Bergeron, Brown push Texas over Wyoming
SEP 01, 2012 10:20p ET
That trend was halted, at least for a night, in Texas's 37-17 season-opening win over Wyoming. When the Longhorn defense forced a turnover, the offense was quick to follow up with a touchdown. Two of those instances opened up the Longhorns' first real lead. And a third sealed the game at a moment when the outcome seemed in doubt.
"I thought our team played well together, meaning that we forced the two turnovers, got the ball back at plus-40 yard line, and scored two touchdowns off the two turnovers," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "[We] came back and had a fourth-down stop, which is like a turnover. When we needed it late in the game, the offense takes it 91 yards for a touchdown. So we got 21 points off of what would be three different turnovers. So I thought those things worked really well."
Wyoming held a 9-7 lead in the second quarter when Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro turned things around. The preseason All-Big 12 pick at safety baited Wyoming sophomore quarterback Brett Smith into throwing a post route. Vaccaro jumped the pass, made the interception and returned it 19 yards to the Wyoming 43. Five plays later, quarterback David Ash hit wide receiver Jaxon Shipley on a corner-post route for a 16-yard touchdown and a 14-9 advantage.
"I feel like David was confident in himself today," Shipley said. "They finally named him the starter, and that's good for him. So I think he kind of got a lot of weight off his shoulders now."
Vaccaro played a major role in the second big defensive play as well. He came clean on a blitz, hurrying Smith into throwing a jump ball that cornerback Carrington Byndom came down with at the Wyoming 44. A Malcolm Brown 31-yard run on a Statue of Liberty play gave Texas the ball not far from the end zone, and on third and goal, D.J. Monroe fought his way in for another touchdown.
"I thought [the Vaccaro plays] probably made the difference, and give the offense credit for turning both of them into touchdowns," Mack Brown said. "Kenny Vaccaro is a great player – he's not a good player. He can do some really good things to help us."
From there, the Longhorns largely coasted, pushing the lead up to 31-9 heading into the fourth quarter. But Smith, who passed for 276 yards and two scores, hit Robert Herron for a 22-yard touchdown on a blown coverage. A two-point conversion pass to Dominic Rufran later, and the Cowboys trailed 31-17.
On Texas's next play, Ash fumbled the shotgun snap and Wyoming defensive end Miraldo Michel fell on it to give the Cowboys the ball at the Texas 30 with 14:50 left in the game. Smith piloted the offense to the Texas 9, where Wyoming faced a second and 2. But the defense held, forcing an incomplete pass and twice snuffing out Smith for no gain on quarterback runs.
And again, the offense responded. On the first play, running back Joe Bergeron pulled through two tackle attempts and rumbled 54 yards before he was finally pulled down from behind by Korey Jones. A few plays later, Bergeron finished the drive by bursting in from 17 yards out, effectively putting the game on ice.
"Both the offense and defense went out there and shut the door," said Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
"It can get better," said offensive guard Mason Walters. "We had a couple more drives where we should have gone and gotten points, and we didn't. But you can't just overlook the fact that we did that one drive there at the end that kind of put them away. That was encouraging to see. We just need to see more of it."
It wasn't a perfect performance from the Longhorns, who struggled to contain Smith and top receiver Herron (173 yards receiving, two touchdowns), especially early.
"The main focus we wanted to do this year was to start strong, and I really don't think we did that," Vaccaro said. "Honestly, we need to get our heads out of the magazines and start faster and play stronger."
Texas also started slowly offensively, while kicker Nick Jordan missed two field goals and saw an extra point blocked. And Brown said the Longhorns were tested by a Wyoming team that returned several key players from a squad that won eight games a year ago, the same win total put up by Texas.
"I think it's the best Wyoming team we have seen out of the three times that we played," Brown said.
Yet Texas had positives on all sides of the ball. The Longhorns limited their turnovers – the fumbled snap was Texas's only giveaway – and won the turnover battle. Both Bergeron (110 rushing yards) and Malcolm Brown (105) topped the century mark. And Ash completed 20 of 27 throws for 156 yards and a touchdown. The defense held Wyoming to 2.3 yards per carry and the Cowboys were just 1 for 11 on third downs. On special teams, Texas blocked a punt and an extra point, averaged 53.3 yards per punt and were excellent on kickoff coverage.
"Sometimes things don’t go perfect," Ash said. "But we had a great attitude, a great mentality, a winning mentality. I think that’s something we need to have week in and week out."
In short, it was an opener. But it was an opener that left the Longhorns with hopes that the offense can take the necessary steps forward.
"I did think that there were enough good things for us to build on," Mack Brown said. "If we had won the game 45-9 we would have walked out here feeling to good about ourselves. Now we've got things that we can still work on, but I think we'll be good."