Cotton Bowl could be precursor to future QB situation at Texas

Thursday, December 30th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Major Applewhite insists he's not looking past the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas. While many view the plan for both Applewhite and highly touted freshman Chris Simms to play for Texas on New Year's Day as a precursor to next season, the sophomore starter doesn't want to discuss it. "It seems ridiculous to try to predict the future when you have an Arkansas ball club that's sitting here fired up and ready to whip you," Applewhite, the Big 12 offensive player of the year, said Wednesday. "Why are we thinking about August? It's time to play football Jan. 1, not August 2000."

No decision has been made on how the two quarterbacks will split time, but Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said both would play and that Simms would see action in both halves. Davis denied, however, that the bowl preparations are providing any kind of head start for spring practice, saying that the most important issue for the Longhorns (9-4) is beating Arkansas (7-4) on Saturday. "Winning is most important. We can sell all of those other things in spring training," Davis said. "(Coach Mack Brown) and I have played two quarterbacks in the past. We are about winning the game, that's all we're about so we are not opposed to playing two quarterbacks. "If we have two guys who can go in and win, we'll certainly do that."

Applewhite has started 12 of 13 games, throwing for 3,357 yards and 21 touchdowns. When Applewhite had a stomach virus before the regular-season finale against Texas A&M, Simms, the son of former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, got his only start and Applewhite finished the A&M game and then played in the entire Big 12 title game, a loss to Nebraska.

Applewhite has no problem with the plans for the Cotton Bowl. "It's an opportunity to get Chris in the ball game, give him some experience. You have to have backups that are able to play if you want to be a national championship caliber team," Applewhite said. "This is a reward for the way Chris has played and this is an opportunity to get us better as a football team."

While the two quarterbacks have shared snaps in practice, only Applewhite took part in Wednesday's news conference featuring key offensive players from Texas. Applewhite has the experience and weighs the same as Simms at 210 pounds, but the freshman has a four-inch height advantage and is a lefty. Senior offensive guard Roger Roesler says the offense is the same regardless of which quarterback is playing. And he believes this week will be a preview of things to come. "Yeah, I think it's definitely the start of a big rivalry that is going to continue into next year," Roesler said. "It's been fine, they're friendly about it. That's just football. Definitely it will carry over, I'm sure."