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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 15, 2002

No surprises for UH, Rice

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

HOUSTON — Hawai'i football player Chris Brown does not like to leave anything to chance.

• WHAT: WAC football, Hawai'i (7-2, 6-1) vs. Rice (4-6, 3-4)

• WHEN: 10 a.m. tomorrow

• LINE: Hawai'i favored by 9 1/2

• RADIO: 1420 AM, 9 a.m.

• TV: K5, 10 a.m.

For more than a week, Brown, an inside linebacker, has watched hours of videotapes and, during class breaks, often scribbles defensive plays in his notebook.

"I don't want to be surprised when I see him," Brown said.

Rice football player Robbie Beck has spent an equal amount of time in the film room this week, studying Hawai'i's defense in general and Brown in particular, until his eyes are Visine red.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," said Beck, a fullback.

When Rice plays host to Hawai'i tomorrow, Brown and Beck will be matched against each other for the second consecutive year.

Already, they have trespassed into each other's thoughts. Both admit to envisioning scenarios that could play out at Rice Stadium.

As the Warriors' signal-caller on defense, Brown's primary assignment is to track Beck, the focal point of the Owls' run-option offense.

"He's the key," Brown said.

A favorite Owl play is the mid-line option, in which Beck either takes a handoff on a dive play or blocks a path for quarterback Kyle Herm to run a keeper. In either option, Beck is a complex challenge. Beck's quickness (4.38 seconds over 40 yards) and lower-body strength (he can leg-press 1,000 pounds 15 times) make him difficult to tackle. He also is a crafty blocker, especially when he attacks low.

"He's very impressive," Brown said. "He's a powerful guy. He keeps driving his legs."

Brown, whose subluxed right shoulder requires him to wear a harness during games, has spent the past six practices working on his bear-hugging tackling. "You can't just reach for him," Brown said. "You have to wrap him up."

During tackling drills, Brown has practiced on UH slotback Gerald Welch, who is similar in build to the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Beck. During one drill, Brown yelled to Welch, "Bring it!"

"I want Welch to give it everything he has, because that's the way (Beck) plays," Brown said. "It's like sparring with a good fighter. (Welch) makes you better."

Beck also has learned from a sparring partner — his father, Bob Beck, who played football at the University of Cincinnati. During a touch football game at Odessa Beach a few years ago, Bob Beck threw a vicious chop-block, hurling his son to the sand. It was a lesson Robbie Beck would not forget.

"The key is to stay low," Beck said. "I'm always working on that."

Every practice, Beck said, he tries to work on a different technique. One day he will work on cutting, the next on elusiveness. He also trains by running in a swimming pool. After that, "I'll watch a lot of film of myself," he said. "I'm always looking for things to correct."

Brown, too, has worked on self-improvement. Despite the shoulder injury, he reports to the weight room daily and still can bench-press more than 450 pounds. His maximum press was 505 pounds, a team record, set in August.

"I have to be ready," Brown said. "When I was watching film, I noticed how fast (Beck) hit the hole. Then when he's hit, he keeps driving, for 2 or 3 more yards."

Brown said he has worked on agility drills to counter Beck's low blocks. "If he's going to try and cut me, I have to try and jump over him or try to work around him somehow. He's a tough blocker."

Beck said he concentrated heavily on weight training during the offseason in preparation for facing big linebackers, such as the 255-pound Brown. "He's real athletic and physical," Beck said of Brown. "He's a great linebacker."

Beck said he was in the same conditioning program as Brian Urlacher, the Chicago Bears' All-Pro linebacker. "You know you're doing the right things when you're working with the best," Beck said. "When you're side by side with an NFL Pro Bowler, it definitely keeps you motivated."

Brown said he has been motivated by tomorrow's matchup. During classes, Brown recalled, "sometimes I'll daydream about what's going to happen in the game. I can't wait."

Said Beck: "I'm looking forward to this."