ANDERSON — Xavier Nixon never had taken a meaningful snap as an offensive guard.
Not in his college days at the University of Florida. Not during his time earlier this season on the Washington Redskins practice squad. And certainly not with the Indianapolis Colts, where he's been working as a swing tackle since late September.
But there the undrafted rookie was Sunday, filling in for Joe Reitz at right guard after a concussion forced the former Hamilton Southeastern star from the game in the first quarter. Somehow, he stood up to Houston's J.J. Watt — the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year — and helped a shuffled offensive line continue its upward momentum during a 25-3 win against the Texans.
"For him to be able to step in there and do what he did at guard and play a solid game really speaks to how mentally into it he is," Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo said Monday during a media conference call, "and just how valuable he is to go in there at either position."
Castonzo has been one of the few stalwarts on a line that started Sunday's game with its sixth different alignment of the season. Center Samson Satele was out with an elbow injury, and Mike McGlynn moved over from right guard to take his place.
Reitz was filling in for McGlynn largely because Jeff Linkenbach — who started at left guard for injured rookie Hugh Thornton the week before at Cincinnati — was sidelined with a quad injury. By the time Nixon entered the game, only Castonzo and right tackle Gosder Cherilus were playing the positions they were expected to man during training camp in August.
And, yet, the whole thing worked. Somehow.
Quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked just once by a fearsome Texans front seven, and he was hit on just four of his 32 pass attempts. The O-line also paved the way for 152 rushing yards, including a season-high 64 on 19 carries by much-maligned running back Trent Richardson.