.