The Longhorns’ uptempo offense started the season going nowhere fast.
But after 28 minutes of sputtering, Texas put the pedal to the metal and left New Mexico State in its dust. The Longhorns wore down the Aggies and then big-played them into oblivion.
After Texas averaged 68.5 plays per game in 2012, coach Mack Brown said he hoped the no-huddle approach would translate into about 80 plays per outing this season. Texas ran 72 plays in its debut, but converted them into a school-record 715 yards — 359 rushing, 356 passing.
That surpassed the previous high of 692 yards against Rice in 1998.
Pretty impressive, considering the Longhorns had managed only 74 total yards going into the second quarter.
“You could see the tempo and the two-deep really wore them down,” Brown said.
Play-calling coordinator Major Applewhite said Texas’ slow start reminded him of the Alamo Bowl, when Texas trailed Oregon State before rallying in the second half.
“It just goes to show us if we really execute for 60 minutes, we can be good,” Applewhite said. “It’s OK to say that.”
With quarterback David Ash finally heating up after throwing interceptions on two straight possessions midway through the second quarter, Texas scored on five straight possessions against an undermanned and overmatched Aggies defense to go from 0-7 down to 35-7 up.
The five scores came on plays of 54 yards (a catch by John Harris), 66 yards (a catch by Daje Johnson), 24 yards (a run by Johnson), 55 yards (a run by Ash) and 74 yards (a catch by Malcolm Brown).
Before the final gun, the Longhorns added a dazzling 25-yard scoring catch by Mike Davis and a pair of touchdown runs by redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet, a quarterback-turned-tailback who ended up leading the team in rushing.
The four scoring plays of at least 50 yards were only two fewer than Texas recorded in all of 2012.
“I think it’s exactly what we want it to be,” Brown said of the rapid play-calling attack. “I don’t know what pace we were going at, but we went pretty fast.”
Added Ash, who overcame the two interceptions — one coming on a ball that was tipped — to complete 20 of 28 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns: “It wasn’t perfect and it never will be. There’s a lot of things we can improve on, but you saw glimpses of what we can be.”
After 28 minutes of mostly sputtering, the offense finally put the hurry in hurry-up in the final two minutes of the half.
It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
After New Mexico State took a 7-0 lead on an 11-yard pass from Andrew McDonald to Joshua Bowen with 2:28 left in the half, Texas fans made it clear they were not impressed with the nation’s 15th-ranked team.
Boos rained down at Royal-Memorial. The worst possible opening-game scenario unfolded for Brown. But the Aggies’ touchdown finally seemed to ignite the Longhorns. Only 40 seconds of game time elapsed between the bombs to Harris and Johnson.
After managing just 136 yards on its first 27 plays, the offense amassed 342 yards on its next 15 plays, which included the five long scores.
“Things started to fall our way, and we got out of our own way,” Applewhite said.
And the Longhorns were on their way.
HURRY UP, OFFENSE
A look at Texas’ first-game statistics, and the Longhorns’ production Saturday night compared to last year’s averages:
Points per game;35.7;56.0
No. of plays;68.5;72
Yards per play;6.3;9.9
Time of possession;30:50;23:48