Friday, December 16, 2011
Texas fights to move forward after injuries
By David Ubben
Living life blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back is no fun.
Ask Texas' offense.
Already struggling at quarterback, it played the final four games with its top offensive weapons out of the lineup or in it while battling injuries.
Without Joe Bergeron or Malcolm Brown, the Texas offense lagged at times.
Running back Fozzy Whittaker tore his ACL on an ugly play at Missouri with the team's leading rusher, freshman Malcolm Brown, already out with turf toe. Fellow freshman Joe Bergeron rumbled for 327 yards in wins over Texas Tech and Kansas, but managed just nine more carries the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
Jaxon Shipley missed a three-game stretch late in the season, returning for the final two games with a bulky brace on his knee and playing through pain.
"You take Fozzy, the two young backs and Jaxon, that's your oldest senior leader and the heart of your team, and he got about every award at the banquet," coach Mack Brown told reporters on Thursday. "And then you take three of your best freshman stars that were all touching the ball and making a difference in the ballgame, I think it took everybody aback. People will sit and say don't talk about injuries. When it's everybody that's touching the ball it's hard not to talk about them and think about it a little bit."
Texas managed just five points in a loss to Missouri. It fought for all 13 in a loss to Kansas State the following week.
"It's extremely hard when you're playing with new people, when you're in sync with somebody else," said offensive lineman David Snow. "We did chop down some plays, some packages. We have certain packages for certain players."
The biggest loss was the "Wild Fozzy" formation that the Longhorns used to produce six touchdowns by giving Whittaker a direct snap.
Texas should mostly be healthy when it plays Cal in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28. It will be without Whittaker, though.
The duo of Brown and Bergeron should be back, and though Shipley's likely to retain his knee brace, he'll be on the field and healthier than he was in an upset win over Texas A&M to close the season.
"He's still limping. He's not 100 percent," Brown said. "He's got that big brace on his leg, but he's out there fighting for balls and diving. He likes to play, he's a fun player, and he just makes plays."
Chastise Brown for making "excuses" if you must, but it's the truth. The Longhorns, after benching Garrett Gilbert in the second game of the season, were relying on inexperience at every skill position, including quarterback where true freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy shared time. They entered 2011 with one combined pass attempt.
Late in the season, that young talent thinned even further.
At Holiday Bowl, for the first time in almost two months, a Texas offense with a bright future may finally be close to full strength.