It’s a mantra the Longhorns didn’t want to live by at the start of the year, but since catastrophic injuries to key players has forced (players who would otherwise be) benchwarmers to the line of scrimmage, it’s a mantra that’s come to define this season.
“This team’s just found a way to win,” Mack Brown said. “We’ve gone back to the ‘no excuses, no regrets, next man up,’ and that’s what it is.”
It all began in week two when starting QB David Ash suffered a concussion and has continued with the latest season-ending injuries to prized running back Johnathan Gray (achilles) and defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee).
Gray’s injury means more touches for Malcolm Brown, who has rushed for 442 yards on the season, including two 100-plus yard games and eight touchdowns. Luckily, Brown was already seeing more touches in the past four games, where he’s averaged 22 carries per contest and scored seven of his eight touchdowns. So, expect the Longhorns to lean more heavily on the junior running back.
Joe Bergeron is another player who will likely see an increase in touches. Though he’s only averaged four attempts per game this season, it’s important to remember that the junior running back had 16 rushing touchdowns last season and has averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season. It’s safe to say depth at the running back position is not one of the Longhorns’ concerns.
There are more question marks at the defensive tackle position, where senior Chris Whaley has had an excellent season (who can forget that amazing 31-yard pick six against Oklahoma). Desmond Jackson will have to step up and continue the brilliant play he showed against West Virginia where he managed eight tackles, a forced fumble and two sacks.
However, after Jackson, the Longhorns are filled with unknown quantities. Freshman Hassan Ridgeway has racked up 10 tackles this year and will likely see more snaps in the final three games. Brown also hinted that freshmen Paul Boyette, Alex Norman and Kent Perkins should all be prepared to see action.
Adversity has a way of bringing out the best in you. After the injury to Ash early in the season, the team rallied behind new starting QB Case McCoy. Let’s hope they continue in the spirit of this year’s team and relish the obstacles placed in their path.
“Come on Hassan Ridgeway, Paul Boyett, Alex Norman,” Brown said. “Come on Kent Perkins. It’s your turn. Let’s not use this as an excuse, let’s use this as an opportunity.”