Ash leans on faith, and No. 11 Texas leans on him
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)
There weren't overwhelming thoughts of a thrilling comeback win against the defending Big 12 champions. He wasn't rattled by the potential for failure.
After coming through for a 41-36 win at Oklahoma State on Saturday night, Ash said it wasn't just football skills that calmed him in crunch time.
''I try to be the same amount of confident, have the same poise all the time, and the reason I feel like I can be confident and poised in the situation is because of my faith,'' Ash said. ''Because I know that whether I fail, whether I succeed, no matter what happens, God will see me through and I'll be OK.''
In the back of his mind was a verse from the book of James in the Bible, and he drew strength from it not to ride the waves of emotion.
Coach Mack Brown is a believer that Ash's faith has made a difference in his development into the Longhorns' leader, after he struggled while splitting time as the starter with Case McCoy last season.
''He never looks any different. I step in there and say, `Hey, let's pick it up now. Let's lead.' He'll look at you and say, `I got it.' ... I think his faith is a really good tool for him because he doesn't rattle,'' Brown said.
''Last year, he probably pressed because he tried too hard. Right now, he thinks he's playing good and there was no doubt in that offense's that they were going to win the game at the end of the game.''
After the win, Texas moved up a spot to No. 11 in The Associated Press poll on Sunday.
Ash completed 30 of 38 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. On the season, he's completing 78 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards with 10 TDs and one interception.
It's quite the turnaround from a season ago, when Ash connected on 57 percent of his passes with eight interceptions and four touchdowns, and yet it still pales in comparison to what the Longhorns will face next.
The No. 8 Mountaineers (4-0, 1-0) visit Texas on Saturday night.
Brown had a message for his team after surviving in Stillwater: ''I told them that this one was hard enough. Don't even think about next week.''
The Longhorns will start on that soon enough, trying to put Ash in position to outperform one of the early front-runners for the Heisman Trophy.
''I think we can build on it,'' Brown said. ''What we've got to do is make sure that he continues to do what he's doing, and that's manage the offense. ... Don't force things.''
Brown noted that Ash wisely took a check-down pass to the fullback four times in the game instead of trying a riskier play.
''I think he's a lot more mature and he makes better reads. Honestly, I think he's always had a great arm but I think he's making a lot better decisions this year,'' said Jaxon Shipley, who caught all three of Ash's touchdown passes.
Ash took even more enjoyment in the win because it provided some redemption for last year's loss to Oklahoma State, when he threw for just 139 yards and no touchdowns while committing three turnovers in his first career start.
Ash held onto the starter's job for a month after that, with McCoy reclaiming it at the end of the regular season and then Ash taking it over seemingly for good at the Holiday Bowl.
''Just for him to be able to come out here in the situation that we were in, in the environment that we were in, and to make plays like he did and just throw those balls that he did was just incredible,'' Shipley said. ''It just shows how much he's grown over the year.''
Brown said he told his team that the win at Oklahoma State means that ''we're at least back in the mix and that we've got a chance each week now.''
He offered a blunt assessment that the Longhorns ''stunk'' two years ago and were ''OK and made some progress'' while going 8-5 in 2011.
But they'll need even more from Ash to be Big 12 title contenders, starting next week against West Virginia.
''It's going to bring us together because wins like that are emotional,'' Ash said. ''When you share that kind of emotion with your brothers on your team that you've been working so hard with, sweating, going through all of the things that a college football team goes through, working so hard and coming up with such an emotional win is going to bring you together.
''It was really awesome to be a part of that.''