Charlie Strong: "Adversity is going to hit. The challenge is to bounce back."
- Published: Monday, 01 September 2014 12:52
- by Zach Barnett
The media gathered Monday morning in Austin awaiting word on the status of injured center Dominic Espinosa. Head coach Charlie Strong confirmed Espinosa, a fifth-year senior with 40 starts to his credit, indeed fractured his ankle and will miss the rest of the season. Then he said that quarterback David Ash suffered concussion-like symptoms hours after the Longhorns' 38-7 defeat of North Texas on Saturday night, and would miss the upcoming BYU game.
And with that, the tenor for Strong's debut season in Austin has completely changed.
Ash missed most of the 2013 season after suffering from prolonged concussion symptoms. He was removed from Texas' loss to BYU on Sept. 7, returned a week later for the Longhorns' win over Kansas State, again suffering a blow to the head, and missed the rest of the season. And on the very first hit of his first game back, Ash was injured yet again. Considering that history, one has to wonder if Ash's absence will extend beyond Saturday's BYU rematch, but to the rest of the season and perhaps the rest of his career.
Strong did not come out and say that Monday, but he did not shy away from the severity of Ash's injury history, either.
Strong said he has to consider Ash's long-term health given his concussion history. He missed last 3/4 of 2013 after head injury. — Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) September 1, 2014
Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes will start against BYU, and true freshman Jerrod Heard will serve as the back-up. As a true freshman a year ago, Swoopes appeared in six games, completing 5-of-13 passes for 26 yards and rushed 20 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. Heard was headed toward a redshirt season until this weekend, and did not play against North Texas.
That is the extent of Texas' quarterback experience, playing behind an offensive line without its veteran anchor in the middle, as the Longhorns prepare to face a schedule that includes BYU, No. 7 UCLA, No. 10 Baylor and No. 4 Oklahoma for four of its next five games. Three top 10 opponents five weeks, with two of those games away from Austin.
A defense that was flat out dominant against North Texas remains intact, and Shawn Watson has two decades of experience in molding quarterbacks. But there's no denying that an already challenging schedule for Texas even with perfect health just got that its degree of difficulty ramped up tremendously.
In the face of that, Strong did not flinch. "Adversity is going to hit," he said. "Now the challenge is just how well we can bounce back."
Strong on message to team, fans about absolute worst-case scenario unfolding: "We have a football team and we got to play." — Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) September 1, 2014