Johnathan Gray is one of the few constants for Texas

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Texas vs. No. 12 Oklahoma 11 a.m. Saturday, Cotton Bowl TV: WFAA/Ch. 8 Getting stronger Johnathan Gray has rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns in his past three games.
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Johnathan Gray doesn’t need to see a replay.

He was trying to put Texas on top in the final seconds last week when Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George appeared to pry the ball loose as Gray was stalled at the 1-yard line. Gray was ruled down, a call that was upheld by a video review.

“I wasn’t worried at all,” Gray said. “Like I told my teammates [during the review], I was down so we had nothing to worry about. My forward progress was stopped and I was down.”

In the replay, Gray’s knee seemed to be well above the turf when he lost the ball. But none of that matters now.

Senior Case McCoy’s 1-yard sneak gave Texas a 31-30 win and kept the Longhorns (3-2, 2-0) perfect in Big 12 play heading into their Red River Rivalry game Saturday against Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0).

“This is what you live for,” Gray said. “You’ve got to love it. Got to love the competition, got to love the fans that come to it and just the whole atmosphere. It’s an enjoyable game. Everybody wants to come and watch. This is what we wait for the whole year.”

This season has been a tumultuous one for the Longhorns, whose offense has been a victim of numerous injuries.

Quarterback David Ash is out with a head injury, while offensive linemen Mason Walters and Josh Cochran recently returned from injuries, as did wide receivers Mike Davis and Daje Johnson.

But the one thing that has remained constant throughout the year has been Gray’s production.

After leading Aledo to three state championships, scoring a national-record 205 touchdowns and becoming the country’s best running back prospect, Gray joined a loaded Longhorns’backfield.

Like Gray, Malcolm Brown was the nation’s top tailback prospect coming out of high school. He ran for a team-best 742 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.

But last year it was Gray who led the Longhorns in rushing with 701 yards. He was atop the Texas depth chart heading into his sophomore season but had yet to find the end zone in his first two games of the year.

In his past three games, however, Gray has rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns — one more than he ran for last season.

“It means a lot,” Gray said of his role as Texas’ featured back. “I know I’m a hard worker. Our offensive line is doing great. I’m doing the same things and being more focused, more in tune going into OU.”

Gray capped the Longhorns’ first drive against Iowa State with a 45-yard touchdown run but got just nine carries on the next 59 snaps while McCoy threw 40 passes during that same span.

“I’m comfortable with Case throwing the football, but looking back on the other night, we wanted to do more in the run game,” co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said. “We got away from it a little soon.”

Texas coach Mack Brown — who insisted after the one-point victory that “you have to pass it to run it” — agreed with Applewhite.

“We probably got away from the running game too early,” Brown said. “After Johnathan Gray’s great run that was blocked so well, they put a lot more people in the box. … We only had 29 runs and should have stayed with it a little longer.”

A stronger commitment to the running game Saturday could serve the Longhorns well as they try to break a three-game losing streak against the heavily favored Sooners — especially the way Gray is running the ball.

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