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Brown, Texas aim to end their Sooners skid

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DALLAS (AP) _ To Mack Brown and his most important supporters, his tenure as coach of the Texas Longhorns should not be defined by his four-game losing streak to Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners.

They may be the only ones who believe that.

From casual football fans to die-hard Orangebloods, everyone knows the story by now: The Sooners own the Longhorns, until proven otherwise.

Oklahoma has pounded Texas by a combined score of 177-54 the past four years, with OU scoring more than 60 twice. The truly embarrassing part for the Longhorns is that they've gone into each game ranked as high as third and no worse than 11th.

Perhaps the ultimate proof that Brown is in a Stoops stupor: Texas has lost only four other non-bowl games during that span, never to the same team twice.

The No. 5 Longhorns will get another chance to clear their coach's reputation Saturday against the No. 2 Sooners, in one of the most unique, colorful matchups of all of college football.

As they've done every second Saturday in October since 1929, the schools will meet at the Cotton Bowl, about three hours from their campuses. The State Fair of Texas will be in full swing outside the stadium, while the seats inside will be split, crimson-clad fans filling one side, those in burnt orange on the other.

So much more is at stake than one-upmanship between longtime rivals from border states.

The winner becomes the favorite to win the Big 12 South, which means a spot in the league championship game and the chance for an automatic berth into a BCS game. Both teams come in 4-0, 1-0 in conference play.

A fifth straight win over Texas would give Oklahoma its longest streak since 1971-75, when Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer were calling the shots. The only longer one for OU went six games, from 1952-57, the heyday of Bud Wilkinson's career.

The Longhorns also could use a victory to slow the Sooners' recruiting in the Lone Star State. Oklahoma began this season with 52 Texans, including two from last year's crop who were considered the nation's best at their positions: running back Adrian Peterson and quarterback Rhett Bomar.

Peterson has stepped in and become the first player to open his OU career with four straight 100-yard games. And this is a program that's had three running backs win the Heisman Trophy.

Peterson's reason for going north of the Red River? To play for a team he thought could win a national championship.

Ouch!

Brown did beat Oklahoma in his first two years at Texas, including 1999, Stoops' first season running the Sooners. Both programs were returning to glory then. Stoops' rebuilding was catapulted by a 63-14 victory over Texas in 2000.

Brown is so defensive about his OU albatross that players were told not to talk about this game following a lopsided win over Baylor last Saturday, saying his team deserved to savor that victory. What top 10 team celebrates beating Baylor? (Oklahoma, by the way, has beaten Baylor by a combined score of 179-36 the last four years, not much off its margin over Texas).

When Brown started talking about the Sooners on Sunday, he volunteered the following information: ``I've been assured I'm going to keep my job regardless of the outcome of this game.''

That was good news for Sooners fans. Seeing Brown on the Texas sideline comforts them as much as seeing Stoops smirking beneath his white visor.

Stoops plays the king-of-the-hill role perfectly.

After beating Texas Tech last Saturday, he was asked about the Texas game and said, ``It can't get here soon enough.''

During the week, he explained that his seasons are defined by whether Oklahoma finishes No. 1, not how they handle a mid-October game _ although there is a two-page spread near the front of this year's media guide devoted to their recent domination of this series.

``We gauge our season by championships,'' Stoops said.

To Brown's credit, the Longhorns have done an excellent job of keeping the losses to Oklahoma from ruining their seasons, winning at least their next four games each time. They even reached the Big 12 title game in 2001, the only time in the last four years that the Sooners didn't represent the South.

Critics, however, note that Texas rebounds by making adjustments that would've helped against Oklahoma.

The Longhorns got an early start this time by changing defensive coordinators during the offseason. The staff now includes Dick Tomey, who coached Arizona during the days of its ``Desert Swarm'' defense, and Greg Robinson, a former NFL defensive coordinator. They've made the unit tougher and better tacklers.

The Longhorns' offense has been as much to blame for the blowouts as the defense because of turnovers _ six last year, helping OU win 65-13, marking the most points and widest margin of victory in the series' 98-game history.

This year, Texas brings its most clearly defined offensive scheme, a running game featuring Cedric Benson, who leads the nation with 186.5 yards per game.

The Sooners have held Benson to 75 yards on 34 carries the last two years, prompting Brown to practically abandon the run. But OU's defense lost three starters to the NFL and recently had another kicked off the team.

Brown also is less likely to pull the plug this time because Texas relies heavily on the ``zone read,'' an option-like play in which defenders have to try containing Benson and quarterback Vince Young, who broke five tackles on a 59-yard run against OU last year and later scored on a 29-yarder.

Benson recently caused a fuss by saying he'd rather win the Heisman than beat the Sooners. With a big game Saturday, he could have both.

``They say things are really different around here when you beat OU,'' Benson said. ``It'd be nice to see that.''
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