'Tennessee smell' has Houston's Foster looking like old self

Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 6:12pm

Arian Foster hasn’t completely recovered from an offseason hamstring injury. But the Houston Texans running back sure isn’t playing like it.

The former University of Tennessee standout blistered the Tennessee Titans for three touchdowns and 234 all-purpose yards in a 41-7 victory.

He finished with a team-high five catches for 119 yards and was the first player in franchise history to have 100 yards receiving and rushing in the same game. He picked up 115 rushing yards on 25 carries, scoring on runs of one and five yards.

“Arian came out of last week’s game and he was not happy with the way he played. He wasn’t the only one. He comes out [Sunday] and plays his tail off,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “I liked the way he worked last week whenever he was challenged and didn’t feel good about how he played. When guys do that they turn into pretty damn good players. He has a chance to be a good one.”

He broke the game open late in the second quarter when he snuck out of the backfield and caught a play-action pass from Matt Schaub. He shook Titans safety Michael Griffin by cutting to the sideline before redirecting inside. From there it was a track meet, outsprinting Griffin to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown to give the Texans (4-3) a commanding 17-0 lead with 3:53 to go in the first half.

“He is always a guy that we try to get into space,” Schaub said. “Once he gets the ball in his hands, it is hard to bring him down. If you’re in open space and he is one-on-one, he is going to win that battle nine out of 10 times.”

Foster missed most of training camp and two regular season games due to the hamstring injury, which he said, “You can’t fight through. You have to let it heal.”

Foster had just 49 rushing yards in a loss to Baltimore last week, but has put together four straight games of more than 100 all-purpose yards. He now has four touchdowns, after scoring 18 last year and leading the NFL in rushing.

“I still don’t feel like I’m in football shape,” said Foster, who after the game was sporting a red bow tie and matching red sneakers. “I mean, I’m in good shape. But it is tough when you don’t go through training camp. You don’t get those reps. You don’t get those days where you’re out there sweating and woozy from fatigue. I think that is what you need as a football player and I’m just starting to get back to my football shape.”

Foster wasn’t the only one who sliced through the Titans defense. Ben Tate, a second-year running back out of Auburn, had 104 rushing yards on 15 carries as the Texans picked up 222 yards on the ground.

“When I go out there and see [Foster] get a touchdown or break a run I start going nuts on the sideline because I want to do the same thing,” Tate said. “When I get my chance I’m definitely trying to outdo him.”

Foster, an undrafted free agent in 2009, is in his third year with the Texans after a four-year career with the Volunteers. He scored 25 touchdowns and amassed more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage while at UT.

Sunday was just the second time he has played at LP Field. He had just 15 yards on 11 carries in a loss in Nashville last season. That came after totaling 218 all-purpose yards against the Titans in Houston.

“Every time the plane lands and you just get that Tennessee smell ... if you went to Tennessee, you understand what I am talking about. It is very nostalgic the feeling of coming back here,” Foster said. “It always feels like a second home. It was just a fun experience and I became a man here.”