Texas runs to bowl eligibility

AUSTIN, Texas -- And exhale.

It's OK now. Texas, after a year when everyone held their breath till their faces turned red, is bowl eligible after beating Texas Tech 52-20 Saturday.

Let the giddy, burnt orange celebrations begin. It has been a long wait after all. Particularly when considering, for all those years, Longhorns fans took those six wins for granted.

Postseason games had been written in ink on the schedule around these parts, then to have it stripped away by the bumblings of 2010, left the faithful skeptically eyeing the pulpit. Not anymore though. The braggadocio is back as well.

"I told the guys let's don't talk about six; now let's talk about 10," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

That kind of talk could get the flock to return. It wasn't quite a sellout, but the 100,506 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium were on hand to witness the biggest land rush since the borders up north were opened in 1889.

Texas rolled on the ground once again. Last week, against Kansas, it was 441 yards. This week it was 439. Texas hasn't had back-to-back 400-yard rushing games since 1977. Next week? Well, Missouri is the 45th ranked rush defense, so the sledding might not be so slick.

That doesn't mean the Longhorns won't stick the ground game.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," quarterback David Ash said.

Sage advice.

Texas, with a passing game in its infancy, has little choice but to stay on the ground. The Longhorns attempted just nine passes while running it 54 times. But make no mistake, this is not a three yards and a cloud of dust attack. Against Tech it was an 8.2 yards and a puff of exhaust attack.

"You go into a game and you want to ideally be 50-50," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "Then you see the way the team is playing, how the running backs are in a flow and it's hard to get away from that."

That performance was made all the more remarkable by who wasn't included.

Malcolm Brown, Texas' leading rusher with 635 yards through seven games, was scratched with turf toe and a foot injury before the game. Jaxon Shipley, Texas' leading wide receiver, was out with a bum knee.

"That's what we talked about this week was to carry the flag," Ash said. "If someone goes down somebody else has got to pick it up and carry the flag."

Texas had more than enough flag-bearers against the Red Raiders. Joe Bergeron, who had 136 yards against Kansas, proved to be a worthy replacement for Brown. Ash's arms, and legs, proved to be an adequate addition.

Ash played every down of consequence, and had four rushes for 59 yards to go along with 125 yards on 4 of 7 passing.

But Bergeron was clearly the star. The freshman followed up his career day against Kansas by gashing the Red Raiders for 191 yards and three touchdowns.

"We just hammer 'em," Bergeron said. "After a while a defense will crack when you just keep pounding the ball, pounding the ball, then eventually they will crack. And then you keep pounding the ball."

While Tech's defense is more porous than Wonder bread, Texas has proven it can be a dominant running team. And, now Texas has two backs that can go between the tackles and chew up plenty of yards.

The only thing that could stop Bergeron was cramps in the fourth quarter. The injury didn't appear to be too serious as Bergeron trotted off under his own power.

As for power, the run game continued to produce it in large part because of the changes and commitment along the offensive line. Luke Poehlmann, a converted interior lineman, was back at a tight end. Josh Cochran was back at left tackle. It was no coincidence that the day's biggest run -- 51 yards by Bergeron -- came behind Cochran's blocks.

So for those taking notes, that was a true freshman, Bergeron, going for 51 yards, on the backside of another true freshman, Cochran, with a true freshman, Ash, handing him the ball, while the team's leading rusher and receiver, both freshmen, watched from the sideline.

While Satuday's thrashing of Texas Tech wasn't exactly a watershed moment, it did provide a glimpse of what lies ahead for this young team.

"It makes you excited about the future," Ash. "We're going to be with these guys for a long time."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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