Texas Dodges Cowboy Bullet, 17-15

Texas' down-to-the-wire, 17-15 nail biter against Oklahoma State was the kind of contest one might have expected against the <I>other</i> team from just north of the Red River. This one was not over until senior CB <B>Rod Babers</b> sealed the deal with his first interception of the year, picking off QB <B>Josh Fields' </b>slant pass at the Texas 40 as the Cowboys were driving toward a possible game-winning field goal with just over two minutes remaining.

That play came after the Texas defense, which did an otherwise commendable job in containing Big 12 leading receiver Rashaun Woods, allowed OSU to drive 99 yards in nine plays late in the game to draw within two. This was against a defense that allowed only one first-down conversion in 11 tries, and that was on a fourth-quarter, pass interference penalty. Babers was instrumental in stopping Woods one yard shy of the goal line on the two-point conversion.

The defense held Woods, whom coordinator Carl Reese earlier this week referred to as the "deep ball threat of the century," to just 63 yards on six grabs (well below his 134 ypg average). Wood's longest reception of the day was 25 yards, but it was an incredibly acrobatic, over-the-shoulders reception from his team's one-yard line that sparked OSU's 99-yard scoring drive in the fourth.

Texas' offensive production (267 yards passing, 145 yards rushing) came against a defensive unit that boasts just one stud who could start for Texas (LB Terrence Robinson, who registered a game-leading 12 tackles and one blocked pass). The offensive line play was sporadic. With RB Cedric Benson scratching and clawing (117 yards on 27 carries) against a defensive surge on run blocking, offensive coordinator Greg Davis opted to go primarily with a five-wide set on five series, starting late in the second quarter. Intended to spread the defense and jumpstart the offense, the alignment allowed junior SE Sloan Thomas to set a career high in yards (130) and receptions, while junior WR B.J. Johnson contributed season-high totals in yards (78) and receptions. QB Chris Simms (24-of-46 for 246 yards) passed for one touchdown (to Johnson) and ran for another, while tossing one interception on a tipped pass.

Simms' one-yard run in the third quarter to cap an 80-yard scoring drive represented the first time in three '02 home games that Texas scored a second half offensive touchdown. (Take away Texas' special teams contributions in the second half against Tulane last week and that score is no longer a rout).

"I really felt like we came out ready to play," Simms said. "We shot ourselves in the foot a few times and we had the opportunity to really put the pressure on them that would have changed the whole mindset of the game. This was a hard test and they (OSU) really played hard."

Head coach Mack Brown, the eternal optimist, was not as rosy in his assessment. "We didn't get anything out of our kicking game."

"Not many good things happened for us today," Brown said, who did say that he was proud of the defense.

While Texas searches for its offensive that can shove people around in the final 30 minutes, it may also be looking for a field goal kicker. Sophomore Dusty Mangum missed on three-of-four attempts, a stat that proved damn near fatal in the final two minutes. Mangum connected from 27 yards out in the second quarter, but missed from 24, 37 and 46 yards.

SE Roy Williams and CB Nathan Vasher returned to action. Williams collected 27 yards on five catches but sat out the fourth quarter after reporting tightening in his hamstring. While seeing limited duty on punt returns (Vasher shared return duties with freshman Selvin Young), Vasher turned in a solid day at the office with one critical interception, four tackles and three deflected passes).

The Cowboy's are still winless in ten attempts against the nation's No. 2 team, but the two-point margin Saturday is the closet they have come to pulling the upset.


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