Texas keeps BCS at-large bid alive

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 29, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Moments after Texas beat Texas A&M, Longhorns coach Mack Brown was busying lobbying for an at-large bid to the Bowl Championship Series.

''If you've got a vote, vote for us,'' Brown said, pleading directly to voters in The Associated Press writers poll. ''I'm asking you to do that and I'm asking everyone across the nation. This team deserves to be in the BCS. They deserve to go more than some teams that are being talked about.''

On Friday, No. 6 Texas (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) guaranteed at least another week of arguing over just who belongs in the BCS, beating Texas A&M 26-13. Cedric Benson ran for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Longhorns' fifth straight victory over the Aggies.

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Texas, which lost out on the BCS last year when Kansas State beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, could get its first BCS bid if the Longhorns get a big enough boost in the standings to pass fourth-place California.

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

And Boise State could ruin the party for both of them. If the Broncos creep 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.

In other games Friday, No. 14 LSU beat Arkansas 43-14, Arizona edged No. 18 Arizona State 34-27 and Colorado beat Nebraska 26-20

Texas A&M had a 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the final minute of first half for a 13-6 lead, but Texas seized the momentum just four plays into the third quarter when the Longhorns blocked a punt for a touchdown.

''We knew we had to get momentum back. That was huge,'' said linebacker Derrick Johnson, who had eight tackles and a sack. ''The posse came up with a big play.''

That's when things got a little weird.

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

The 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 it at 13 and deflated A&M.

''I'm a little embarrassed. I didn't know that was a rule,'' Brown said.

Nordgren's hands were better on Mangum's next two kicks, field goals of 44 and 52 yards that gave Texas a 19-13 lead.

The Longhorns took complete control in the fourth, harassing elusive A&M quarterback Reggie 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.

''They were hitting me more than I expected or wanted,'' said McNeal, who passed for 247 yards.

With Benson pounding out yards between the tackles and Young stretching the Aggies' defense with the option, the Longhorns drove 88 yards to the 1 before Benson smashed the ball in for the final TD.

''Benson is a physical runner that gives great effort,'' A&M coach Dennis Franchione said. ''He got stronger as the game went on.''

Even with the loss, the Aggies rebounded from last season's 4-8 finish to become bowl eligible against the toughest schedule in the nation. Three of their four losses have come against teams ranked in the top six.

No. 14 LSU 43,

Arkansas 14

At Little Rock, Ark., LSU's Marcus Randall ran for two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Joseph Addai.

Randall was 10-for-14 for 173 yards and had 79 yards rushing. Alley Broussard added 81 yards rushing for the Tigers (9-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference). The loss kept the Razorbacks (5-6, 3-5) from qualifying for a seventh consecutive bowl game.

Arizona 34,

No. 18 Arizona St. 27

At Tucson, Ariz., Richard Kovalcheck threw three touchdown passes - two to Mike Jefferson - and Arizona turned five takeaways into 24 points.

Mike Bell ran for 139 yards for the Wildcats (3-8, 2-6 Pac-10).

The Sun Devils' Andrew Walter, the Pac-10 leader with 85 career TD passes, left with a shoulder injury with 7:30 remaining and Arizona State (8-3, 5-3) down 34-20.

Colorado 26,

Nebraska 20

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Bobby Purify ran for 130 yards and a TD to help Colorado stay alive in the Big 12 North and send Nebraska to its first losing season in 43 years.

Colorado (7-4, 4-4) needs Missouri to win at Iowa State on Saturday to advance to the Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma.

The Cornhuskers (5-6, 3-5) ended the season with four losses in five games under new coach Bill Callahan. Nebraska's worst season since 1961 also snapped the Huskers' NCAA record of 35 consecutive years with a bowl appearance.