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Benson covets Heisman, but beating OU wouldn't hurt

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  • Benson covets Heisman, but beating OU wouldn't hurt

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    I'd rather take the Heisman Trophy." -- Cedric Benson, Sept. 14, 2004

    In Texas, it's hard to tell which statement was more heretical.

    Cedric Benson has 746 yards rushing, better than 86 of 117 I-A team rushing totals.(AP)
    The state, like the rest of the South, eventually stopped burning Beatles records. Even the Vatican forgave Lennon, whose statement caused a major stir 30 years before conservative talk radio even debuted.

    Different time, different stir. Same basic reaction.

    Benson, the nation's leading rusher, recently said during a radio interview that he would rather win the Heisman than beat Oklahoma.

    First, remember this is an age when merely uttering the words "Pete Rose" is good for three hours worth of calls from Todd in Scarsdale. This morning's press conference has been filleted into mind-numbing detail by the time you sit down for tonight's filet.

    Hosts don't even ask questions anymore, preferring to press emotional buttons by screaming, "The Chargers! Your reaction ..."

    Benson choosing the hardware over the hated rival kind of hung in the air for three weeks. Columnists opined on it as an eyebrow raiser. But here it is Oklahoma week and, well, some of the Lennon rules still apply. It's funny how quickly a throwaway comment can become sacrilege.

    "If I could win the football game entirely by myself, both offense and defense, punt returns, kickoffs, kicking field goals, do everything," Benson said during the interview, "then I'd take the win over OU.

    "But for me personally, the hard work I've been through, growing up as a kid and the dream I've had, I'd love nothing more than to win the Heisman."

    Give the kid credit for honesty, if not a precise understanding of his surroundings. There are Texas loyalists who would sell their left, uh, gut to beat Oklahoma. The Sooners' current four-game winning streak in the Red River Shootout is an ignominious wart on the Texas program. It needs to be burned off and disposed of.

    Twice Oklahoma has hung at least 60 on the 'Horns. Two conference titles and a national championship have been built on top of those Texas carcasses.

    Someday, maybe even Saturday, Texas will beat Oklahoma. Benson does understand that a Heisman lasts a lifetime, unless you're O.J. and you need the money.

    Texas -- the team -- is trying to end an embarrassing streak, win a conference title and challenge for a national championship. Those goals won't ever change and will eventually be accomplished no matter what happens Saturday in Dallas.

    Benson is merely speaking from the heart.

    He came to Texas, in part, because it pumped out Heisman winners like Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. When Benson moved past Campbell on Saturday into second place on the school's all-time rushing chart, "he had tears in his eyes," coach Mack Brown said.

    More than that, Benson really could win the Heisman. He is vastly improved as a senior averaging 186.5 yards per game. His total of 746 yards is better than 86 I-A schools. Only one other Longhorn back has rushed for at least 100 yards in four consecutive games to open the season.

    There is breakaway speed that wasn't there. Texas leads the nation in rushing, which pretty much sums up what Oklahoma will have to do to make it five in a row. And what Benson will have to do to win the Heisman:

    Carry the 'Horns -- along with some Oklahoma defenders -- on his back.

    "He's not working like he doesn't want to win against OU this week," Brown said.

    Benson has been derided by some for not having his priorities straight. Coaches stress team-team-team. But what does it say when that same coach abruptly leaves the players he recruited for a $1 million contract somewhere else?

    Then it's suddenly me-me-me -- or what any of us would do in that situation -- take care of ourselves.

    It was a Heisman show that night. What was Benson supposed to say? The host gulped hard and gave Benson an out by asking the question again. The running back fully understood what he was saying. Benson did say later he'd much rather win a national championship than a Heisman.

    "I didn't say I wanted to lose to OU," Benson said.

    Priorities? Benson could have jumped to the NFL after 2003, but stayed because he wanted to play in games like this. He has a lot of experience at life-or-death football struggles. Benson grew up participating in the high school version of Texas-OU -- Midland Lee vs. Odessa Permian.

    If you're not familiar with it, you soon will be. It is part of the basis of the movie Friday Night Lights, which opens nationwide 24 hours before Benson takes the field in Dallas.

