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Is it end of road for UT's streak?

History tells us that the Longhorns may be due for a loss in Lubbock.

Friday, October 27, 2006

In coach Mack Brown's tenure at Texas, the road losses have been so infrequent, you can count them on one hand plus one finger.

There were the consecutive away losses to UCLA and Kansas State in mid-September of 1998, back when Brown was trying to lift a fallen program. Texas Tech then handed the Longhorns a late November defeat, scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Deborah Cannon

Texas Tech players celebrate after defeating Texas four years ago. There are several similarities this year to that game in 2002.

Texas A&M eased past the Longhorns in 1999, with the Aggies dedicating the victory to the dozen people who died in the bonfire collapse. Stanford upset Texas in 2000 to avenge a 42-point blowout from the season before. Then the Red Raiders blew past Texas in 2002 to celebrate Tech's senior night in Lubbock.

That's it.

"Now that's a stat I can't explain," Texas offensive guard Kasey Studdard said this week.

Coming into Saturday's game against Texas Tech in Lubbock, the Longhorns have won 16 straight non-neutral site road games and 28 of their past 29. The string dates back to four years ago in Lubbock.

There's not a ready secret to the Longhorns' road-warrior formula. The team rides on a chartered plane to the site of the game the afternoon before. The players have a walk-through practice in the stadium, then adjourn to their hotel. Since the Tech game is set for a 6 p.m. kickoff, players will have time to see a movie tonight after meetings and a team dinner.

"There was a time, back when I was playing, when you couldn't even smile," Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said of road trips. "Ours is much more business-like, but it's relaxed."

Once the team arrives in the stadium on game day, the Longhorns say they thrive on the noise from fans cheering against them.

"There's so much energy in the stadiums," said offensive guard Justin Blalock. "You have to embrace the energy."

Southern California is embracing the energy, too, with a nation's best 19-game active road streak. West Virginia is riding an eight-game streak; Notre Dame is at seven, while Louisville and Ohio State are at six.

After a 22-20 victory over Nebraska, the Longhorns are coming off their most miserable Saturday on the road during Brown's stay in Austin. The last time Texas experienced such chill and snow was in November of 2000, when Texas knocked off Kansas 51-16. There were only a smattering of fans that day in Lawrence willing to contend with the conditions. There were more than 85,000 on Saturday in Lincoln.

So far, Texas Tech is the only team to beat Texas twice on the road during Brown's tenure. And the wins have come every four years in Lubbock.

That brings us to Saturday's game. History tells us a Tech win is imminent, and the week leading up to the game has been oddly similar to the one four years ago.

In 2002, Texas also played Nebraska on the road before taking on Tech. That year, the Longhorns needed a big defensive stand to hold off the Huskers 27-24.

Just like four years ago, the Longhorns have compiled an extensive injury list, including losing defensive tackle Derek Lokey to a broken leg. Coming into Lubbock four years ago, Texas, then ranked fourth nationally, left half of its injury-depleted defensive line in Austin, then lost two more starters during the game.

The Longhorns' last scoring threat in the 42-38 loss was thwarted when Tech intercepted Chris Simms' pass after intended receiver B.J. Johnson was knocked off his route. Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury then ran the remaining 5 minutes, 21 seconds off the clock. Injuries had so riddled the defense that the Longhorns had eight freshmen on the field for Tech's last series.

Hundreds of Tech fans swarmed the field to celebrate the victory, and Texas players had a difficult time trotting to the locker room. Tech had dozens of officers standing on the sidelines to prevent the swarm, but they could do nothing to quell the crowd.

The field crew quickly pulled down both sets of goal posts before the Tech students could reach them.

Since then, Texas has fielded superior teams on the road. And that really is the secret to success. Plus, the Longhorns are taught to ignore the taunts.

"We enjoy it more when we're the hated team," said offensive tackle Tony Hills.; 445-3954

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jones Stadium, Lubbock

Records: Texas is 7-1 (4-0 Big 12); Texas Tech is 5-3, (2-2).


Radio: KVET (1300 AM, 98.1 FM); ESPN Deportes (1260 AM, Spanish)

Last meeting: Texas won 52-17 last season

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