October 9, 2011

Jimmy Burch: It doesn't get any easier for Texas' young quarterbacks

OSU is next for David Ash and Case McCoy.

The postgame sounds of celebration were still unfolding on the floor of the Cotton Bowl when Texas quarterback David Ash vowed to use lessons learned in a lopsided loss to No. 3 Oklahoma to make him a better player.

Ash, a freshman, combined with sophomore Case McCoy in a turnover-filled effort that left the quarterbacks' fingerprints all over the Sooners' 55-17 romp in the Red River Rivalry. Texas' offense lost five turnovers that led to 31 OU points, including two interceptions by Ash and two lost fumbles by McCoy.

"You learn so much from a loss like this," said Ash, whose second pick was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by OU cornerback Demontre Hurst. "You learn what it takes to play at the level that Oklahoma plays. They're a great team. You get exposed to that. We're a young team and the great thing is we have so much potential. We've just got to keep working."

For the 22nd-ranked Longhorns (4-1, 1-1 in Big 12), who fell 11 spots Sunday in the latest Associated Press poll, the challenge does not diminish this week. Not with No. 6 Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0), the nation's highest-scoring FBS team (51.4 avg.), headed to Austin and the Longhorns coming off an effort that included more touchdowns for the opposing defense (3) than Texas (1) when the offense was on the field.

To have any chance for success Saturday against OSU (2:30 p.m., WFAA/Ch. 8), Texas' young quarterbacks must rebound quickly from their first heaping helping of adversity as college players. Both showed uncanny poise and significant play-making skills while playing pivotal roles in victories over four pedestrian opponents.

But how will they react to being schooled by an Oklahoma defense that kept them confused and out of sync for four quarters with well-disguised coverages and creative blitzes?

"I think a game like this will help them," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "The speed of the game... it'll have to help them down the road. They'll be more ready for this when they see a really good Oklahoma State defense."

Frankly, Brown has to think that way. Texas has no other scholarship players at the position. The other participants in Texas' four-quarterback battle for the starting job have transferred (Connor Wood) or announced plans to transfer (Garrett Gilbert), leaving walk-on J.P. Floyd as the No. 3 quarterback on the Longhorns' depth chart.

There is no doubt that McCoy and Ash, who have combined to throw only 93 passes at the college level, should improve each week as they gain experience at the college level. But can they be ready to challenge a Top 10 opponent this week? That's an awfully tight turnaround.

McCoy, like Ash, acknowledged that OU's fresh defensive wrinkles confused him on multiple occasions. But he added: "That's not an excuse for either one of us. We have to do better."

McCoy lost fumbles on two of eight Sooners sacks, with his third-quarter bobble returned for a touchdown. In explaining his two interceptions, Ash said he made "a bad decision" on the first by forcing a pass into tight coverage. On the second, he said he "didn't see" Hurst, who undercut the receiver's route and had smooth sailing to the end zone.

"I thought I had a safe throw. I didn't see [Hurst]," Ash said. "You can't do that. We can't put our defense in those situations."

Credit both of Texas' young quarterbacks for owning their mistakes and being willing to work on them. But until the Texas ground game shows up with more vigor than it did Saturday against OU (45 carries, 36 yards, 0.8 per carry), expect more lumps during the learning curve.

Stopping the run was Oklahoma's focus in the Red River Rivalry, a blueprint that Sooners coach Bob Stoops expects other teams to follow.

"They hadn't been asked in their previous games to be the ones to win the games," Stoops said of Texas' young quarterbacks. "I felt that if they couldn't run the football, then they're going to have to do it. And I felt very good, at that point, that we'd be able to get pressures, sacks and turnovers."

They did. Now, it's up to Texas' young quarterbacks to display how much growth they can make in one week before facing another Top 10 opponent.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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