When he lost his shoe while scoring against UCLA, it seemed like an isolated incident. But when it happened again when Texas faced Iowa State and a third time on a touchdown run against Kansas, it became a trend.
“I can’t really explain it,” Malcolm Brown said. “My shoes keep coming off. I guess I need to tie them a little tighter.”
Whether he’s got one or two shoes on, Brown has been extremely effective this season. The freshman running back ran for 110 yards and a touchdown in his first career start, a 49-20 Longhorns victory over the Bruins, and never looked back. Brown has topped the century mark in each of the last two games and has a great chance to do it again Saturday when he goes up against a Texas Tech defense that allowed 368 rushing yards to Iowa State last week.
“I can’t say enough about Malcolm,” said senior tight end Blaine Irby. “Malcolm’s been doing great this whole year. He’s such a special, special back. Even at a young age, you’d think he’s been in college football for the last three or four years.”
Texas is running a run-first offense successfully for the first time since Vince Young played in burnt orange. Attempts to install a productive ground game last season were futile and before that, the Longhorns used its passing game to set up the run. But with Brown in the backfield, Texas has a productive rushing attack once again.
“This is what our team is built around,” said senior guard David Snow. “When we had Colt [McCoy], we didn’t really need to run the ball. He was an excellent passer. We just have a good running attack. It helps us control the game.”
David Ash had a solid showing against Kansas this past weekend, going 14-of-18 for 145 yards and a two-yard touchdown run. But he’s nowhere near the nearly 15,000 total yards, 132 touchdowns and NCAA-record 45 wins McCoy accumulated. That’s why having a running game that averages 218.9 yards per game this season taking pressure off a passing game featuring a freshman behind center.
“The offensive line did a great job making some holes for some really great backs,” Ash said. “We’re getting more physical, playing a tough brand of football and we’re running the ball really well.”
The Longhorns ran for 441 yards last weekend, their highest single-game total since 2004’s season opening 65-0 win over North Texas, when they ran for 513. In the 43-0 thumping of Kansas last weekend, Brown and Joe Bergeron became the first pair of freshman running backs to run for more than 100 yards in school history. Texas ran 72 times that game and has ran nearly two-thirds of its offensive plays this year.
“You always have to have something you can hang your hat on,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “I’ve always been a proponent of a run-first approach. You build your pass game off of that.”
Brown, along with the senior Fozzy Whittaker, has done a nice job of setting the tone early in games since we became the starting running back four contests ago. But when a 6-foot-1, 230-pound Bruiser like Bergeron begins bashing heads around in the second half against a defense worn out by Brown and Whittaker, like he did against Kansas to the tune of 136 yards and two touchdowns, it’s almost unfair.
“Joe Bergeron is a guy that, during camp, really caught our eye,” Irby said. “He’s a bigger back. Nobody realizes how fast he really is but he showed us last game.”
Brown is a particularly polite person, including “sir” in nearly every response to reporters’ questions.
But when oncoming tacklers approach him, he’s anything but cordial. He may not know how to properly tie his shoes, but Brown knows how to run the football.