A Tale Of Two Seasons For Cedric Benson

What a difference the second half of the season made for RB <B>Cedric Benson</B>. Before the Iowa State game, Benson was averaging a pedestrian 59.7 ypg. Since then, the junior has tripled his net rushing output. Check out these end-of-regular-season stats:


Games 6 5
Carries 90 146
Net Rushing 358 919
Yards/Game 59.7 183.8
Yards/Carry 3.9 6.3

"We had a whole lot of confidence going into the (A&M) game," Benson said in the joyous aftermath of Texas‘ 46-15 drubbing of the Aggies. "We had no doubts that we were going to move the ball on the ground and we made it happen. I never thought that we wouldn't be able to move it like that. I didn't set too many expectations for myself or for the team coming into the game. I just stayed positive and anytime I get the ball, I just look forward to moving north and south."

No running back as ever moved north-to-south the way Benson did Friday. His 283 yards on 35 carries were not only a career best, it was the most allowed in the history of Aggie football. Benson said the Aggie defense seemed to wear out as early as the first quarter and that he expected the instate rival to be "a lot more physical."

"They came out and played hard," Benson said. "They put it on the line for themselves and for the team. This was a bowl game for them. But I guess they just have to recoup."

Benson attributed his turnaround to a resurgent offensive line plus his own personal commitment to the program. But no Longhorn benefited more from Vince Young's emergence than Benson. Before then, Texas' bread and butter play was the hitch pass to SE Roy Williams. Now, the zone read has unleashed Benson and what had been a stagnant Longhorn rushing offense (NCAA No. 74, 135 ypg, in 2002; NCAA No. 8, 227.2 ypg) heading into the Aggie game).

Before the offensive makeover, Benson's longest run from scrimmage was a 20-yarder against Rice. He netted all of 27 yards (13 carries) against Arkansas and 21 yards (12 carries) against Oklahoma. On Friday alone, Benson reeled off a 35-yard TD run after sprinting for a season-best 50-yard tote in the third quarter.

Of course the flip side of the equation is that the most talented trio of receivers in Longhorn history were increasingly MIA from the stat sheets throughout the season, leaving Texas coaches to gush over their unselfish attitudes and newly discovered passion for blocking. Young attempted just eight passes against the Aggies, completing five. Both second half passes were incompletions. (If you caught part of the A&M post-game radio show Friday night, you heard hosts ask why any receiver would want to sign with Texas next year). There is also the lingering possibility that QB Chance Mock will complete his eligibility at a Division II program.

Still, head coach Mack Brown praised UT coaches for bringing a balanced passing and rushing attack back to the offense this season -- even though the passing game was a non-factor in the second half. The stiff wind, plus the effective ground game (393 net yards rushing) contributed to Texas' reliance on Benson to secure the win, Brown added.

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