11-1-07 - It's been an up-and-down season for Texas running back Jamaal Charles. The same could be said for the No. 14 Longhorns, who entered the season as the fourth-ranked team in the country but got off to a dismal start in Big 12 play.
Both Charles and the Longhorns, however, appear to have rebounded from their midseason swoons. They'll go for their fourth straight win when they visit Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Charles ran for at least 100 yards in each of Texas' first three games - all victories - and averaged 133.0 yards per game in that stretch. In the next five games, however, he averaged just 64.6 yards.
The Longhorns (7-2, 3-2) lost twice while Charles struggled, dropping their Big 12 opener at home against Kansas State 41-21 on Sept. 29, and falling 28-21 to then-No. 10 Oklahoma the following week. Texas' first 0-2 start in conference play since 1956 all but ended the Longhorns' dreams of a second national championship in three years.
Texas has since rebounded with three straight victories, thanks in part to a career day from Charles last Saturday. Charles snapped out of his funk with 290 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries as the Longhorns overcame a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to take a 28-25 win over Nebraska.
Charles shattered his previous career high of 189 yards, and recorded the fourth-highest rushing total in Texas history. With 216 yards in the fourth quarter, Charles fell six short of the NCAA record for one period set by Washington's Corey Dillon in 1996.
"It was my time," Charles said. "It was my time to show everybody what I can do."
The Longhorns are 8-0 when Charles reaches the century mark, including 4-0 this season.
"It's a game I needed Jamaal to have," said coach Mack Brown. "I think what we can say is Jamaal's had a great year, done a great job, and what a great back instead of talking about all the negatives that he's done. What a great performance."
After falling as low as No. 23, the Longhorns have moved back into the top 15 with their current win streak, but the Cowboys (5-3, 3-1) will be their first opponent with a winning record since they lost to the Sooners on Oct. 6. Texas is 1-2 against teams that currently have winning records - its lone victory came 35-32 over Central Florida on Sept. 15.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, have had two weeks to prepare for the Longhorns after getting their third win in eight games against ranked teams under coach Mike Gundy.
On Oct. 20, they beat then-No. 25 Kansas State 41-39 on Jason Ricks' 26-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining. Oklahoma State improved to 4-0 at home, where it's averaging 42.8 points compared to just 26.3 on the road.
Dantrell Savage ran for 124 yards on 28 carries against Kansas State - his fifth straight 100-yard effort since returning from groin and abdomen injuries that kept him out of two of the Cowboys' first three games. He leads the Big 12 with 124.3 yards per game - 10th-most in the nation.
Charles is the only other back in the conference averaging more than 100.
"I think Dantrell makes a big difference," Gundy said. "When he is healthy, he obviously provides us something on offense that we need. He gives (running back Kendall Hunter) an opportunity to stay fresh and obviously Dantrell can make plays."
"When he is up and running full speed we are a different team. If he is not full speed, then we are not the same offense."
Savage managed only six yards on four carries in Oklahoma State's 36-10 loss to Texas last Nov. 4 - his only career game against the Longhorns.
Charles had 67 yards on 21 carries in that game, and has a total of 87 yards on 28 carries in two career games against the Cowboys.
Texas has won nine straight in the series since Oklahoma State's 42-16 victory in Stillwater on Oct. 4, 1997. The Longhorns are 19-2 all-time against the Cowboys, with their only other loss a 13-8 home defeat on Nov. 11, 1944.