A road game awaits Texas offensive play-caller Jay Norvell this week. But despite this rather foreboding prospect, Norvell appeared relatively confident Tuesday night – and a tad less testy – than he did at the same media gathering the week prior.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge going to Morgantown,” Norvell said of Saturday’s game against West Virginia. “It’s always a great environment, great fans, East Coast kind of fans…it’ll be a fun environment. We’ve got to build on what we did last week and go on the road and answer a big challenge.”
Much of Norvell’s more positive demeanor this week than last week, following the Iowa State shutout, stems from the health of running back D’Onta Foreman, who was not 100% against the Cyclones. Needless to say, Norvell prefers a healthy version of Foreman, who scorched the Kansas Jayhawks (157 yards rushing, two TDs) last Saturday and who figures to see a heavy workload against the Mountaineers.
“In the second half, the big run that Foreman had, he just showed the ability he has to run inside, but also to run outside,” Norvell said. “He’s a big man, he’s almost 250 pounds, and to take an outside stretch play like that and hit the seam and put the after burners on, it was very impressive. That’s what we didn’t have a week ago.”
Norvell undoubtedly hopes Foreman’s emergence will help the Longhorns rid themselves of the road funk that has lingered with the burnt orange this season in South Bend, Fort Worth, and Ames.
“We don’t want to be tentative or wait and see what happens, and I think we’ve done that on the road,” Norvell said about his unit’s road woes. “We’ve gone out there and maybe a guy hopes somebody else makes a play or hopes somebody else does well. We have to be confident that each one of us can go out and make the play that needs to be made and be anxious to do that. And I think that’s a different mindset.”
Changing the mindset for the offense, obviously, starts with the quarterback, Jerrod Heard, who struggled significantly in blowouts to TCU and Iowa State.
“I think he’s like most quarterbacks, it helps when you start fast,” Norvell said. “Jerrod’s an athlete, when he’s running around and he’s moving, he gets into the game, and I think that’s always something that we’re conscious of, whether it’s sprinting him out or running him early. He gains confidence from being physically involved in the game.
“That’s just always been his personality, so we’ll try to build that as we go. That’s always important for a quarterback, to get started fast. We’re going to have to create that.”
Productive games from Foreman and Heard would obviously help the Longhorns Saturday as they play in a place that has been described as something a little short of a football garden spot for visitors.
“I love Morgantown,” Norvell said with a smile, when asked about the 11am kickoff time, “but I really don’t want to spend the whole day there.”
FROM JERROD HEARD:
On transitioning from the Kansas win to the West Virginia game: “It was good but we have to move on. I know Sunday we didn’t even do a lot of corrections from the game on Saturday, we just went straight to West Virginia.”
On playing better on the road: “I can’t wait to get back on the road. I hear it’s a hard place to play, and I want to see for myself. I can’t wait to get out there and play.”
On wanting to prove he can play effectively on the road: “What the outcome is going to be…is (based on) how I perform. I definitely have high expectations of myself and what I need to do to match points and compete in away games. I’m all for it.”
On if he hears from recruits, and what his “sales pitch” is to them: “I really haven’t, other than I get some of them to follow me. I would tell them, ‘How many rings would you like?’ I’d tell them straight up, if you like a lot of rings, you’ll come here.”
FROM TYRONE SWOOPES:
On advice from other players that he lacked last season, and what advice he has given Heard this season: “Last year, there wasn’t really an older guy, like myself, to kind of talk to me and keep me moving forward. I kind of give him what I would’ve wanted last year when I was in the same situation.”
On the unique role that he has developed within the Texas offense: “Last year was kind of a transition year, so everybody was kind of getting to know each other, trying to get comfortable with everybody. It’s kind of a fun role to be in, being able to get the ball and run a couple of yards and it gets everybody excited. It gets me excited as well.”
On whether he could’ve predicted his current success after the Notre Dame loss: “After that, I don’t think anybody really knew what was going to be happening. I didn’t really see it coming, but I’m happy that I have been able to contribute.”
On road woes: “It’s really tough. Everybody knows that going into somebody’s house, they are going to play really hard because they are playing in front of their fans and family and what-not. I don’t think we fully understood that, but I think this weekend we’ll get it together.”