Texas beats LSU, 35-20, in 67th SBC Cotton Bowl ClassicDALLAS, Texas (Jan. 1, 2003) Ð Quarterback Chris Simms and split end Roy Williams gave the most memorable performances and an opportunistic Longhorn defense saved the day by forcing three turnovers, carrying Texas to a 35-20 victory over LSU in the 67th SBC Cotton Bowl Classic on a sunny New Year’s Day before a capacity crowd of 70,817.
In the first meeting between the schools since the 1963 Cotton Bowl Classic, LSU (8-5) seemed on the verge of a runaway in the opening period, holding Texas (11-2) to only three offensive plays and no first downs.
But Texas end Cory Redding, chosen the Classic’s Most Valuable Defensive Player, changed the tone with just under four minutes left in the quarter, separating Tigers quarterback Marcus Randall from the football at the UT 46. Longhorn linebacker Lee Jackson scooped up the loose football and ran untouched for 54 yards and a score Ð the first touchdown following a covered fumble in SBC Classic history Ð to give the Longhorns a 7-3 lead with 3:49 left in the quarter.
“Cory Redding made a great play to keep us in the game,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team made school history by posting back-to-back 11-win seasons. “We hadn’t done anything to that point.”
LSU responded with two touchdowns and held a 17-7 advantage with 12:04 left in the first half. But Simms and Williams combined to get the Texas offense untracked before intermission.
Simms, who completed 15 of 28 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, accounted for Texas’ initial first down early on the second quarter, hitting David Thomas for 23 yards. On the next play, he hooked up with Williams on a 51-yard scoring play with 11:24 remaining in the half.
“Roy Williams might be the best football player we’ve seen all year,” LSU coach Nick Saban said. “The first two times we didn’t double him and roll up and have someone over the top of him, he scored touchdowns. He’s an outstanding player, and he has toughness and competes the whole game.
The turnovers and the three big plays that Roy Williams made were a big difference in the game.”
Williams, a junior from Odessa, Texas, was chosen the Most Valuable Offensive Player after catching four passes for 142 yards and one touchdown and carrying once on an end-around for 39 yards and a score. Williams extended his school record to 34 games with at least one catch with his 51-yard touchdown second quarter reception.
“As long as I was back there, with the opportunity to throw the ball and No. 4 (Williams) is catching them, we’ve always got a chance,” Simms said. “That guy is so good it’s ridiculous.”
The victory was particularly sweet for Simms, who had been involved in five losses Ð including two regular-season heartbreakers against the University of Oklahoma -- on the same field. Simms completed his UT career tied with Marty Akins with 26 victories as a starting quarterback Ð second only to Hall of Famer Bobby Layne.
“This was really emotional,” Simms said. “The ball had never bounced our way in this stadium. Our fear of walking off the field a loser really motivated us. I’m very happy to be taking off my jersey a winner.”
For LSU, Randall attempted an SBC Classic record 45 passes, surpassing the previous high of 37 by Pittsburgh’s Dan Marino and Boston College’s Doug Flutie. He had 19 completions for 193 yards and one touchdown. He also escaped for 76 yards on a quarterback draw to the Texas 14 on the Tigers’ first possession of the second quarter.
“We came out trying to get things rolling early, and we did that. We moved the ball on them three times in a row,” Randall said. “After the first half, we just couldn’t get things rolling the way we did in the first half.”
From 21-17 at halftime, Texas boosted its lead to 28-17 after three quarters, with Williams providing the score on a 39-yard reverse. During the quarter, Randle fumbled at the UT 33 and later had a pass intercepted at the UT 21.
Simms threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Ivan Williams with 9:58 to play.
“It seems like my whole career has come full circle,” Redding said. “We lost to Arkansas here (in the SBC Cotton Bowl Classic) my freshman year. Now, here we are back in my senior year, and this is the perfect way for me to go out with this big win.”