He's a better player, a more confident player. Ash completed 15 of his first 16 pass attempts and threw for 364 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as the Longhorns defeated Iowa State 33-7 at Royal-Memorial Stadium. And the Longhorns are more confident in Ash. Ash's impressive game began on the Longhorns' first offensive play with Texas backed up on its own 6 yard line. Texas promised this week to line up in the wishbone on the first play to honor the late Darrell K. Royal. Seemed like that would work as the wishbone was designed as a running offense. But the Longhorns used it to produce a little trickery. Instead of running the football, Ash flipped the ball to Jaxon Shipley, who threw a backward pass to Ash, who connected with Greg Daniels on a 37-yard play. It was a perfect downfield pass. "I was excited, but I was kind of worried that it was announced on national news," Ash said of the Longhorns' intention to line up in the wishbone on the first play. "I was very happy with the way the players executed the play because it was very important," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "It was important because of the play, but it was important because of the meaning behind it." It also was important to build momentum. Ash continued throwing strikes throughout the first quarter, including a beautiful 61-yard pass to Mike Davis that gave Texas a 14-0 lead with 3:23 left. "David didn't really throw a bad ball (all game)," Texas coach Mack Brown said. Ash helped the Longhorns (8-2, 5-2 Big 12) build the lead to 20-0 late in the second quarter when he connected with Barrett Matthews on a 3-yard touchdown pass. The game looked over. But, using a hurry-up offense, Iowa State drove down the field at the end of half and pulled within 20-7 on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Steele Jantz to Quenton Bundrage. Still, that was all Iowa State (5-5) could manage against a defense that was much improved thanks to two facets: pressure on the quarterback and tackling. Texas didn't get a lot of sacks. The Longhorns didn't force a lot of turnovers (two). But they had plenty of third-down stops. The Cyclones weren't ever able to sustain drives, converting just 3-of-12 third downs. The Longhorns blitzed Jantz for most of the day, forcing the senior to throw before he wanted to. When Jantz did complete passes, the Longhorns were right there to make tackles. Alex Okafor led the defense with nine stops. "We had a number of good drives," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. "We ran the ball for 111 yards in the first half. We had three or four drives into their territory and only seven points to show for it. It's harder to keep drives going when the field shortens, especially against quality opponents." The Cyclones finished with 277 yards, including just 64 in the second half. "The guys are getting better at our pressures," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "We've been practicing that the last few weeks. I think we also got into some third-down situations and were able to do more stuff to get after the quarterback. That passing success from the Longhorns opened up holes for running backs Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray. Bergeron had 12 carries for 86 yards, and Gray had 14 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns, including a 5-yard score in the first quarter to give Texas a 7-0 lead. Texas finished with 607 yards on offense, including 219 on the ground. Notes: Texas honored Royal, who died Wednesday at age 88. Royal is the school's winningest coach. He compiled a 167-45-5 record while winning three national championships. ... Texas kicker Nick Jordan kicked a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter after he replaced Anthony Fera, who had a field goal blocked and missed an extra point earlier in the game. ... Ash has thrown for 3,431 yards in his career and is now No. 10 on Texas' career list.
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