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Texas Longhorns' Foswhitt Whittaker sparkles in debut

12:10 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 10, 2008

By BRANDON GEORGE / The Dallas Morning News

EL PASO – Texas' rushing offense was running on empty Saturday night against UTEP.

That was before redshirt freshman Foswhitt Whittaker trotted onto the field for the first time.

Whittaker, who is called "Fozzy" by his teammates, gave the Longhorns a jolt early in the second quarter.

He used his speed to break around the right end for 13 yards on his first carry. He followed with consecutive 8-yard runs to give Texas a first-and-goal from the 1.

"When we got unsettled a little bit offensively and we were off track, we had to let him have it about four straight times," Texas coach Mack Brown said, "and he made a couple of first downs."

Texas' 42-13 victory over UTEP before an electric stadium-record crowd of 53,415 at the Sun Bowl will likely be remembered by Longhorn fans more for Whittaker's UT debut than the final score.

Whittaker finished with 72 rushing yards on 12 carries and rescued a Texas running game that had only 15 yards on six carries before he entered.

"He's one of the best in the business, and he always has high energy," Texas senior receiver Quan Cosby said. "He made great plays for us."

Texas has eagerly anticipated Whittaker's debut since he impressed during the spring. But Whittaker injured his left knee in a mid-August scrimmage and didn't play in the Longhorns' season-opening win over Florida Atlantic last week. He dressed out but remained on the sideline with his knee in a brace.

"It has seemed like a long time whenever you redshirt, but then when you get out there, it feels like it was worth the wait," Whittaker said, "so everything was good."

Sophomore starter Vondrell McGee and senior Chris Ogbonnaya haven't made anyone forget about Jamaal Charles, last year's starter. McGee had 12 carries for 63 yards in the season opener but finished with only 18 yards on six carries against UTEP. Ogbonnaya has been more of a threat catching the ball through two games (seven catches for 70 yards) than rushing (five carries for 17 yards).

Whittaker gives Texas a needed boost in its backfield.

"It was good to see Fozzy out there. There was one play specifically where he just stretched out to make a first down at a key point early in the third quarter," Brown said. "Fozzy is smart. He's really quick and he has good hands. He looked well to me, so I think Fozzy can really help us down the road."

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