Texas’ win over Kansas State proved the Longhorns could win without quarterback David Ash and junior linebacker Jordan Hicks.
They’ll likely have to prove it again.
Hicks will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon. Ash, who missed the Longhorns’ loss to Ole Miss with a concussion and right shoulder injury, is being evaluated for symptoms stemming from a head injury he suffered Saturday.
Players must be symptom-free for 48 hours before they can return, Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Never miss a local story.
“Any time there’s a symptom, it doesn’t have to be another concussion, it can just be another symptom that pops up, the doctors take them out of the game,” Brown said.
Against Kansas State, the Longhorns took a 17-0 lead in the first half with Ash behind center and hung on for a 31-21 victory in their Big 12 opener.
Backup quarterback Case McCoy threw only nine passes in the second half but didn’t need to do much as Aledo grad Johnathan Gray spearheaded a suddenly productive Longhorns running attack. Gray finished with a career-high 141 yards rushing.
Hicks was carted off the filed early in the third quarter with Texas up 24-7. Trailing by 10, Kansas State pushed the ball in the red zone on its last two drives but the Longhorns forced turnovers both times to seal the win.
The Longhorns get this week off before their game Oct. 3 at Iowa State. The Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma looms the following weekend. Whether Ash will be available for either game remains to be seen.
“I think things are looking good,” Ash’s father, Stephen, said. “We’d all want for that to happen.”
Ash took several hard hits on Saturday, none arguably harder than the last. On its last possession of the first half, Texas faced a third-and-4 from its 42-yard line. Ash took off and ran for 11 yards but was leveled by Kansas State linebacker Blake Slaughter.
McCoy would start against Iowa State if Ash is unavailable. In his only other start this year, McCoy passed for 196 yards and a touchdown without committing a turnover in a 44-23 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 12.
“Case does a great job of getting the team going and stepping in for David,” junior running back Malcolm Brown said. “Case knows when his time comes, he has to strap it on and lead the team to a victory.”
Last season, Hicks was lost for the year after suffering a hip injury in Texas’ third game of the year and was sorely missed. The Longhorns allowed 425.9 yards per game in 10 games without Hicks, nearly 100 more per game than they did with him.
“It’s a big hole,” Mack Brown said. “Last year, it hurt us and we didn’t respond very well. He was our leading tackler and a tremendous player and an even better leader.”
Hicks got a medical redshirt to account for last year’s injury. No timetable has been set for his return, which would be as a senior in 2014 at the earliest.
“Someone else has to step up,” McCoy said. “That’s just how this team is going to be. When somebody goes down, somebody has to step up. That’s very important for us.”