There were signs all over the place Saturday, indications that Malcolm Brown, exceptional tailback, is more than just a concept.
One time Brown headed left, planted, and cut back up the middle on a nice run.
Another time, at the end of a carry, he could have gone out of bounds, but instead crashed into a defender.
When he was through, Texas’ 225-pound junior had 119 yards on 20 carries, four of them for touchdowns, during the Longhorns’ 35-13 win over Kansas.
“Malcolm was a beast tonight,” said Johnathan Gray, who shares the tailback position with Brown. “As backs, we have our moments, and Malcolm had his moment tonight.”
That’s how Brown was expected to play but has not performed nearly enough, thanks to injuries that kept him out of eight games his first two years and reduced his effectiveness early this season.
The four touchdowns were a career-best for Brown. Before Saturday, he had never rushed for more than two in a game. Before Saturday, he had rushed for three touchdowns this season.
His first three scores against the Jayhawks were on short runs, a role that Joe Bergeron played last season.
The last one, early in the fourth quarter, covered 30 yards and required a review by the replay official to determine whether Case McCoy’s knee touched the ground before or after he handed Brown the ball.
Brown gained 63 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
“He’s well now,” head coach Mack Brown said. “He’s so powerful that he’s a great short yardage and goal-line back. He is also very powerful in the fourth quarter.”
Brown doesn’t have as much speed as Gray, who ran for 68 yards and leads the team with 724 this season.
But at his best, Brown accelerates from sharp, decisive cuts. And he has no aversion to collisions.
“That is the type of runner I want to be,” Brown said. “These coaches want guys who are tough, like the contact, and are not backing away from it. That is something I have taken pride in this past year being a short-yardage and goal line guy. So I guess I was seeking it a little bit.”
Brown, bothered by an ankle injury, gained only 15 yards on 11 carries in the first three games. He showed a glimpse of effectiveness against Kansas State with 40 yards on nine carries. Then he produced 120 yards on 23 carries against Oklahoma.
The Longhorns rushed for 221 yards on 44 carries Saturday, an average of 5 yards a a pop.
While the offensive line was praised the past two games for helping the rushing game excel, left guard Trey Hopkins said the backs deserved most of the credit this time.
“We had some things we weren’t pleased with early in the game,” Hopkins said. “But the backs made us look better than we were. I think it was more about them than us today.”