Texas offense needs to have fun

Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN – The Texas defense is starting to develop a reputation.

The kind of reputation that Charles Barkley has at nightclubs, that Bobby Knight has around chairs and players, that Samantha Stevenson has around women's tennis locker rooms.

It's in-your-face, loud and intimidating. No steps backward. Unless it comes in the form of a sack or tackle for loss. In a 48-0 carving of Houston on Saturday night, the UT "D," now known as the Fourth-and-Longhorns defense, had nine sacks and forced four of five turnovers, including two interceptions returned for a touchdown.

The Fourth-and-Longhorns defense has outscored the UT offense, 11-0, in the first quarter of the past six games.

Not surprisingly, the Fourth-and-Longhorns defense has a handful of emotional leaders, starting with All-America tackle Casey Hampton and linemate Shaun Rogers, whose injury status (sprained ankle on an illegal chop block Saturday) won't be known until Monday.

Middle linebacker De'Andre Lewis never stops talking. Neither does cornerback Roderick Babers. And end Cory Redding looks like he's convulsing half the time because he is constantly flexing his arms and waving for the crowd to get more involved.

When it comes to emotional leaders on the Texas offense, well ... there's ... um ... let's see ...

Two years ago, the players on offense who took charge were running back Ricky Williams, receiver Wane McGarity and a veteran offensive line. Last year, it was receiver Kwame Cavil and quarterback Major Applewhite.

This year, it's ...

Mack Brown on Sunday said his leaders on offense, according to the players, are guard Antwan Kirk-Hughes of Waxahachie, receiver Brandon Healy, fullback Matt Trissel, running back Hodges Mitchell of Skyline and both of his quarterbacks – Applewhite and Chris Simms.

Kirk-Hughes, Healy and Mitchell are all capable players. But their personalities are reserved, focused, contained. Trissel is a tenacious Butkus-type. But he is a redshirt freshman linebacker-turned-fullback still trying to learn his role on the team.

Texas' mega-talented freshmen receivers, the UT Towers, may develop into emotional leaders on offense. They are brash, bold and keep things loose. But again, they are still learning where to break a route.

That leaves the two quarterbacks. And Applewhite and Simms are probably too busy wondering when their next snap will come and why to feel confident enough to grab this offense by the throat and take charge.

With no reassuring rudder, no stabilizing swagger on offense so far this season, the unit has picked up all its bad habits from the end of last year.

The running game is among the worst in the nation. And the Longhorns are averaging nearly three turnovers per game, negating one of the country's best passing attacks.

On top of that, the offense starts slowly (no offensive points in the first quarter of the last six games). This unit doesn't know who to send to find those cups to put on its chest for an electrical jolt to get itself breathing again.

"I think we can show more emotion on offense than we're showing," Brown said. "The offense has been beaten up pretty badly. They've been told how bad they are in certain areas so much it's hard for them to come through that. I think they feel like they are fighting uphill."

Cavil was at Saturday night's victory over Houston because his Buffalo Bills had the weekend off. Cavil told Brown that the offense didn't look like it was having any fun.

"You've got to get them laughing more," Cavil told Brown.

"We don't have Kwame, and he was a guy who loosened everybody up, laughed and cut up," Brown said.

"I think the best way to have more fun is to move the ball, score a lot of points and win a lot of games," Brown said. "When you're at a school like Texas, the kids have a tremendous amount of pressure on them. That's part of being at a school like this. They have to stand tough, get stronger and move forward.

"We've had some games here where we have scored so many points. Therefore, everybody just expects us to run up and down the field every ballgame, and that's not going to happen."

The Texas offense has loads of talented players. But right now it doesn't appear any of them are willing to stand up and remind their teammates that along with eliminating mistakes, football should be fun.