    You couldn't have scripted it better, unless, of course, Texas wins the game two months before Benson wins the Heisman.

    "I didn't grow up wanting to beat Oklahoma," Benson said explaining himself to the Austin American-Statesman. "I know it's a big thing around here and I want to play my (backside) off, but the fans have got to understand.

    "What would they want to do, knowing how great an opportunity it is to win the Heisman?"


Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    Longhorns RB Benson still running with Heisman hopes
    by DJRamFan
    Nov. 10, 2004 wire reports

    AUSTIN, Texas -- Upon further review, the predicted demise of Cedric Benson's Heisman Trophy campaign appears to have been premature.


    All but written out of the Heisman picture after Texas lost 12-0 to Oklahoma back on Oct. 9, the senior tailback has piled up too many yards and touchdowns to ignore.

    "For a team with one loss or no losses, there's not a more valuable player on offense than him in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

    Benson said he's earned a trip New York as one of the finalists.

    "I'm just waiting on an invitation," he said.

    The Heisman ballot instructs voters to name the most outstanding player of the year. Sometimes it's hard to ignore a great career, such as Benson has had.

    "Who else has been as consistent over four years?" Brown said. "He passes Heisman Trophy winners every week with what he does. And if you want to talk about a particular season, well he's done real well."

    College football analyst and Heisman voter Kirk Herbstreit says he will vote strictly on what a player has done this season, but acknowledges others might not.

    He ranks Benson among his top candidates because he has excelled in a one-dimensional offense. Defenses know their primary job is to shut down Benson. The Longhorns rank just 106th in the nation in passing.

    "They're still a run-first offense," Herbstreit said. "He's still facing eight, sometimes nine-man fronts. That's why I really appreciate what he's accomplished, maybe more than some of the others."

    Benson's 1,438 yards are a career-high and his average of two touchdowns per game leads the nation in scoring. He ranks fourth with 159.8 yards per game for the sixth-ranked Longhorns (8-1).

    But he's also just one of several players having standout years. The Heisman race is so cluttered this season that some outstanding players inevitably will be left out of the awards ceremony.

    If Benson is left to cherish his career marks rather than a trophy, he will have plenty to be proud of. There are few players in NCAA history who can match what he's done at Texas.


    He's only the fifth player to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons. His 5,144 career yards ranks ninth in NCAA Division I-A.

    By rushing for his average in the final two regular-season games and Texas' bowl game, he could finish as high as fourth, passing Heisman winners Archie Griffin (1974-75), Herschel Walker (1982) and Charles White (1979).

    He's already tied the NCAA career mark for games with a rushing touchdown (35) and his 62 career rushing TDs ranks fifth.

    -11-11-2004, 10:14 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Texas Itching to End Sooners' Winning Streak
    by DJRamFan
    Longhorns looking for first win in six tries

    Oct. 3, 2005

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - After all the talk about beating Oklahoma and possibly ending the losing streak, this is the week the No. 2 Texas Longhorns finally get their chance to do it.

    This year's Texas-Oklahoma matchup in Dallas is the 100th anniversary in a bitter border rivalry that has Longhorns fans more interested in its ugly recent history than its glorious distant past.

    "We owe them one," Texas senior offensive tackle Jonathan Scott said before the season started.

    Make that several.

    Texas (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) hasn't beaten the Sooners (2-2, 1-0) since 1999, when Major Applewhite rallied the Longhorns from an early 17-0 deficit for a 38-28 victory. It was Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' first season in Norman and his only loss to Texas' Mack Brown.

    The Red River Rivalry has been all-Oklahoma since.

    In 2000, it was a 63-14 romp that catapulted a developing Sooners program toward a national title. In 2003, it was another Oklahoma rout - 65-13 - that was Texas quarterback Vince Young's baptism by fire. Oklahoma thumped Texas again last year 12-0, the first time Texas had been shut out since 1980.

    The Sooners' five-game winning streak has embarrassed the Longhorns and frustrated Brown's quest for his first conference title as a head coach.

    So what makes Longhorns fans think this year can be different? Chalk it up to changes on both sides of the Red River.

