Now it gets interesting for the Longhorns.
That’s not to suggest there weren’t interesting developments in Saturday’s season opener against New Mexico State. For starters, Texas committed three first-half turnovers and didn’t score its first points of 2013 until the 1:48 mark of the second quarter.
“We definitely left some points and yards out there,” quarterback David Ash acknowledged Monday.
The fact that Texas went on to amass a school-record 715 yards of offense and roll to a 56-7 victory suggests the Aggies, coming off a 1-11 season in 2012, won’t be confused for Alabama. Or Brigham Young, for that matter.
Beginning this Saturday at BYU and following with home dates against Mississippi and Kansas State, the Longhorns are well aware that similar slow starts against those foes probably could send their season careening off the tracks.
Yet the opener served its purpose for coach Mack Brown and his players. Despite playing an outmanned opponent, the Longhorns were able to come away with a better knowledge of themselves.
The turnovers — a fumble by receiver Mike Davis and two interceptions by Ash — gave Texas a chance to overcome what technically qualified as “adversity” in rallying from a 7-0 deficit late in the first half against what Brown described as “a lesser opponent.”
“It allows you to make some mistakes,” Brown said. “We can’t make the mistakes we made in the first half offensively and beat Brigham Young. We could do that the other night. It gave us some leeway because we had better players.”
And a lot more of them. That was something else Brown liked.
He said Texas played 39 offensive and defensive players in the first half — “very few people can do that” — and the quality of play didn’t waver.
“I didn’t notice any drop-off,” Brown said. “That has not been the case around here the last couple of years. It is quality depth.”
Texas played just two freshmen, guard Kent Perkins and wide receiver Jacorey Warrick. Another newcomer, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, got in for 23 plays as he continues to work himself into shape after missing much of camp with an academic eligibility issue.
“He did get cramps, but he did a good job,” Brown said. “He still has a way to go with his conditioning and learning what he can do.”
Texas’ up-tempo offense will see a much more physical opponent this week. The Cougars are led by All-America linebacker Kyle Van Noy (6 feet 3 inches, 245 pounds), who plays behind a three-man front that averages about 280 pounds.
UT offensive guard Trey Hopkins, who also logged a few plays at center in the opener, said BYU has “a very physical front.” But Hopkins said he was encouraged by what he saw of Texas’ first full game in the no-huddle attack.
“I think we saw we have a very explosive offense,” he said. “I think that was a big confidence boost for us.”
The Cougars also will present Texas with more offensive challenges than the Horns saw in their opener.
BYU, which fell 19-16 last week at Virginia in a game delayed two hours by bad weather, has several offensive weapons, including running back Jamaal Williams and wide receiver Cody Hoffman. Williams slogged for 148 yards on 33 carries against Virginia. Hoffman, a 6-4 senior who has earned preseason All-America mention, was held out with a hamstring injury.
The Longhorns defense, which didn’t know what kind of offense New Mexico State would unveil in the opener, gave up 346 yards to the Aggies.
“You’ve got to focus against a team like that,” defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “No matter who you’re playing — you could be playing a high school team — those guys can come out and do their assignments. So you can’t take anybody lightly.”
That’s especially true now for the Longhorns as they move on from New Mexico State and head into a potentially dangerous stretch of the schedule.
15-TEXAS AT BYU
6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2, 1300, 98.1