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LONGHORNS FOOTBALL

Texas loses center to a knee injury

Defense may get back some injured players in time for Texas Tech


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Texas' come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma State was a costly win, health wise.

The Longhorns lost senior center Dallas Griffin, who sprained the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, for the remainder of the season.

Harry Cabluck
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dallas Griffin

Ralph Barrera
AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Drew Kelson suffered a sprained knee and will miss UT's game Saturday against Texas Tech. He's expected to be back for A&M.

Drew Kelson, a dime back and key special teams player, will miss Saturday's Texas Tech game because of a knee sprain, but the senior is optimistic he'll be available for the Nov. 23 season finale at Texas A&M.

Coaches also won't know until later in the week if sophomore linebacker Jared Norton (shoulder) and redshirt defensive end Eddie Jones (shoulder) will be available. Neither was a starter, but both saw significant playing time each game.

The Longhorns, fueled by a 21-point, fourth-quarter comeback, beat the Cowboys, 38-35. But five players, including four on defense, were sidelined in the second and third quarters.

Starting cornerback Brandon Foster, who suffered a chest contusion while making a hit on special teams, is the only one of the five who is certain to return against Tech.

"I'll be fine," Foster said Monday.

Griffin suffered the most significant injury, coming out in the first quarter. He said he knew by the second quarter that he'd probably torn his ACL. He was only one of two senior starters on an offensive line that seemed to be finally hitting its collective stride over the past two games.

"Finally seeing all that come together and then losing somebody, it hurts really bad," said Texas left tackle Tony Hills, the Longhorns' other senior starter. "You feel sad for him because of all the work that he's put in and how well he's played. It's going to be a big task trying to fill his shoes."

Starting right guard Chris Hall, a sophomore, moved to Griffin's spot. Coaches complimented Hall's play on Monday, at a position they described as the second toughest to master behind the quarterback spot. Hall and quarterback Colt McCoy had two bobbled exchanges after Griffin went down, but neither resulted in a turnover.

Redshirt freshman Buck Burnette of Wimberley spelled Hall for 11 snaps. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Monday a decision won't be made on who will start against Tech until later in the week.

"Chris Hall will never get beat twice by a play," Griffin said. "I think he's confident. ... He's an incredible guy, and his approach to the game is really something a lot of people could learn from."

Defensively, Texas must hope that the injured are quick healers because it's a given that the Longhorns will need every available body against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech fields the most dynamic passing offense in the country, and the Red Raiders also stay on the field an average of 77.3 plays per game.

Tech further frustrates a defense by often going for fourth downs. They've been successful on 14 of 23 fourth-down attempts this season. A year ago, Tech was one of three on fourth downs in a 35-31 loss to Texas.

Kelson had one of the biggest plays a year ago against Tech, when he stopped Tech's Graham Harrell for no gain on a fourth-down-and-inches quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter. The Raiders were behind by four and on the Longhorn 15.

Defensive co-coordinator Duane Akina said he had several options for the dime, or sixth defensive back. He could go with Erick Jackson, who started the year at strong safety before giving way to Ishie Oduegwu early against Baylor on Oct. 20. Other options could include using freshmen cornerbacks Curtis Brown or Chykie Brown.

Sophomore linebacker Sergio Kindle, who missed the Oklahoma State game because of a shoulder stinger, also could return for Tech. He's considered the best blitzer on the team.

shalliburton@statesman.com; 445-3954

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