Woods ranks fifth in the nation in both receiving yards per game (134) and receptions per game (8). Paced by Woods' stellar play, the Cowboy passing game is ranked No. 20 in the NCAA (279.2 ypg) while averaging 429.4 ypg (No. 29 in NCAA). However, its defense is giving up 365.8 ypg (No. 66), thanks in part to a porous secondary that is surrendering 245 yards (No. 93) through the air. For the third time in four games, the opponent's leading tackler is a safety.
Little wonder, then, that Texas head coach Mack Brown believes the best way to send the Pokes back to Stillwater with their 15th loss in 17 tries vs. UT is to match OSU's deep ball capabilities while balancing the Longhorn offensive attack with a physical ground game.
"They had 75 plays against SMU (Sept. 21) and 14 of them were for more than 10 yards, so this will be a real test for our explosive plays," Brown said. "We need to get the ball downfield more in this game, because they are throwing the ball a lot and they are throwing it deep. We're going to have to make some plays in the secondary."
TIS THE SEASON
There's something about the start of conference play that adds not only a heightened level of anticipation to the fan base but also to the practice field. The 11:30 a.m. kick-off at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium launches league play for both schools.
"I thought there was a different buzz today with the Big 12 opener," Brown said. "Coaches weren't having to push the players like last week, and we were concerned they would overlook Tulane last week. But they've got respect for Oklahoma State and they understand what Big 12 play means. We know we've never lost a Big 12 opener at home and we've got a great record at home."
Texas has won 15 consecutive home games and is 23-2 in Austin since Brown arrived in 1998. The current home winning streak is the program's longest since the 42-game streak from 1968-76.
"I felt like we had a real good practice today," Brown said after Tuesday's workout. "It can get better, and it will get better tomorrow. Whether you like it or not, anybody can beat you every week if you don?t play at your best. I've said many times that the only devastating losses at Texas are the losses. So, we need to be 5-0 after this weekend. We have a motto this week: 'We've got four, let's go get some more'. It lets them understand that this weekend is really, really important for this football team."
OSU WAS BREAKOUT GAME FOR BENSON & CO.
Admit it -- your heart sank into your beer when you saw Cedric Benson fumble on his first carry, on his first collegiate start, in the first quarter at Stillwater last year. But a UT freshman record 30 carries and 131 yards later, you knew there would be life after Ricky. Texas' 45-17 cathartic win against Oklahoma State last year eased the post-OU hangover which was still throbbing as the host Cowboys jumped to a 10-0 lead. Benson became the first UT freshman to rush for 100 yards since Williams did it in 1995.
After stumbling early, the Horns stormed back vs. OSU, including a 31-point second quarter scoring barrage, on the strength of Chris Simms' career-high five touchdown passes and SE Sloan Thomas' single-game high in receptions (six) and receiving yards (82).
"It's just great to play a conference game," Thomas said. "It's like starting a new season all over. We're taking them one game at a time. If you start looking forward, it sneaks up on you."