AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- When their big playmaker went down, the
Texas Longhorns (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) turned to their workhorse.
Sophomore tailback Cedric Benson churned out 160 yards on 37 carries and Chris Simms passed for two touchdowns as Texas overcame an injury to receiver Roy Williams in a steady 41-11 win Saturday night over Houston.
It was Benson's second straight game with more than 30 carries. His durability became vitally important when Williams, the Longhorns' best receiver and biggest scoring threat, left in the first quarter with a strained hamstring.
With Benson grabbing up chunks of yardage, the Longhorns (3-0) held onto the ball for more than 39 minutes. Even at just 205 pounds, Benson said he can take the pounding.
"I don't believe in too much (work),'' Benson said.
Coach Mack Brown didn't know how many times Benson carried the ball until he read the box score.
"How many did he have? Thirty-seven?'' Brown asked. "We like to have our tailback get that many.
"We talked to our offense about playing defense with time of possession,'' Brown said.
Beau Trahan scored a touchdown on a fake field goal, and Michael
Huff returned an interception for a TD for the Longhorns, who beat
their old Southwest Conference rivals for the seventh straight time.
"They have so many weapons,'' Houston coach Dana Dimel said.
"They have a lot of players who can beat you in a lot of ways.''
Texas has outscored the Cougars (2-2) 142-37 over the last three
years. Although much improved over last season's 0-11 effort,
Houston managed just 152 yards of total offense.
Simms was sharp for the third straight game, completing 20 of 30
passes for 233 yards.
He also made the defensive play of the game with a
touchdown-saving tackle after his first interception of the season.
Simms and Williams hooked up early for Texas' first touchdown.
Williams grabbed a short pass on the sideline, made three defenders
miss and used a burst of speed to get to the end zone.
Williams nearly scored again on the next drive but pulled up
clutching his right hamstring after dropping a ball in the end
Trahan's fake field goal made it 14-0. The holder for place
kicks, Trahan took the snap and ran 24 yards through a hole in the
middle of the line as kicker Dusty Mangum carried out the fake.
When Simms needed to throw, he usually found wide receiver Sloan
Thomas wide open. Thomas had just one catch in Texas' first two
games but finished with six for 87 yards and a touchdown Saturday
Benson, who had 208 yards the week before against North
Carolina, had 97 by halftime against the Cougars.
His 1-yard TD in the second quarter made it 21-3, and Texas
increased the lead to 28-3 nine seconds later. Dakarai Pearson
intercepted a tipped pass, returned it to the Houston 25, and Simms
hit Thomas for the score the next play.
"People are going to start to realize Sloan Thomas is a
flat-out player,'' Simms said. "He can run with the best of them.
He sometimes gets overlooked.''
Simms threw his first interception of the season in the second
Houston's Victor Malone snared a bobbled pass from Tony Jeffery deep in Cougars territory. Malone appeared to have a clear path to the end zone, but Simms took a good angle and cut him down at the knees on the Texas 19. The Cougars had to settle for a field goal and never grabbed the momentum.
The Cougars managed just eight first downs and finally got into the end zone on Nick Eddy's 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 31-11. Huff's 27-yard interception return in the fourth capped the scoring.
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