An upbeat start to the Charlie Strong era at Texas took an ominous U-turn Monday with the announcement that quarterback David Ash has suffered his third concussion in the past three football games he has played.
Strong, Texas’ first-year coach, said Ash will miss Saturday’s game in Austin against Brigham Young (6:30 p.m., FS1) after reporting concussion-related symptoms to trainers following the team’s 38-7 victory over North Texas. If Ash was my son, I’d urge him to call it a career. Three games, three concussions and you’re out.
During fall drills, Ash made it clear that he wanted to return and lead the Longhorns (1-0) this season. He lobbied for the opportunity and did the rehabilitation work. But late Saturday night, Ash called Texas trainers after leaving the stadium to report headaches and dizziness.
Ash did not complain of those symptoms during the game, Texas officials said. But they’re all too familiar in relation to Ash, who suffered his first concussion in last year’s loss to BYU, then suffered a season-ending concussion two weeks later in a 31-21 victory over Kansas State.
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The UNT game marked Ash’s first football-related contact since the K-State game on Sept. 21, 2013. For the sake of Ash’s long-term health, it needs to be his last. The final decision belongs to Ash and his family but the track record is pretty clear at this point.
During Monday’s news conference in Austin, Strong set no timetable for Ash’s return and turned the focus toward preparing sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, a 38.3 percent passer last season (5-of-13, 26 yards), to face BYU.
Strong also made it clear where he stands on the bottom-line issue that should be first and foremost in the minds of all who are close to Ash.
“We would never jeopardize a young man’s health for the good of the football team,” Strong said.
Asked about moving forward with two inexperienced quarterbacks atop the Texas depth chart, Strong said: “We can function. It’s not the end of the world. Someone else has to step up. That’s the situation we’re in right now.”
Without Ash, a junior who has a 15-7 career mark as Texas’ starting quarterback, the Longhorns drop from a borderline Top 25 team to one that might struggle to become bowl-eligible. Games against BYU (1-0), No. 7 UCLA (1-0), No. 10 Baylor (1-0) and No. 4 Oklahoma (1-0) are on the docket between now and Oct. 11.
During the second half of the season, the schedule is friendlier for a young QB learning on the fly, whether it is Swoopes or Jerrod Heard, a freshman from Denton Guyer. Texas players vowed Monday to rally around whoever plays quarterback.
But it’s hard to envision Ash returning to that equation after Monday’s news. Three concussions in three games should mean he’s out.
In other notable happenings from college football’s extended opening weekend, here are some knee-jerk conclusions worth embracing:
• No. 21 Texas A&M’s young terrors from Tarrant County high schools, quarterback Kenny Hill (Southlake Carroll) and defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington Martin), should only improve as the Aggies’ season unfolds. Hill, a sophomore, threw for a school-record 511 yards in his first college start, a 52-28 pounding of No. 9 South Carolina. Garrett, a freshman, recorded one of the team’s three sacks in his college debut.
• Top-ranked Florida State, the defending national champion and FBS school with the nation’s longest active winning streak (17 games), is closer to the pack than analysts believed last week, based on a 37-31 escape from unranked Oklahoma State in Arlington.
• Embrace No. 12 Georgia, a 45-21 winner over No. 16 Clemson, as a team worth tracking as we move toward finalizing the first four-team bracket of the College Football Playoff era.
• Place No. 7 UCLA and No. 5 Ohio State on the list of top 10 teams that backtracked in the minds of poll voters and selection committee members based on lackluster wins in their season openers.
• Expect elite teams from the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 to cannibalize one another in the playoff push, based on matchups and venues. It’s hard to imagine any undefeated teams emerging from those Power Five leagues. The same cannot be said about the softer ACC or Big Ten.
• Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator Manny Diaz should be happy to see No. 4 Oklahoma in the rearview mirror after a 48-16 loss in the opener. Diaz, formerly the defensive coordinator at Texas, has allowed 166 points to the Sooners (55.3 per game) in his past three matchups as the opposing defensive play-caller (2011, 2012, 2014).
• No. 10 Baylor’s improved pass rush (eight sacks in Sunday’s 45-0 rout of SMU) should stand the test of time, rather than disappear, when the Bears hit the brunt of their Big 12 schedule.
• The biggest nonconference game of the regular season happens Saturday (5:30 p.m., KDFW/Ch. 4) when No. 8 Michigan State (1-0) plays at No. 3 Oregon (1-0). Both are playoff contenders willing to risk a September loss in quest of a spot in the four-team bracket.