    Texas entered the season ranked No. 2 coming off its Rose Bowl win over Michigan and solidified its standing as a national title favorite with a 25-22 win at Ohio State on Sept. 10.

    Young's leadership, the emergence of freshman tailback Jamaal Charles and the dominating play of a veteran defense give this year's Texas team an aura of toughness it hasn't had in recent years.

    And Oklahoma is struggling. The departure of key players off last year's national title-game team, the hit-and-miss play of freshman quarterback Rhett Bomar and two early losses to TCU and UCLA make the Sooners appear ripe for their first loss in Dallas in the new century.

    Oh, and sophomore running back Adrian Peterson is banged up. He left the Sooners' 43-21 win over Kansas State on Saturday night in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Stoops said after the game that Peterson will be OK to play against Texas.

    Bomar hasn't played in this rivalry, yet hardly sounds nervous about what he might face in a game that has created nearly as many goats as heroes of late.

    "This team, when it comes to the Texas game, we have confidence. We have that swagger," Bomar said. "A lot of people might count us out just like that, but we're going to go down there with all...
    -10-03-2005, 04:21 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Texas still burned by Arkansas celebration
    by DJRamFan
    Posted: Wednesday September 8, 2004 2:40AM; Updated: Wednesday September 8, 2004 2:40AM

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas still remembers Arkansas' players prancing all over the field, waving their state flag in the end zone and digging up pieces of the turf after the Razorbacks beat the Longhorns 38-28 last season.

    The underdog Razorbacks had snapped Texas' 20-game winning streak at Royal Memorial Stadium and several players flashed upside-down horns signs for cameras.

    "I thought it was pretty disrespectful the way they celebrated on the field," Texas receiver Tony Jeffery said. "That's one image that I carry around with me ... we want to win at all costs."

    Emotions run high in an old-school rivalry that dates to the glory days of the old Southwest Conference. The No. 7 Longhorns (1-0) and Razorbacks (1-0) meet again Saturday night in Fayetteville in the 35th anniversary of their classic 1969 "Big Shootout" that Texas won 15-14.

    Texas safety Phillip Geiggar said the Longhorns were steamed by last year's loss and the postgame celebration that took on an air of mockery.

    "That made us even more mad," he said. "But you know, we couldn't do nothing. They came in here and beat us in our own house."

    Old-timers remember Texas vs. Arkansas as a blood feud between border rivals that regularly decided the conference champion when Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles roamed the sidelines for the Longhorns and Razorbacks.

    In 1969, Texas was No. 1 and Arkansas No. 2. President Nixon came to the game and declared Texas national champions after the Longhorns' victory, a game that still evokes pride in Austin and bitter disappointment in Fayetteville.

    Most of that history is lost on today's players, said Texas coach Mack Brown.

    "I don't think they understand the '69 game," said Brown, who recalled watching it on television at home in Tennessee. "I'm sure their parents probably do."

    Last year, Brown tried to drill into his players the intensity of the rivalry.

    Longhorns players kept a picture of Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt giving the upside-down horns in their locker room. Speeches were made and players were urged to be ready to take Arkansas' best shot.

    None of it worked as Arkansas pushed Texas around the field. The Razorbacks rushed for 265 yards and made big play after big play to earn their post-game celebration.

    Texas players say they're more concerned about recent history. Last season's loss ruined Texas' national title hopes early.

    "That's the only memory I need," Texas defensive tackle Rod Wright said. "They beat us when we had a winning streak going. They ran the ball down our throats."

    Texas players say...
    -09-09-2004, 10:14 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Oklahoma, Auburn Stumble In Openers
    by DJRamFan
    Top 25 teams tumble in first weekend

    Sept. 4, 2005

    AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Bob Stoops found much to dislike in Oklahoma's season-opening performance. No consistent running game. Poor pass protection. Errant throws.

    And in the interest of fairness, he said the coaching also left something to be desired in a 17-10 loss to TCU on Saturday.

    "They outplayed us and outcoached us as a whole," the Sooners coach said Sunday.

    No team understands his pain better than Auburn. The 16th-ranked Tigers also stumbled out of the gates with a 23-14 loss to Georgia Tech.

