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Benson, defense stifle Aggies

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas took care of its fiercest in-state
rival and ensured at least one more week of bickering about the
Bowl Championship Series.

Cedric Benson ran for 165 yards and a touchdown Friday to lead
Texas (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today; No. 6 AP) to a 26-13 win over No. 22 Texas A&M, the Longhorns'
fifth straight win over the Aggies.

Afterward, Texas coach Mack Brown made a passionate case for his
team to win an at-large bid in the BCS.

"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," he said. "They deserve
to go more than some teams that are being talked about."

The AP poll is one of the factors used to determine the BCS
standings.

The victory could get the Longhorns (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) their
first BCS bid if they get a big enough boost in the standings to
pass fourth-place California. Texas fans chanted "B-C-S!" after
the game.

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

And another team out West, Boise State, could ruin the party for
both of them. If Boise State creeps 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.

Whew!

As complicated as that sounds, the game itself was full of
strange and rare plays that saw momentum swing back and forth
during the first three quarters.

Quarterback Vince Young had 224 yards total and a touchdown run
for the Longhorns. His counterpart, Reggie McNeal, passed for 247
yards and a touchdown for A&M (7-4, 5-3).

The teams traded touchdowns and missed extra points in a tight
first half. Benson had 105 yards on 18 carries in the half, but one
play on which he didn't get the ball proved costly for the
Longhorns.

After driving 88 yards to the A&M 1, Texas was on the verge of
punching the ball into the end zone with less than 30 seconds left
in the half. Instead of handing off to Benson, the 6-foot-5 Young
tried to leap over the line of scrimmage.

Holding the ball in his right hand, he stretched for the goal
line and A&M's Justin Warren punched it loose. The ball bounced
right to Jonte Buhl, who scooped it up and dashed 98 yards for a
touchdown and a 13-6 Aggies lead at halftime.

The play stunned Texas, which thought Young had crossed the goal
line -- although television replays showed he didn't. Young stood
looking around while Buhl raced for the end zone and Brown grimaced on
the sideline.

Then things got really weird.

After forcing the Aggies to punt on the first possession of the
third quarter, Texas' Michael Griffin blocked the kick and Bobby
Tatum recovered it for a TD.

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

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

The ensuing 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 the game at 13.

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

Said A&M coach Dennis Franchione, "I don't know that I've ever
seen a one-point safety. That was a unique call."

Texas took a 16-13 lead on its next possession when Nordgren
held onto the snap and Mangum kicked a 44-yard field goal. With a
strong wind at his back, Mangum extended the Texas lead to 19-13
with a 52-yarder later in the third.

Texas took complete control in the fourth, harassing the elusive
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," McNeal
said.

With Benson pounding out yards between the tackles and Young
stretching the Aggies' defense with the option, the Longhorns drove
88 yards to the A&M 1. Benson got the ball this time and slammed
over the goal line to make it 26-13.

"Benson is a physical runner that gives great effort,"
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.

Benson's 10th 100-yard game this season highlighted a stellar
career in which he ranks sixth all-time among Division I-A rushers
with 5,470 yards.

After his final game in Royal-Memorial Stadium, he took a
victory lap around the field to a standing ovation from Longhorns
fans.

"I wanted to get a good look at everything my last time out,"
Benson said. "The fans made me feel really good. They came a long
way with us this season."

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