Scores
COTTON BOWL

Final

(9) Texas 35

(11-2, 6-2 Big 12)

LSU 20

(8-5, 5-3 SEC)

11:00 AM ET, January 1, 2003

1 2 3 4 T
#9TEX 7 14 7 735
LSU 10 7 0 320

Simms exorcises demons in Cotton Bowl win

SBC Cotton Bowl coverage

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

Lee Jackson

Lee Jackson returns a fumble 46 yards for a TD.

NFL teams might hope he rethinks his decision.

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

"He might be the best football player I've seen all year,'' Tigers 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 alone had 142 on four catches.

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

The Texas offense had gone nowhere on two possessions despite having all its top skill players healthy 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 bullet pass from Chris Simms in stride and ran away to an easy score.

The next time Simms threw to Williams, he made a nice catch in traffic and raced toward the end zone, but was shoved out of bounds at the 5-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 5; it couldn't stop him from lunging across the goal line.

Ivan Williams caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Simms early in the fourth quarter, giving Texas a spurt of 28 unanswered points. It would have been more if not for two missed field goals.

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

This was a nice farewell for Simms, who leaves 26-6 as a starter. He has the second-most wins in school history and leaves with the best completion percentage, highest efficiency rating and probably most criticism received.

His worst games came in Dallas, especially at this stadium. Texas ended a five-game losing streak in the area, including four straight losses at the Cotton Bowl, all of which he played in and three of which he started. The game was sponsored by SBC.

"I get to walk in here with a smile on my face for once,'' Simms said as he entered the interview room. "It's about time, too.''

The Longhorns have consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time and most likely will have consecutive Top 10 season finishes for the first time since 1977-78. It also was the 40th win for the Simms-led 1999 recruiting class that came in hailed as the nation's best.

For LSU, this was the second straight time it wasted a 17-7 lead. Last time it cost them a chance to reach the SEC championship game. This time it ended a streak of five straight bowl wins.

Quarterback Marcus Randall started strong, producing 10 first-quarter points against a defense that had allowed a national-best 16 in the quarter all season. His only mistake was the fumble that turned into Texas' first score.

Randall opened the second quarter with a 76-yard run that was the team's longest play of the season -- one more than his famous desperation pass that beat Kentucky. Domanick Davis capped that drive with a 3-yard TD run.

But the Tigers didn't score again until the fourth quarter. Randall struggled, fumbling again and throwing an interception, both deep in Texas territory, and LSU had a failed field goal attempt.

"We left a lot out there,'' Saban said.

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