When Andrew McDonald connected with Joshua Bowen for a touchdown just before halftime, A chorus of boos rained down on the Longhorns.
Here was Texas, mighty "9-4 is not good enough" Texas, trailing a team that went 1-11 last year. Here was an offense that, despite returning a bevy of starters from a team that averaged almost 36 points per game in 2012, hadn't scored, turning the ball over three straight times, including two interceptions from quarterback David Ash.
It was just everything that could happen wrong in the first half happened wrong," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "I'm proud of the guys that kept their head in there and kept their composure and played a great second half."
Just 12 offensive plays later, Texas led 28-7 — courtesy of four touchdowns of 20-plus yards — and was well on its way to 715 yards of total offense, the highest mark in school history.
"We've got an older team," Brown said. "They were trying. It just wasn't working out. We talked about it at halftime. Offensively, we were trying to force runs when they had everybody on the line of scrimmage. They were wadding them up. There wasn't anybody outside."We could have thrown the ball any time we wanted to," Brown said. "We decided to go ahead and take it and just start throwing and get them spread out a little bit and then run the ball in the fourth quarter. That's what we did. If this is going to be an offense, you've got to take what's there. That's what the offense is set up to do. You can see the tempo and the two deep really wore them down."
To be fair, Texas always moved the ball well. But the Longhorns lost one scoring chance when receiver Mike Davis, at the end of a 21-yard catch-and-run to the New Mexico State 25, had the ball stripped by cornerback Darien Johnson. Defensive end Nick Oliva fell on it to squash a scoring threat. On the next drive, Texas crossed midfield, only to fall short when Johnathan Gray was cut down for no gain on fourth and two. And on the Longhorns' first two second quarter drives, Ash was intercepted, first by George Callendar in the end zone, then by Clint Barnard off a tipped pass at the line.
That allowed the Aggies to draw first blood. New Mexico State drove 64 yards on nine plays, concluding with an 11-yard score from McDonald to Bowen in the corner of the end zone, shocking many of the 99,623 in attendance.
But if the Longhorns were also shocked, they were shocked into action. Two plays later, Ash hit John Harris down the sideline, with the temporary starter making a move and outrunning the secondary for a 54-yard touchdown.
"I felt like it added a spark," Harris said afterward.
Did it ever.
Texas then forced a three and out, and on the Longhorns' next play from scrimmage, Ash connected with speedster Daje Johnson down the seam. Johnson used that speed to take it 66 yards to the house, and the Longhorns went into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
It was just everything that could happen wrong in the first half happened wrong," Brown said. "I'm proud of the guys that kept their head in there and kept their composure and played a great second half."
They weren't finished. Not even close. Johnson added to his touchdown tally in the third quarter with a 24-yard score over left end, springing thanks to a block from Gray.
"I knew before the game I was going to get the ball so I just wanted to give it my all," Johnson said. "Whenever they give it to me, I try to score every time."
Then Ash joined in on the fun, scrambling and racing 55 yards to paydirt behind outstanding blocks on the edge from Jaxon Shipley, who shielded off two defenders on the sidelines. The score was 28-7, and the rout was on.
On Texas's next drive, the Longhorns faced a third-and-three when the Aggies showed an all-out blitz. So Ash audibled running back Malcolm Brown to his other side, then hit Brown on a short swing pass. There wasn't anything fancy about it … except that nobody was near Brown, who ran down the sidelines and scored from 74 yards away. Harris, who started the Longhorn rally, helped Brown finish it off by blocking off his pursuit.
The damage was done. Texas scored on five straight possessions, opening up what had been a seven-point deficit and turning it into a blowout. In the fourth quarter, Davis hauled in a 25-yard score from Ash and Jalen Overstreet added a pair of touchdowns with the twos for the 56-7 victory.
All told, the Longhorns set a school record for total offense, while finishing with near perfect balance. Texas rushed 42 times for 359 yards and threw for 356 yards. Despite a slow start with two interceptions, Ash finished 20-of-28 for 343 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for an additional 91 yards on eight carries and a score. Johnson had six rushes for 62 yards and three catches for 67 yards, with a score in both phases. Brown finished with a team-high 109 yards receiving.
Applewhite credited the up-tempo offense with helping to wear down the Aggies in the second half. Indeed, while Texas only had 29 plays in the first half as the result of the turnovers and two lightning-quick scores, the Longhorns finished with 72 plays for the night, still four snaps ahead of last season's pace.
"I think the guys like it because anybody can get the ball on any play, run or pass, because there's so many checks," Brown said. "And I think they bought into it, and they'll have fun with it. They do not feel like tonight they played great. And when they find out they had more yards than anybody in the history of this school and scored 56 points and they're disappointed, that will help them move forward."
The defense was also stout for most of the night, only allowing the one touchdown and forcing three turnovers. As a team, the Aggies averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, while McDonald averaged 5.3 yards per passing attempt.
"I think we did pretty well tonight," said junior linebacker Jordan Hicks. "Obviously there are some things we want to fix up but that's with every game. It just feels good to get the first game under our belt and come out with a win."
Texas (1-0) will next travel to Provo, Utah to take on BYU.
New Mexico State — Joshua Bowen 11 pass from Andrew McDonald (Maxwell Johnson kick), 2:28 2Q.
TEXAS — John Harris 54 pass from David Ash (Anthony Fera kick), 1:48 2Q.
TEXAS — Daje Johnson 66 pass from David Ash (Fera kick), 1:08 2Q.
TEXAS — Johnson 24 run (Fera kick), 12:48 3Q.
TEXAS — Ash 55 run (Fera kick), 10:27 3Q
TEXAS — Malcolm Brown 74 pass from Ash (Fera kick), 8:11 3Q
TEXAS — Mike Davis 25 pass from Ash (Fera kick), 11:51 4Q
TEXAS — Jalen Overstreet 1 run (Fera kick), 6:12 4Q
TEXAS — Overstreet 38 run (Fera kick), 1:26 4Q