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September 1, 2007

Texas struggles to put away Arkansas State

AUSTIN, Texas - Colt McCoy threw two first-quarter touchdown passes and No. 4 Texas stumbled through a sloppy 21-13 season-opening win over Arkansas State on Saturday night, narrowly avoiding yet another huge upset on the day.

Most considered the Longhorns overwhelming favorites but they didn't have this one wrapped up until Brandon Foster recovered an onside kick with less than a minute to play, and that came after the Indians were forced to re-kick because of a penalty that negated an onsider they recovered.

Texas hopes to contend for the Big 12 and national titles, but will first have to shore up a defense that allowed Arkansas State (0-1) to grind out long drives and break off big plays. The Longhorns' short-yardage running game that all but disappeared last season is still missing.

About the only thing that looked solid for Texas was the normally reliable pass-catch combination of McCoy to Limas Sweed. But even they cooled off after a 35-yard TD pass on Texas' first drive.

Arkansas State trailed the entire game yet had its chances to pull off the upset. If not for two missed field goals and an interception in the end zone, the Indians could have done the unthinkable and won it.

Reggie Arnold's 2-yard touchdown run with 1 minute left cut the Texas lead to eight.

After an illegal formation penalty wiped out Arkansas State's first onside kick, Foster scooped it the next one and the Longhorns avoided becoming the second top-five team to get embarrassed at home. Fifth-ranked Michigan lost 34-32 by Appalachian State earlier in the day.

McCoy finished with 223 yards passing and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions and had three more passes dropped by Indians defenders.

Corey Leonard passed for 259 yards for Arkansas State. Josh Arauco kicked field goals of 45 and 28 yards.

Arkansas State, outgained Texas 397 yards to 340, drove inside the 20 four times without scoring any points and dropped three easy interceptions when the game was still within reach.

Defensively, the new-look Longhorns - with new co-coordinator Duane Akina calling the plays and a secondary with three new starters - looked lost as Arkansas State mixed the run and pass.

Even McCoy was shaky. After hitting his first eight passes, he started misfiring with the interceptions and never looked sharp.

Texas struggled in just about every phase. Sweed hauled in a pass at the Arkansas State 3 but Texas couldn't punch it in on four runs and turned the ball over at the 1.

The Longhorns finally appeared to put it away when Jamaal Charles, who managed to grind out 112 yards on 27 carries, scored from the 10 midway through the third for a 21-3 lead.

Arkansas State then drove to the Texas 17 before Leonard dropped the snap on fourth-and-1, killing yet another Indians drive inside the Longhorns 20.

For more coverage of the Texas Longhorns, check out Orangebloods.com.

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