The Texas Longhorns made it a point of emphasis this year to better protect quarterback David Ash, and they have allowed just two sacks in three games.
UT struggled in pass protection last season and it hampered the offense. The Longhorns allowed 28 sacks in 13 games in 2011. Some of the breakdowns were a result of change. Texas hired a new offensive line coach, Stacy Searels, and a new offensive coordinator, Bryan Harsin, before the season.
Now, the offensive line is winning the battle at the line of scrimmage.
"I really think since last year we weren't happy with our pass protection and within the last year we've really taken it as a challenge to be in the right spot when we're getting the blitz," said right guard Mason Walters. "Last year, we didn't understand the offense well enough as an offensive line to be able to adjust on the run. We take it personally, we don't want David to get hit."
The running game also has helped UT cut down on sacks. Texas is 13th in rushing in the FBS, averaging 257.8 yards a game.
"I really believe running the ball has helped us with our play-action and we're older," head coach Mack Brown said. "All the guys know more about who we are offensively and the ability to run the ball slows down the pass rush."
And for the first time in three years, the quarterback is on the same page as the offensive line. Left guard Trey Hopkins said Ash did well in reading the defense and relaying that information to the linemen in UT's 66-31 win over Mississippi last Saturday.
"Communicating with us along the offensive line I think is one of the biggest things that we haven't had since I've been here, the quarterback actually speaking to the offensive line and letting us know what he sees in protections, what he sees coming from the defense," said left guard Trey Hopkins, a junior. "David did a very good job of communicating that with us and it helped us out. Communication is always a big part, so we're not just letting guys go free."
In his second year as a starter, Ash appears to have a better feel for the pass rush. The sophomore is scrambling less and making quick decisions with the football.
"He is leaving the pocket only when he needs to now," Brown said. "There was a play the other night against Ole Miss where it was a dropback pass and he didn't see what he wanted so he sprinted to his left and hit Mike Davis on the sideline. Those plays are making it harder for people to get to him."
By Austin Laymance/Special to the Star-Telegram