As a four-year starter and offensive presence on the team, senior running back Malcolm Brown knew he’d need to be a leader this season. What he didn’t know was how inexperienced an offensive line he’d be leading.
“I’ve got to keep them positive. Keep them going,” Brown said. “You can tell when one of them isn’t playing like they want to. Those are the times you need to get in their ear and tell them, ‘It’s going to be all right.’”
Having a player like Brown in the team’s ears is comforting for the coaches, both on the field and from the sideline. Compensating for an offensive line with a combined five starts Saturday, Brown and running back Johnathan Gray became the go-to guys for guidance, confidence and production. When redshirt junior quarterback David Ash was first ruled ineligible against BYU, Brown and Gray’s importance increased once again. They knew they would shoulder the burden of easing sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes’ transition in his first career start.
“I tell [Swoopes], ‘I don’t need a great play. I just need you to manage it,’” Strong said Sept. 1, following his announcement of Ash’s ineligibility. “You’ve got two great running backs behind you.”
To start the season strong, Gray and Brown totaled 147 yards with two touchdowns out of a total 163 yards and three rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Although, against BYU, Texas’ offense gathered 258 yards, which weren’t nearly enough for the team to temper the Cougars’ 41-7 destruction of the Longhorns.
Brown entered the season with a goal of recording 1,000 yards after gathering 904 last season. However, after Saturday’s disappointing loss, Brown now sets personal goals aside.
“I’m not really worried about individual type of stuff,” Brown said. “We just need to get this team back on track, and, as a senior leader, I need to try to get everyone on board and do as much as I can.”
Brown believes the team leadership will unfold in two ways: with goals for physical improvement and via psychological encouragement. During games, he says the playbooks and theories can work, but the team isn’t executing. Rather, it is letting small mistakes and single, out-of-place guys throw off entire plays. One botched play leads to the next, Brown explains, as players struggle to rebound after mistakes.
“I’ve just got to keep those guys positive,” Brown said. “When you first go out there and maybe don’t make the play that you want, you’re human, so you can get down on yourself. But you just need to stay positive. Keep on going, and keep yourself lifted up.”
Brown thinks belief is the key to success, buying into locker room posters reading, “Believe you’re unbeatable.” After last week’s game, the Longhorns’ record no longer reflects that. But Brown knows that the team can’t lose motivation just two games into the season, especially as his college career winds down. He knows that time is ticking and uses it as motivation, hoping his teammates will do the same.