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College Football | COTTON BOWL

Focused Williams Leads Texas

January 02, 2003|From Associated Press

DALLAS — Roy Williams announced he was coming back for his senior season at Texas several weeks before the Cotton Bowl because he didn't want that question to distract him from the game.

NFL teams might hope he reconsiders.

Williams almost single-handedly rallied Texas from a 10-point deficit Wednesday, sending the No. 9 Longhorns to a 35-20 victory over Louisiana State. He turned a short slant into a 51-yard touchdown, went 75 yards after a leaping grab to set up another score and ran 39 yards for a touchdown on an end around.

"He might be the best football player I've seen all year," Tiger Coach Nick Saban said.

After receiving a huge trophy as offensive MVP, Williams said he didn't deserve it -- and didn't object when teammate Rod Babers slid it away. Williams then criticized himself for a false start and said he could do a better job of running routes.

"I don't feel like I'm the best receiver in the country," Williams said. "I don't think I've done what I'm capable of. I still have things to prove, things to learn, before I go to the next level."

LSU (8-5) would probably disagree. The Tigers came in with the second-best pass defense in the country, allowing 143 yards per game -- and Williams had 142 in four catches.

A strong start by the Tigers had put the Longhorns (11-2) down, 17-7, three minutes into the second quarter.

Texas had gone nowhere on two possessions despite having all its top skill players sound for the first time since the second game of the season. The Longhorns' first score came on a 46-yard fumble return by linebacker Lee Jackson, the longest in Cotton Bowl history.

Then Texas unveiled its most effective plan: getting the ball to Williams.

On first down from the 49, he shook cornerback Corey Webster at the line, caught a pass from Chris Simms in stride and ran away to an easy score.

The next time Simms threw to Williams, the receiver made a nice catch in traffic and raced toward the end zone but was shoved out of bounds at the five-yard line. Cedric Benson did the rest, putting Texas ahead, 21-17.

After a sluggish start to the second half, Williams got Texas going with an 18-yard catch, then Benson ran for 17 yards. On the next play, Simms faked a handoff to Benson and slipped the ball to Williams coming from the left side. He weaved between defenders and avoided being hit until the five; it couldn't stop him from lunging across the goal line.

Simms completed 15 of 28 passes for 269 yards and, most important, had one turnover: an interception on his final pass.

Simms leaves Texas 26-6 as a starter. He has the second-most victories in school history, the best completion percentage and highest efficiency rating.

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