Texas' Simms all smiles

Quarterback earns redemption with breakout game

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas -- Chris Simms called it redemption.

Two seasons after arriving at Texas as the most-heralded high school quarterback in the nation, Simms cast aside mistakes and unfulfilled expectations with the game of his life.

His 383 yards passing and three touchdowns in a 43-17 win over archrival No. 22 Texas A&M was what Longhorns fans had been waiting for.

No mistakes. No interceptions. Nothing short of spectacular.

''It's unbelievable, isn't it?'' a laughing Simms said after Friday's victory that enhanced No. 12 Texas' (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) bowl prospects.

Simms had laughed a lot this season, only most of the time it was at himself.

After winning a preseason battle for starter with Major Applewhite, Simms, the son of former New York Giants QB Phil Simms, was supposed to be a star. Problem was, most of his highlights were of the sad-sack variety.

By midseason, he was benched. He returned to the starting lineup only when Applewhite sprained a knee and entered Friday's game with more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (5). Four of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.

On Friday, he was nearly flawless. In the third quarter, he was 8-of-8 for 234 yards with all three of his TD tosses, turning a 10-7 game into a rout.

''Today was a big redemption,'' Simms said. ''Anybody can figure it out. The mistakes I've made. The interceptions for touchdowns -- it seemed like I was doing that religiously.

''This year's been ups and downs and bumps and bruises. I knew I had to learn from everything that was happening. It was part of growing up.''

Texas A&M came into the game with the quarterback who was supposed to have poise.

At 25, Mark Farris was the former minor league baseball player who added maturity that the Longhorns were supposed to be lacking under Simms.

But where Farris hurt his team with three turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown, Simms never wavered.

His biggest play came in the third with Texas leading 31-17. In the huddle, he told wide receiver B.J. Johnson to fake a short pattern and go long. Simms pump-faked to draw in the cornerback, then launched a 70-yarder into the wind that put Texas up 37-17.

With that one play, he had shown how far he had come from the season-opener when his fourth pass of the game was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

''Chris played awesome,'' said Johnson who set a Texas freshman record with 187 yards receiving.

''He stepped up in a big game and played his heart out. Today, he showed what he can do and what kind of power he has on the football field.''

Simms' performance leaves coach Mack Brown with a new set of questions about his quarterbacks.

Applewhite is Texas' career passing leader and could be healthy in time for Texas' bowl game. Both will be back next year. Although his previous struggles had Simms talking about redshirting in 2001, that seems unlikely now.

Will the quarterback rotation return next year, or does Brown make the difficult decision of picking a regular starter?

He'd rather not think about that now.

''I'm having a lot of fun, and I'm not going to talk about the quarterbacks right now,'' Brown said.

Simms doesn't want to think about it either. He's having too much fun at the moment.

After the long TD to Johnson, Simms ran to the end zone for the celebration and gave a thumbs-up sign to his dad in the stands. The kid wanted to be a little different from his father.

''My dad never used to do that when he played,'' Simms said. ''so I thought I'd do it.''

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