No. 6 Texas 26, No. 22 Texas A&M 13


Friday, November 26th 2004, 6:40 pm
By: News On 6


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Cedric Benson ran for 165 yards and a touchdown Friday to lead No. 6 Texas to a 26-13 win over No. 22 Texas A&M, a victory sure to send the Bowl Championship Series arguments into high gear.

Vince Young added a touchdown run and 224 yards total for the Longhorns (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), who earned their fifth straight win over their fiercest in-state rival.

Reggie McNeal passed for 247 yards and a touchdown for A&M (7-4, 5-3), which rebounded from last season's 4-8 finish to become bowl eligible against the toughest schedule in the nation. Three of the Aggies' four losses have come against teams ranked in the top six.

Now let the BCS bickering begin.

The Texas victory kept alive the Longhorns' slim hopes of earning their first bid to the BCS _ if the win gives them a big enough boost in the standings to pass fourth-place California. Texas fans chanted ``B-C-S!'' after the game ended.

California, which only a week ago thought it had locked up a berth in the Rose Bowl, needs a win Dec. 4 over Southern Mississippi to fight off the Longhorns, who are fifth in the standings.

And another team out West, Boise State, could ruin the party for both of them. If Boise State creeps into the top six in the BCS, they would join Utah in the two at-large berths, knocking Texas and California out of the mix.

Whew!

As complicated as that sounds, the game itself was full of strange and rare plays that saw momentum swing back and forth during the first three quarters.

The teams traded touchdowns and missed extra points in a tight first half. Benson had 105 yards on 18 carries in the half but one play on which he didn't get the ball proved costly for the Longhorns.

After driving 88 yards to the A&M 1, Texas was on the verge of punching the ball into the end zone with less than 30 seconds left in the half. Instead of handing off to Benson, the 6-foot-5 Young tried to leap over the line of scrimmage.

Holding the ball in his right hand, he stretched for the goal line and A&M's Justin Warren punched it loose. The ball bounced right to Jonte Buhl who scooped it up and dashed 98 yards for a touchdown and a 13-6 Aggies lead at halftime.

The play stunned Texas, which thought Young had crossed the goal line although television replays showed he didn't. Young stood looking around while Buhl raced for end zone and coach Mack Brown grimaced on the sideline.

Then things got really weird.

After forcing the Aggies to punt on the first possession of the third quarter, Texas' Michael Griffin blocked the kick and Bobby Tatum recovered it for a TD.

Because the Longhorns' regular holder for kicks, wide receiver Tony Jeffery, left the game earlier with a rib injury, backup QB Matt Nordgren was sent in and he dropped the snap, causing Dusty Mangum to drive the kick along the ground.

The ensuing scrum ended with the Aggies' Jaxson Appel on top of the ball in the end zone, giving Texas a rare 1-point safety that tied the game at 13 and swung momentum back to the Longhorns.

Texas took a 16-13 lead on its next possession when Nordgren held onto the snap and Mangum kicked a 44-yard field goal. With a strong wind at his back, Mangum extended the Texas lead to 19-13 with a 52-yarder later in the third.

Texas took complete control in the fourth, harassing McNeal with a tenacious rush that collected eight sacks and dominated the line of scrimmage. In one fourth-quarter sequence, he was sacked on three straight plays before throwing an interception.

With Benson pounding out yards between the tackles and Young stretching the Aggies' defense with the option, the Longhorns drove 88 yards to the A&M 1. Benson got the ball this time and slammed over the goal line to make it 26-13.

Benson's 10th 100-yard game this season highlighted a stellar career in which he ranks sixth all-time among Division I-A rushers with 5,470 yards. He could move as high as fourth with a big performance in Texas' bowl game, wherever that may be.