UT Starts Nation's 'Toughest' Stretch Against OSU

All season long, <I>IT</I> has referenced Texas' month-from-hell (consecutive games against No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 13/16 Kansas State, No. 15/18 Iowa State, and a smarting Nebraska squad anxious for redemption) as a make-or-break stretch that will ultimately define both the legacy and mettle of this Longhorn team. Now, according to head coach <B>Mack Brown</B>, you can add a fifth Saturday to the slate, starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday against Oklahoma State (2-2) at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

"We’ll play the toughest five weeks in college football," Brown said Monday afternoon. "There may be those who’ll play five tougher, but I don’t think so."

The Cowboys will the strongest team Texas has faced to date, the head coach said, and even though Nebraska dropped out of the polls for the first time since 1981, the ‘Huskers still own the nation’s longest home win streak at 27, dating back to UT's upset win at Lincoln on Oct. 31, 1998.

"I’m not worried about the polls," Brown said. "Our schedule will put us where we need to be."

So, how will Brown navigate his squad through the five-weeks-from-hell, beginning with the team that proved it can go on the road and upend the nation’s No. 2 team by stunning Oklahoma in the 2001 regular season final? It requires a kind of balancing act, he said.

"The hardest thing is managing practice, as physical as the games will be," Brown said. "It’s a matter of how much you can hit in practice, and how physical can you be and still be prepared? How much should you hit Cedric Benson? That’s one of the reasons why I took him out (against Tulane) was because I wanted him to be fresh for this week. He could have gotten his 100 yards, but we’ve quit worrying about stats."

The Cowboys, though, have a legitimate gripe that their slate of Saturday’s is just as nasty. OSU opens conference play with Texas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Texas Tech on successive weekends before closing out the season with Oklahoma. And since Big 12 Conference play began in 1996, Oklahoma State has never opened league play at home.

The UT-OSU game will be televised on the Fox Sports Network. Also, it was announced Monday that the annual border war between Texas and Oklahoma will be televised on ABC-Sports, with kick-off set at 2:30 p.m.


As Texas players and coaches filed out of the Superdome Saturday, the Burnt Orange-clad fans in the north end zone chanted, "Beat OU! Beat OU!" The point wasn’t lost on the Longhorns.

"The players said the ones in the end zone couldn’t spell, because they really meant OSU," Brown said. "They left the ‘S’ out. What you learn as a coach at this place after five years is that the media and fans, in a lot of cases, do not give the other team (i.e., OSU) a whole lot of respect. But our players and our coaches understand that. We constantly tell them that they better be ready to play because situations like Louisville-Florida State makes it so obvious how much college football has changed. So, anybody on this team who’s not impressed by what they’ve seen against Oklahoma State probably shouldn’t be here."

Maybe Texas supporters won’t win any spelling bees, but the fan base has become tops in the country, Brown added.

"They’ve started acting like the number one group of fans in the country," Brown said, of the 30,000-plus who turned the Louisiana Superdome into a decided home field advantage for the Longhorns. "What a great message to have that many fans during a week when there was a Tropical Depression and still get to New Orleans for a ball game. People told us when we first got here (in 1998) that (Texas fans) don’t travel well but that (fan turnout) sends a good message to the bowl people that people will travel."

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