Wednesday, January 1st, 2003
Most Valuable Player -- Offense, Texas WR Roy WilliamsTexas wide receiver Roy Williams gave Longhorn fans an early Christmas present on December 20 by announcing his decision to stay at UT for his senior season instead of opting early for the NFL. On January 1 in the 67th annual SBC Cotton Bowl Classic, Williams was still delivering gifts to the Texas faithful.
With a post play here, a reverse there and a stiff arm for good measure, the 6-foot-4 210-pounder from Odessa, Texas, befuddled his way through the LSU defense for three big plays and two touchdowns to lead his team to a 35-20 victory before a Cotton Bowl crowd of 70,817. The UT record-holder for receiving games hauled in 142 yards in the traditional New Year's Day contest to pick up the 12th 100-game performance of his career--including five straight this season--and the Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP award.
Williams' ability to burn his opponent on big plays has Longhorn fans rejoicing for his return ... and some opposing coaches elated they don't have to face him during his final regular season.
I told our players before the game that Roy Williams was the best football player they would play against all year, said a thoroughly convinced Nick Saban, the head coach of the LSU Tigers. Those three big plays that Roy Williams made was the difference in the game.
Williams' first highlight catchcouldn't have come at a better time for the Longhorns. Texas could only muster three offensive plays in the first quarter, but trailed only by three points thanks to a 46-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Longhorn linebacker Lee Jackson.
With the score 10-7 heading into the second quarter and with LSU holding the momentum, UT defensive backs coach Duane Akina turned to his team's star receiver on the sideline.
Coach Akina told me, 'Take the game over No. 4,'Williams recalled with a smile. And I like to be challenged.
It didn't take long for the overly competitive Williams to comply with the coach's request. With LSU leading 10-7 early in the second quarter, UT quarterback Chris found his favorite target on the second play of a Texas drive. Williams hauled in his catch, made a couple of moves against LSU's man coverage, then hit the post for 51 yards and UT's first offensive points of the game. It was the 27th career TD reception for Williams, who also holds the school record in that category.
I really do love man-to-man coverage, Williams said with a laugh. But I also think it's disrespectful when they do that because that's telling me that you think you can stop me by yourself. And I go out there with the mentality that I can't be stopped.
Indeed, it would take more than one defensive player to stop Williams in his tracks. Unfortunately for the Bengal Tigers, they didn't learn their lesson soon enough against the two-time All-Big 12 performer.
Two series later, Simms again hit Williams on a crossing pass that is bound for the UT highlight films.
I really didn't see the ball until the last second, and I thought I was going to get hit hard (after the reception), said Williams, who says he hones his game by practicing against the best cornerback every day in Rod Bavers and by emulating the moves he sees by playing video games. I stiff-armed some guys ... I really didn't mean to, but it just felt natural to do it.
The 75-yard haul equaled the second-longest reception of Williams' career and set Texas up on the 5-yard line. Sophomore running back Cedric Benson took it into the end zone two plays later to give the Longhorns the lead in the game.
Williams, who averaged an astonishing 35.5 yards-per-catch against the nation's No. 2 defense, added a 30-yard touchdown run off a reverse for good measure in the third quarter. The score gave Texas a 28-17 advantage and earned the receiver even more admiration from his head coach.
Roy played as good as any player in the country today, said Texas' Mack Brown. I think the guy will be considered for that honor (Heisman Trophy) next year.
According to Williams, it's not the potential for further accolades that fueled his decision to return for his senior season. Rather, the player who is described by Longhorns offensive coordinator Greg Davis as a mentally tough competitor says he has something to prove before he makes his NFL debut.
I don't feel like I'm the best wide receiver in the country right now. Charles Rogers and Andre Davis ... those players are the best.
I haven't done what I'm capable of. I still have some things to prove, some things to learn, to get to the next level.
Besides, I'm still a big kid who just wants to play the game.