The grisly truth about Texas

AND I THOUGHT Cougar fans could be a wild bunch. In doing a little due diligence on our next opponent, I discovered a mostly troubling, dare I say <i>gristly</i> fact about our Holiday Bowl foes: They once ate their mascot.

It's true. The Hook 'Em crowd eats its own. And rest assured, this has nothing whatsover to do with Phil Simms' kid who used to play QB in Austin.

Back in 1919, it seems UT officials grew tired of paying the 50 cents a day it was costing them to feed and house "Bevo," their longhorn steer mascot. So they ordered him to be fattened up and served on a platter. Sure enough, in January of 1920, he was barbequed and presented as the main course at the team's year-end football banquet.

Can you imagine?

I thought Jackie Sherrill was depraved when he had that bull de-balled in front of his players.

But actually eating your mascot?

Perhaps at Notre Dame, with that pesky little leprechaun guy. Or the dork on a horse at USC.

But not a fuzzy, huggable bovine.

Do you think it would ever cross a Cougar's mind to throw Butch on an open spit? Even those miscreants on Montlake wouldn't be so impolitic as to turn Sun Dodger into doggy pate.

And then to present the hide to your arch-rival in some twisted act of cowboy chivalry? These Texans, I'm afraid, are unlike any foe we've ever faced. They not only take no prisoners, they consume all the flesh. We're talkin' modern-day Visigoths. Regular Genghis Khans in burnt orange. And let me tell ya, that's not pretty.

ALAS, THE WAY the Longhorn gridders marched through the latter part of this season -- six-consecutive wins -- you have to think they're as tough on the field as they are off it. With young Vince Young taking over at QB, the Horn's averaged more than 45 points a game over the final six and had only one scare along the way, a 43-40 overtime thriller against Texas Tech.

They finished the season 10-2 and ranked No. 5 in the nation. Their only losses came in Week 2 against Arkansas (38-38) and Week 6 against Oklahoma (65-13).

In the Longhorn tradition of Steve Worster, Roosevelt Leaks, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, this year's club made its way on the ground, running the ball two-thirds of the time. Punishing running back Cedric Benson led the attack with 1,277 rushing yards, followed by the elusive Young with 948. And get this, Young -- Parade magazine's national player of the year coming out of high school -- didn't even become the starter until sometime in October.

THE LINE: Texas by 9

WHEN: Tuesday, 5 pm PT, December 30

WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium (grass,) San Diego

TV: ESPN Live with announcers Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried

THE SERIES: The Cougars and Longhorns have met twice, with Texas winning both games -- in 1954, 40-14, and 196, 41-8. Both games were played in Austin.

THE COUGARS resume practices today after a four-day break. They'll also workout Friday, Saturday and Sunday, take Monday off and then fly to San Diego on the 23rd. They'll have short practice after arriving and then resume regular workouts on the 24th, 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th. Most practices will be open for media and fans through the 27th. WSU will be headquartered at the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel and practice at San Diego State University.

NOTABLE NOTES:

Hat's off to Cougar youngsters Cody Boyd, Scott Davis, Charles Harris, Chris Jordan and Don Turner. All were named to The Sporting News' All-Pac-10 Freshman Team.

The Los Angeles Times calculated that if WSU hadn't blown the Apple Cup, USC would be going to the Sugar Bowl instead of LSU. The Apple Cup loss dropped WSU out of the BCS top 10 and cost USC the "quality win" points it would have received for beating the Cougars. Speaking of the Apple Cup, do you realize that in the last two combined, the Huskies have held the lead for all of 1 minute and 9 seconds. That's out of 120 minutes of football.

Elsewhere around the Pac-10, word out of Tempe is the Devils will scrap their 4-2-5 defense in 2004. Makes sense. In three seasons with it, the Devils have surrendered a whopping 33.4 points per game, on average, in Pac-10 play, going 8-16 along the way.

Over in Tucson, new Arizona coach Mike Stoops, a defensive-minded guy, has made no bones about what he wants to do offense: Open things up with a run-and-shoot style similar to what Florida does.


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