Oct 5, 2002
By JIM VERTUNO
AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Longhorns said they weren't looking past Oklahoma State to their matchup with rival Oklahoma.
Second-ranked Texas will have a hard time getting anyone to believe them after Saturday's 17-15 victory over the Cowboys that took cornerback Rod Babers' defensive stop on a 2-point conversion and a drive-killing interception in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"It was a good, hard fight," said Texas quarterback Chris Simms, who passed for 267 yards and a touchdown and ran for another in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
"I think it's really good we got a good hard test like this."
Entering next week's showdown against rival Oklahoma, Texas is 5-0 for the first time since 1983. The Longhorns went undefeated in the regular season that year.
Texas was anything but perfect Saturday.
Missed field goals, a dropped touchdown pass and an inability to put the Cowboys away in the second nearly did Texas in.
The crowd of 83,116 at Royal-Memorial Stadium was expecting a typical home blowout. But they couldn't start chanting "Beat OU!" until the final seconds ticked off of this one.
"Not many good things happened to us today," said Texas coach Mack Brown, who tried to find the positive.
"It's good to be in tight games because our kids are tested. You need to be in some fights. It's dangerous for us every week. I hope our fans learned something today."
It was a fight Texas could have lost.
Leading 17-9 in the fourth, Texas pinned OSU on its own 1 after a punt. Josh Fields then hit Rashaun Woods for a 25-yard completion, and a 25-yard run by Seymore Shaw quickly moved the ball to midfield for the Cowboys (2-3, 0-1).
Facing third-and-23 from the Texas 33, Fields threw a prayer to John Lewis, who came down with the ball just inside the goal line for the touchdown.
On the 2-point try, Fields found Woods at the goal line, but his back was turned to the end zone and Babers stopped him before he could get across.
Oklahoma State had one last chance to win when Texas failed to pick up a first down. Babers stepped up again when Fields' errant throw went right into his hands with two minutes left.
"It was a blessing," Babers said of his first interception. "I was praying before the pick."
Statistically, it shouldn't have been this close. The Longhorns outgained Oklahoma State 412-273 in total yards and had 25 first downs, compared with 15 for the Cowboys.
Tailback Cedric Benson ran for 117 yards on 27 carries. Simms was 24-of-46 with one interception. Sloan Thomas caught seven passes for 130 yards.
But the Longhorns had uncharacteristic mistakes on offense. Wide receiver Roy Williams, who sat out last week's win over Tulane, dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone when he tried to grab it with one hand.
Normally reliable kicker Dusty Mangum missed three field goal attempts of 35, 24 and 44 yards.
"We didn't get anything out of our kicking game today," Brown said. "We have to work on that next week."
Texas' 17 points were its fewest at home since a 35-17 loss to Kansas State in 1999.
"We were in position to win," Oklahoma State coach Les Miles said. "This is no moral victory."
The Texas defense has two shutouts this season but found itself down 3-0 after the Cowboys' first drive, on Luke Phillips' 39-yard field goal. They were the first points given up by the Longhorns in the first quarter this season.
Texas finally punched the ball into the end zone after forcing Oklahoma State to punt with a minute left in the half.
Simms directed a four-play, 59-yard drive, aided by a Cowboys personal foul, and he found B.J. Johnson from 9 yards out for the game's first touchdown. Texas led 10-3 at halftime.
Texas went up 17-3 when Simms capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper that appeared to put his team in control. But two Longhorns penalties on Oklahoma State's next drive moved the ball 30 yards, and the Cowboys' Tatum Bell took a pitchout and skirted down the sideline 45 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-9. A bad snap led to a blocked kick on the extra-point try.
The botched attempt left Miles wondering about what could have happened.
"If we make the extra point, we have a tied ballgame (late in the game)," Miles said. "We had opportunities to win."