"I know," Applewhite said, "but I don't have anybody else to call."
These days, Applewhite is calling the shots for a revamped Owl offense that hung tough at UCLA last Saturday before falling, 26-16. Now, Applewhite schemes against his alma mater for the first time as Texas travels to Rice for a 5:00 p.m. (CST) kick-off at Reliant Stadium and an ESPN2 national telecast.
"It's a great thrill for me to have Major at Rice as an offensive coordinator at his age," Davis said. "He's one of the youngest in the country."
The 28-year old Applewhite finished his career with a 22-8 mark and as the program's leader in passing yards (8,353), passing attempts (1,065) and TD passes (60). The freckle-faced redhead, who probably could be elected mayor of Austin, launched his career by orchestrating the 20-16 upset at No. 7 Nebraska on October 31, 1998, snapping the Cornhuskers national-leading 47-game win streak. The winning drive culminated with Applewhite's needle-threading two-yard TD pass to Wayne McGarity with 2:47 remaining. Applewhite capped his Texas tenure with 473 yards passing and four TDs in Texas' 47-43 win over Washington in the 2001 Holiday, then the biggest comeback in Longhorn history,
"He was a gym-rat," Davis recalled. "He went to 16 summer camps (as a prep star), or some ungodly number. More than anybody should. It's a wonder he didn't quit football. But he loved the film room. He loved understanding why. Those are the guys who go into coaching."
Indeed, Applewhite reconsidered his free agent contract with the New England Patriots in 2002 and began a two-year stint as a Longhorn graduate assistant. He worked primarily with Offensive Line coach Mac McWhorter.
"It's a pretty quick rise for 'ol Major," Co-Defensive Coordinator Duana Akina said. "I can remember back when he was a G.A., and we would give him some ideas when we'd go against the (No. 2) offense to give him a chance to call some plays. He really enjoyed that sort of thing."
Applewhite followed former Longhorn Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson to Syracuse in January, 2005 and served one-year as the QB coach. It's been an extremely tough transition to the West Coast Offense for the 'Cuse, dropping all but one of the first 13 games under Robinson's direction. But Rice was coming off a 1-11 season when former Tulsa coach Todd Graham replaced Kenny Hatfield and asked Applewhite to join his staff.
"Being closer south was a big part of it," Davis said of Applewhite's decision. "He called me one time from up there (Syracuse) and he said, 'It's three (degrees) today.' I was trying to be a nice guy, and I said, 'I'm sure it's dry.' He said, 'It's three!' Being closer to home was part of it, and being a coordinator at his age was part of it. He understood the drawbacks to it. He asked me what I knew about Todd (Graham), which was not much. I told him the thing that I would want to know is whether it was going to be my system or my numbers."
Applewhite and Davis played phone-tag all day Friday as the Horns completed preparations for Ohio State and Rice traveled to UCLA.
"Right before (August) Camp opened up, he called and asked about installations and how quickly you try to install things. We talk quite a bit," Davis said, before adding..."but not as much this week."