Web Posted: 09/05/2009 11:49 CDT Smooth sailing for Longhorns
By Mike Finger - Express-News
AUSTIN — In the old days, John Chiles would accept any challenger. Before practice, after practice, on the way to lunch — he was up for any opportunity to show off in a footrace against a fellow member of the Texas Longhorns.
Now, though? On a second-ranked UT team that not only played at an all-time quick pace but also unleashed speed from almost every nook and cranny of the roster in a season-opening 59-20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday?
“I don’t race anymore,” Chiles said, smiling.
The Longhorns, it seems, are now content to save their sprinting exhibitions for Saturdays. Against the overmatched Warhawks, speed came from Jordan Shipley blowing past a cornerback for a perfectly thrown 78-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy. It came from catlike defenders racing to cover fumbles. It came from Chiles himself, scoring a touchdown in his first game as a full-time receiver.
And most impressively, it came from a blur of a redshirt freshman named D.J. Monroe, who returned a kickoff 89 yards on his first college play, then showed his blink-quick stuff at running back.
“Lightning,” UT receiver Dan Buckner said of Monroe. “That’s lightning right there.”
Monroe, a converted receiver who was a championship sprinter in high school, made his grand debut immediately after ULM cut the UT lead to 21-10 early in the second quarter. He fielded the kickoff at his own 11-yard line, made one quick shift, then made it into the end zone untouched, save for a measly fingertip the ULM kicker might have futilely grazed on him.
But Monroe said he wasn’t having flashbacks to his 100-meter race days.
“It’s totally different,” he said. “In the 100, you run in a straight line.”
As a running back, Monroe finished with 67 yards on nine carries. UT coaches said they’re considering expanding his role, which could eat into the time of starting tailback Vondrell McGee, who rushed 15 times for 78 yards but lost two fumbles.
McCoy, who completed 21 of 29 passes for 317 yards and two TDs, praised Monroe but was critical of his own performance, particularly an interception he threw in the first half.
“His standards are really high,” UT coach Mack Brown said.
Shipley caught eight passes for 180 yards, and Buckner added 62 yards on five catches. Freshman Garrett Gilbert made his UT debut by completing 4 of 5 passes for 46 yards and scoring on a 12-yard run.
But the opener was not without its unsettling moments. On the Longhorns’ first drive of the second half, starting right guard Michael Huey went down with a lower left leg injury and was carted off the field.
Another source for concern was UT’s defensive backfield, which was rocked before the game with the news that cornerback Deon Beasley and safety Christian Scott — both thought to be key members of the secondary — would not play in the opener because of unresolved NCAA academic eligibility issues (wide receiver Brandon Collins missed the game for the same reason). Their status for the rest of the season is uncertain.
Without Beasley and Scott, UT’s defensive backs were beaten a couple of times, most notably when Chykie Brown was burned on a 75-yard touchdown pass from ULM’s Trey Revell to Luther Ambrose early in the second quarter.
“Obviously, we have an awful lot to work on,” UT defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. Smooth sailing for Longhorns