    The two teams who spent the end of last season jockeying for the right to play Southern California for the national title likely want no part of the top-ranked Trojans at the moment.

    For Auburn, it was a turnover- and mistake-filled end to a 15-game winning streak that trailed only USC and Utah among active streaks. Keeping the season from going downhill was more on the team's mind in the locker room than the streak.

    "The winning streak, that was something we obviously all looked at," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It's something we didn't harp on. It's been awhile since we lost a game, and it was good to see the seniors stand up and say a few words after the game (instead of) having their heads down."

    It's no real surprise that the offenses at both Oklahoma and Auburn sputtered against decent - though unranked - opening competition. Both were replacing terrific and seasoned quarterbacks in the Sooners' Jason White and the Tigers' Jason Campbell, White a Heisman Trophy winner and Campbell a first-round NFL draft pick.

    With the defenses gearing up to force Auburn's Brandon Cox and Oklahoma's Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar to beat them through the air, neither team mustered much of a running game. Something that was seldom a problem for either offense last season.

    The result: Cox turned it over on the Tigers' final five drives, with four interceptions and a fumble.

    Thompson completed 11 of 26 passes for 109 yards with an interception for Oklahoma. Bomar was 2-for-5 for 19 yards.

    Not even the Sooners' super sophomore Adrian Peterson could produce anything on the ground. The Heisman runner-up ran for only 63 yards after setting an NCAA freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards.

    What went wrong? Good question, Stoops said.

    "It might be the attitude and discipline we came out and played with," he said. "Or it could be the play-calling. It really is hard to put your finger on it."

    Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek offered a blunt assessment.

    "We never got tough, and we never had the attitude we needed to win," said Dvoracek, one of the team's four...
    -09-05-2005, 08:17 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Texas coach declares Oklahoma is better than last year
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 10, 2004 wire reports

    DALLAS -- Texas coach Mack Brown thinks this Oklahoma squad might just be better than the one that dominated his team a year ago.


    The reason wasn't the score -- the second-ranked Sooners beat the Longhorns 12-0 on Saturday, compared with a 65-13 blowout last season. Rather, it was the abundance of talent for Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) that made the biggest impression on Brown.

    Quarterback Jason White, last year's Heisman Trophy winner, threw for just 113 yards and no touchdowns while getting picked off twice. And it was more than enough for the Sooners, thanks to 225 yards rushing on 32 carries by dynamic freshman running back Adrian Peterson.

    "Jason's such a great player and he's been around so long, we felt like we had to give him a lot of different looks and try to change up," Brown said. "Where they're so much better in some ways than they even were last year is they have the ability to run the ball now, so it's really hard to get pressure on him."

    At the end of last season, pressure was the best strategy to beat Oklahoma. Kansas State and LSU blitzed White endlessly and it cost the Sooners the Big 12 title and the national championship.

    But with Peterson in the backfield, it's no longer possible for teams to forget the run and focus on White. While Peterson never made it into the end zone against the Longhorns (4-1, 1-1), he put the Sooners in scoring position.

    "I guess he was the difference maker," Longhorns cornerback Michael Huff said.

    With Peterson emerging as Oklahoma's primary back, coach Bob Stoops is able to use Kejuan Jones as a change of pace. The junior, who bulked up to 200 pounds in the offseason, once excelled as a goal-line back for the Sooners but inherited the starter's role when Quentin Griffin departed.

    Jones had 63 yards and a touchdown against Texas.

    "We expected to be able to run the football, and it wasn't just Adrian," Stoops said. "I think our offensive line and the way they played are all part of running the ball. We're improving with it."

    The Sooners' defense also had its best performance of the season, holding Cedric Benson to 92 yards and shutting out a Texas team that hadn't been held scoreless since 1980.

    Oklahoma came up with three turnovers, including two in its own territory, and twice sacked Texas quarterback Vince Young to knock the Longhorns out of field-goal range.

    "I thought defensively, maybe not too many people recognize or give those guys much credit," Stoops said. "I felt all along we were on the verge of really playing well defensively."

    Stoops said he believed the rivalry game in the past had been a helpful boost...
    -10-11-2004, 01:40 PM