Injuries crop up for No. 23 Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Johnathan Gray asked a fateful question before his team's last game.
''What does it feel like to tear an Achilles?'' Gray asked one of the trainers. ''Is it like somebody kicked you or is it like a knife?''
Gray got the answer to his question in a painful way when he caught a short pass from Case McCoy early in the third quarter of the Longhorns' win at West Virginia over the weekend.
''Sure enough, I looked behind me and nobody was behind me,'' Gray recalled. ''It felt like somebody kicked me. I knew right then I had tore it.''
Gray, the team's leading rusher, had suffered a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that will require season-ending surgery. He has rushed for 780 yards, the third-most in the Big 12, and four touchdowns this year.
Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley also suffered a season-ending injury in Saturday's 47-40 win over the Mountaineers, hurting his knee in the first half. He scored two touchdowns in the previous three games, but the No. 23 Longhorns will line up without him the rest of the year.
''We're going to miss him a lot. He's our emotional leader,'' junior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. ''He was playing tremendous this year. It's a big loss for us, no doubt. Everybody looks up to Chris, not just because of the player he is, but because of the person he is.''
Quarterback David Ash and linebacker Jordan Hicks were arguably the Longhorns' best offensive and defensive players when they were injured in Texas' Big 12 opener against Kansas State, the first of six straight wins for the Longhorns. They haven't played since. So it seems like deja vu for the Longhorns with two more top players going down for the season in a single game.
''We've gone through this on both sides of the ball with David and Jordan Hicks,'' junior center Dominic Espinosa said. ''Those were two guys that were big leaders in the beginning of the season. and now something similar is happening with Chris Whaley and Johnathan Gray. So now we're ready to step up and fill their shoes in leadership roles.''
The Longhorns picked up the first overtime win in program history to stay perfect in conference play. They host No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) this Saturday and are three-point underdogs.
Despite losing two of its first three games, Texas (7-2, 6-0) still controls its destiny in the Big 12 title race.
''This team has been very resilient. After the two losses, and everything was so negative, they continued to compete,'' coach Mack Brown said. ''As disappointed as you are and as much leadership as you lose in those two players, the guys just said, `It is what it is'. They understand that's just part of the deal.''
Junior Malcolm Brown, like Gray, was the nation's top running back prospect coming out of high school and takes over as the Longhorns' featured back. Brown has rushed for 379 yards and seven touchdowns in his last four games and provides depth at a position where Texas now desperately needs it.
''About Whaley and Johnathan, both of those guys are what we're talking about when we're talking about leaders,'' McCoy said. ''There's no way you can say that we aren't going to miss those guys because we are. But I'd be a lot more worried if (Brown) wasn't running the way he is and (defensive tackle) Malcom (Brown) on the other side of the ball wasn't playing as well.''