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Eyes of Defense Are on Bush

January 02, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Reggie Bush, and how to stop him, was the topic of the day Sunday among Texas defensive players.

Defensive lineman Frank Okam said one key was to limit the number of times Bush got into the open field.

"In the open space, I think Bush presents a mismatch for anyone in the country," he said. "So, it's kind of vital for us to get more than one person on the ball."

Safety Michael Huff, the Thorpe Award winner as college football's best defensive back, views stopping Bush as a challenge, one he said he was ready to take on. But there's one thing he said was impossible to prepare for: Bush jumping over him.

"You never know when he's going to do it," Huff said. "It would be kind of embarrassing if it happened."


Most of the Texas defense concedes that USC's offense won't easily be stopped.

"It's hard to just shut down an offense like this," defensive lineman Tim Crowder said. "They have too many different weapons. I know they're going to have some yards."

The key, Crowder said, was keeping USC well below its season averages of 580 yards and 50 points. If the Trojans have an average game, Crowder said, it could be a long game for Texas.

"I don't think that would be good enough to win," he said.


Because this will be the first national championship game to feature teams that average 50 points a game, it's easy to see why so much of the pregame talk has been about offense, but Texas linebacker Robert Killebrew said that just added fuel to the fires of defensive players.

"Nobody likes not to be seen as a key part of the game," he said. "There is pride on our part."


Texas practiced in the rain Saturday, trying to get used to slick playing conditions and a slippery ball.

Okam said it was too close to the game to alter the game plan because of the weather, but Mother Nature may force the players to change something else.

"I don't think you can change the game plan," Okam said. "Just your shoes."

Huff said the only thing he didn't like about the rain was that his visor gets fogged. He also doesn't believe the adage that offensive players have an advantage on a muddy field because they know which direction they will cut.

"If you're a great defensive back and you watch film and read routs, you may know where the receiver is going before they know," he said.


The Longhorns celebrated New Year's Eve by attending a screening of the soon-to-be-released movie "Glory Road," about the 1966 Texas Western basketball team, then gathering in a meeting room at its hotel for an evening of karaoke.

Backup offensive lineman Tony Hills, an accomplished pianist, was the consensus pick as best singer for his renditions of Temptations and Commodores songs. The tight race was for worst singer of the evening.

"We've got a lot of bad singers on our team," Killebrew said.


Even as game day draws near, Texas has remained loose. Okam said players routinely dance and sing at practices and that the team buses are filled with joking and laughter.

"The captains of the fun team are probably Vince [Evans]and Selvin Young on offense," he said. "On defense you got Michael Huff, he's always pretty corny. We just kind of feed off of them and do our thing, basically."

Killebrew, however, is getting antsy for the game.

"As practice wears on, you keep practicing and keep seeing the same things over and over again. It gets a little tiring," he said. "I could do without all the media. I just want to play the game.

"I remember when I was in junior high, you get on the bus, get off the bus, play the game, get on the bus and go home. That was my favorite time ever. I just loved doing that."

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