Former Terp Wycheck smashing success for Oilers Blocking, six catches make for career day

Oilers 29, Ravens 13

September 16, 1996|By Melanie Hauser | Melanie Hauser,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HOUSTON -- The big guys up front had cleared things out, so Frank Wycheck didn't have to think once, let alone twice. There was nothing to size up, no adjustments to make. All the Oilers H-back/tight end had to do was react.

Wycheck's job? Clear out the last obstacle between Ronnie Harmon and the goal line -- in this case, Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis. The matchup? It wasn't even close.

Thirty minutes after the game, Lewis was sitting in front of his locker still trying to soothe his aching backside. And figure out who -- or was it what? -- hit him.

Anything but a blocker during his days as a Maryland Terp, Wycheck delivered the hit of the afternoon at the Astrodome, knocking Lewis flat on his back and letting Harmon walk in for a 2-yard score and a 26-7 third-quarter lead.

"That's how we draw it up," Oilers guard Kevin Donnalley said. "It was a great play by him."

It was the exclamation point to a career day by Wycheck. With the Ravens' zone concentrating on the wide receivers and Harmon, Wycheck was continually open underneath. The result? career-high six receptions -- two on third downs to keep a second-quarter drive alive -- for 64 yards and one touchdown. And, some Texas-sized smiles.

"With their four-across zone, they give you the underneath and you have to throw precise, quick routes," Wycheck said. "We took it all day long."

The Oilers started early. After Wycheck went nowhere on a second-and-goal run from the Ravens' 3, quarterback Chris Chandler hit him across the middle at the goal line for the $H touchdown and a 7-0 lead 4: 06 into the first quarter. From that point on, it was smooth sailing, er, catching.

"We threw to him a lot over the middle, then they started to jump on it," Chandler said. "Then we started sending him out. A lot of tight ends can catch, but not all of them have the ability Frank does to get down the field, stretch the defense and make something happen.

"I've always said the reason Dallas has been so successful on offense is because of [tight end Jay] Novacek. You can even look at San Francisco [with Brent Jones]. We have a guy like that in Wycheck. It gives you a lot of confidence."

Not to mention a tight end for the first time in a decade. Since making their transition from the run-and-shoot several years ago, the Oilers have searched for a tight end. They plucked Wycheck off the waiver wire last year after the Washington Redskins cut him, and it's starting to pay off.

Wycheck, who still lives in Ashburn, Va., in the off-season, caught 40 passes last year, including five (for 71 yards and a touchdown) against the Detroit Lions. Yesterday's effort gives him 12 catches and two touchdowns after three games this season.

"After his touchdown, Frank was smiling and waving to people in the stands," Donnalley said. "He was excited."

A few series later, Wycheck broke off a route over the middle on third down for a 16-yard reception and a first down at the Oilers' 48.

"He did a great job of reading the defense and breaking in," Chandler said. "If he had run three or four more steps, I wouldn't have hit him."

Said Wycheck: "The safety was in the seam, so I just bent in a little."

Having played a similar type of offense with the Redskins, Wycheck was quick to pick up the Oilers' playbook. A year later, he's emerging as a receiving threat -- and a blocker.

Just ask Lewis. Or Jerrol Williams. While the hit Williams took in the fourth quarter wasn't quite as hard, he did find himself flying out of bounds courtesy of Wycheck as Oilers backup quarterback Steve McNair cut back inside on a 13-yard scramble.

"The plays to me have always been in the plan," Wycheck said. "It's just been a matter of what the defense gives us. You have to go with it."

He was just glad the Ravens finally gave him his turn.

Pub Date: 9/16/96

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