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Archive for Friday, November 24, 2006

Texas-Texas A&M Notebook: Blalock to make 50th start

November 24, 2006

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— With 49 consecutive starts, Texas offensive lineman Justin Blalock has seen, done and won just about everything at Texas.

He's blocked for Vince Young. He has two wins and two losses to Oklahoma, won a Big 12 title and won two Rose Bowls. In January, he stood and watched confetti rain down after a 41-38 victory over Southern California for the national championship.

Today's game against Texas A&M will be his school record 50th straight start, and a win would bring him another milestone - a perfect record against the Aggies.

"That's pretty cool," Blalock said. "I guess that speaks to durability."

And excellence on the field.

A third-team All-American and first-team all-Big 12 selection last season, Blalock could have left school early for the NFL as a junior. He didn't announce his plans to return for this season until the post-national championship celebration in front of tens of thousands of fans at Royal-Memorial Stadium in January.

And he has no regrets about staying.

"I'm about to graduate in a couple of weeks," he said. "I'm pretty excited about that."

Blalock will get his degree in youth and community studies, but a career in the NFL is likely. A dominating tackle, Blalock is projected as a guard in the NFL. He has played both positions this season as injuries forced some adjustments on the line.

Tuesday, he was named one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy awarded to college football's best interior lineman.

Blalock has avoided serious injury his entire career. He got a scare when someone rolled over his left knee and had to leave in third quarter of Texas' 45-42 loss at Kansas State.

He said this week he knew the injury wasn't serious when he was able to walk off the field.

The last Texas game Blalock didn't start was the Cotton Bowl win over LSU on Jan. 1, 2003. Blalock sat out the 2002 season as a red-shirt freshman.

At a position where players are often stereotyped as lumbering brutes, Blalock is considered a cerebral type who will engage teammates in discussions about politics and economics.

"He's definitely the most philosophical guy in the bunch," coach Mack Brown said. "I don't talk to him too much. He's too smart for me."

¢ Senior Day: Texas will honor its 26 seniors before their final home game with introductions of players and parents in a ceremony that always draws a few tears.

But hold the blubbering, boys. There's still a game to play.

In 23 years as a head coach, Brown says he's learned not to ramp up the emotions too much too early.

"There were guys who were so emotional, they'd cry before the game, get beat, and then cry after the game," he said. "We'd rather play the game and cry afterward because you're happy. Don't cry twice."

The senior class is 43-6 going into today's game. If they win three more (A&M, the Big 12 title game and a bowl game), they will set a school record for the most wins by a class. The seniors of 2005 set the mark with 45.

The seniors include 12 starters on offense, defense and special teams.

Junior offensive tackle Tony Hills said senior guard Kasey Studdard, he of the scraggly beard and snarly attitude, is the one most likely to cry.

"He might let a tear drop," Hills said.

¢ Coming home: A&M senior receiver Chad Schroeder was raised in Austin by two Texas graduates, went to games at Royal-Memorial Stadium as a boy, starred at quarterback for the local high school and still was hardly recruited by Texas.

So, yeah, he's got plenty of motivation against the Longhorns today.

"Growing up in Austin, I got that whole side of it," Schroeder said. "And now to be a die-hard Aggie, it creates a whole 'nother level of it for me."

Schroeder played quarterback for his father at Austin Westlake High School and led the team to the 5A, Division II state championship game as a senior.

He lost that game on Texas' home field.

Texas told him he could walk on, but no scholarship offer would be coming. He opted for A&M instead and became a full-time receiver.

"As time has gone on," Schroeder said, "the rest is history."

Schroeder leads the Aggies with 36 catches for 561 yards and three touchdowns. He's caught 11 touchdown passes in his career, tied for fourth in school history.

He'll play his last regular-season college game in his hometown, in front of numerous friends and family members. It will be his last chance to beat his "home" team.

"You want to be that guy that comes up with the play or makes the play," he said. "If that's what happens, then I'll just be happy. But if one of those other receivers made it, I'd feel like I made the play as well."

¢ Gone streaking: Texas is coming off a 45-42 loss at Kansas State that snapped a 21-game winning streak in the Big 12.

The bad news for the Aggies is that the Longhorns have not lost consecutive games since 1999, when A&M started a three-game Texas skid with a 20-16 upset in College Station.

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