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Demise of Texas Is Upon Simms, Brown Again

Longhorns' quarterback, coach lose third in a row to Oklahoma, which stays in national race with 35-24 win.

October 13, 2002|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

DALLAS -- It started out as Texas-OU but ended up, once again, as Texas-"Oh No."

You almost feel guilty watching, the way you do slowing down at the scene of an accident.

You wonder how much disappointment the Texas coach can take, and how many times he can answer postgame questions for his quarterback, and how many nitroglycerin patches one Texas official can go through to control his heart condition.

Oklahoma spotted Texas an early lead Saturday before a wave of kickoffs and karma led to a 35-24 victory before a Cotton Bowl crowd of 75,587.

The game had the usual implications, huge, with Texas again coming out on the short end.

No. 2 Oklahoma improved to 6-0 to keep pace with No. 1 Miami, while No. 3 Texas (5-1) has to fight its way back into national contention.

It was Oklahoma's third straight win over Texas and extended the saga for Longhorn Coach Mack Brown and senior quarterback Chris Simms.

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said afterward, "I'm not one to say we have anyone's number" about his team's recent run against Texas, but there were plenty of long Longhorn faces in the Texas student section that suggested otherwise.

Mack Brown, Texas' fifth-year coach, returns to Austin a loser in another big game while Simms' record fell to 0-5 against top 10 opponents. In those games, he has 15 interceptions.

He has become the Peyton Manning of his time, a great-guy, big-armed, future NFL draft choice who can't get past his nemesis. While at Tennessee, Manning could never beat Florida, while Simms will now leave Texas cursing Oklahoma.

"I don't know if anyone in this room wanted to win this game more than me," Simms said afterward.

As he left the field, Oklahoma fans taunted him with chants of "Chrissy" while one held up a placard that kept a running total of Simms' statistics.

Brown, as he did after last year's 14-3 loss to Oklahoma, said this wasn't the story of two tortured characters.

"This has nothing to do with Chris and I," Brown said, "it's about the team. Anytime you lose to Oklahoma, it's disappointing. We're both big guys, we can handle whatever comes."

In the latest chapter of Texas hexes, the Longhorns jumped to a 14-3 lead when Rod Babers intercepted a second-quarter Nate Hybl pass and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.

But Oklahoma put a quick stop to the momentum when Antwone Savage returned the kickoff 81 yards, setting up the game's pivotal plays.

Facing fourth and three at the Texas nine, Oklahoma decided to go for the first down and succeeded when Longhorn defensive end Bryan Pickryl was baited into jumping offside.

That led to Hybl's three-yard scoring pass to Trent Smith with 10 seconds left, and the Sooners made a two-point conversion, leaving Texas with a halftime lead of only 14-11.

"Those were some major plays in the game," Stoops said.

Texas kicked a third-quarter field goal to extend the lead to 17-11, but Oklahoma then went on a 24-0 run that buried the Longhorns.

The turning point came with five seconds left in the third quarter, when linebacker Teddy Lehman intercepted a tipped Simms pass and returned it to the Texas 38.

Lehman? Yeah, he's the same guy who victimized Simms last year, returning a pass tipped by Roy Williams for a touchdown to clinch the win.

"I don't know what it is," Lehman said. "Every time there's a batted ball, I'm standing there."

Oklahoma's good fortune didn't end there.

After the Sooners drove inside the Texas 10, receiver Will Peoples fumbled after receiving a short Hybl pass near the goal line, but the ball bounced right into the hands of Quentin Griffin, who ran two yards for the touchdown.

That gave Oklahoma its first lead, 21-17, and seemed to foretell Texas' fate.

"I'll take all the Sooner magic I can get," Stoops said of the play. "Sprinkle it here, sprinkle it there."

Oklahoma made it 28-17 on Kejuan Jones' two-yard touchdown run with 6:41 left, and Griffin pushed the lead to 35-17 with 3:02 left on his scoring run.

Griffin finished with 248 yards in 32 carries, averaging 7.8 yards per carry.

Oklahoma began the day ranked only 63rd nationally in rushing and had minus-23 yards in an early-season win over Alabama.

With Saturday's win, Oklahoma stays on national-championship course while Texas must regroup.

Brown wouldn't let Simms answer a question about the quarterback's woes against top-10 competition.

"He's got big games the rest of the year, and he'll play well," Brown said. "That was his response."

In a question he was allowed to answer, Simms said, "It was a horribly disappointing game, it's one game and it's a long season. We've got to keep our heads up and get ready for a long year."

Brown correctly noted the season is not over. Last year, after the Oklahoma loss, Texas raced all the way to the Big 12 title game and would have earned a spot in the Rose Bowl against Miami had it defeated Colorado.

"That's what we've got to do," Brown said.

Again.

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