7-1 records are rare Longhorn vintage

For the Longhorns, a record of 7-1 eight games deep into the season has been about as rare as a top-10 finish. That is, it happens about once every decade.

It's been over 10 years since a Texas team made it to 7-1. The last time was 1990 when the Horns won the SWC title only to face their day of infamy in the Cotton Bowl against Miami. The time before that was in 1983 when Texas bulldozed into the Cotton Bowl with an 11-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking only to face its day of infamy against Georgia.

The similarities between the ‘01 Texas team and those two of its predecessors are numerous, but after absolutely throttling another Big 12 opponent, I’m starting to get a feeling this Texas team may be heading towards anything but infamy.

Texas cruised to a 35-16 whipping of Missouri Saturday on an afternoon when Quentin Jammer said Texas essentially just took care of business. "We didn't play with a lot of enthusiasm," he said. News flash to Texas foes: board up your windows when the Horns decide to get pumped.

Defensively, the Horns got gouged a bit by Missouri (Pacific) freight train Zack Abron, who rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries and shed numerous would-be Horn tacklers. But Mizzou still only accounted for 244 yards of total O, which is skimpy. And Jammer jammed the Tigers’ scary wideout Justin Gage who, after grabbing 11 balls against KU last week, managed only two for 13 yards against the Horns.

Offensively, Texas put its versatility on full display against the Tigers. When Mizzou went zone to take away the back-breakers to BJ, Roy and Sloan, Chris Simms mowed ‘em down with shots to Bo Scaife, who led the team in receptions with five catches for 73 yards, and to Brett Robin, who knifed ‘em with his 39-yard TD shovel-pass reception. Of course, BJ and Roy each contributed with a TD catch.

But as lethal as Simms’ air raid was Saturday, the real news is the continued emergence of Cedric Benson. Benson’s third straight 100-yard rushing performance, a first ever for a UT freshman, meant that the Texas offense stayed two-dimensional, which in the Mack Brown era has been synonymous with "unstoppable."

"If you can run the ball, you’re going to win most football games," Brown said. "I thought (Benson) and the offensive line were the difference in the ballgame today because they took over the ballgame. Then, when you’re running the ball, you can protect well and Chris was protected so well. He pretty much stood at ease today."

Benson stampeded to 157 yards on 31 carries, punishing the Mizzou defense. Remember 1990 when the "Baby Bull" Butch Hadnot bludgeoned defenses with his straight ahead, ramrod approach? Benson reminds me a little of Hadnot in terms of being able to keep pounding a defense. And the performance of the offensive line is becoming reminiscent of that awesome OL Texas ran behind to the 11-0 record in ‘83. "Asking their offensive lineman to make two yards in like asking a tank to crush a peanut," quipped then-Arkansas coach Lou Holtz of that unit. Listen to Mizzou linebacker Jamonte Robinson after tangling with Texas: "Their (offensive) line pretty much just pushed them up and down the field," Robinson said. "(Benson) is a hard runner. He just got behind his offensive linemen. That’s why he got a lot of gaps and had a lot of yardage."

The Texas offense featuring Benson is actually beginning to resemble a Texas offense of much more recent vintage, that featuring Ricky Williams in ‘98. As we know, this Texas staff wants balance, and loves having a big, gut-busting back that can keep the chains moving. They had it at North Carolina with Natrone Means and they rode Ricky to a Cotton Bowl championship their first year here with the same approach. Hodges Mitchell, though small in stature, carried a workhorse load down the stretch last season as Texas won its last three conference games. Mitchell as you recall, carried it an incredible 45 times for 229 yards against Tech, then followed that up with a 37-carry, 264-yard day against Kansas. He toted it 25 times for 89 yards against the Aggies.

Benson is becoming that kind of back, which is no surprise if you saw him play at Midland Lee. One of the things that impressed me the most last year watching Benson in the state playoffs was that he was such a tireless worker, a battering ram that kept punching jagged holes in a defense until late into ballgames. When corralled, as he was much of the game against The Woodlands in the semis, Benson did not get frustrated or hang his head. He just kept slashing, play after play, as long as they handed him the ball. We have seen the same thing from Benson the last three games. "I love to carry the ball," Benson said post-game Saturday, "I love to wear down defenses."

Texas stands 7-1 for the first time since ’90, and has left some worn down Ds strewn in its wake. If the offense stays balanced and the defense keeps opposing Os off-balance, they could make it 11-1 for the first time since ‘83.

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