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On a roll on the road

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 consecutive away losses to UCLA and Kansas State in mid September 1998. Texas Tech then handed the Longhorns a late November defeat, scoring 22 in the fourth quarter.

Texas A&M eased past the Longhorns in 1999. Stanford upset Texas in 2000. Then the Red Raiders blew past Texas in 2002.

That's it.

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

Coming into today's game against Texas Tech in Lubbock, the No. 5 Longhorns have won 16 straight non-neutral site road games and 28 of their past 29.

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 go to the hotel. Since the Tech game is late, players had time for a movie Friday after meetings and a team dinner.

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

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

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

Other active road win streaks: Southern Cal, 19; West Virginia, eight; Notre Dame, seven; Louisville and Ohio State, six.

After a 22-20 victory over Nebraska, the Longhorns are coming off their most miserable Saturday on the road during Brown's tenure. That brings us to today's game. History tells us a Tech win is imminent, and the week leading up to the game has been oddly similar to four years ago.

In 2002, Texas also played at Nebraska before facing Tech. That year, the Longhorns needed a big defensive stand to win 27-24.

Just like four years ago, the Longhorns have an extensive injury list. Coming into Lubbock four years ago, Texas, then ranked fourth, 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 5:21 off the clock. The injury-riddled Longhorns had nine freshmen on the field for Tech's last series.

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

"We enjoy it more so when we're the hated team," offensive tackle Tony Hills said.

Taking a bite out of Tide

Smokey IX, the 3-year-old bluetick coonhound mascot, remains on Tennessee's roster despite last week's pregame run-in with an Alabama receiver. Mike McCoy landed on a startled Smokey on the sideline and ended up with a hole in his pants. "Now what dog worth his salt wouldn't defend himself?'' said Smokey's owner, Earl Hudson. McCoy played, but UT won 16-13. The Vols travel to South Carolina today, and Smokey remains on the travel roster. Wonder if the Head Ball Coach has something special for Smokey, like a Milk Bone mickey?

By the numbers

5 Teams that have been ranked second ahead of Southern Cal this season - Notre Dame, Texas, Auburn, Florida and now Michigan.

6 Consecutive wins by Auburn at Oxford, Miss.

7 Freshmen expected to start for FIU at Alabama today when the Panthers will be missing 18 players (nine starters) after the brawl in the Oct. 14 game against Miami.

8 Games without a bye week for Georgia, which last enjoyed a bye before the Florida game in 1991. The Gators face the Bulldogs after a bye for the 13th time in 14 years.

17 Tackles Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny needs to tie Greg Buttle's school career record of 343.

30.4 Oklahoma State's nation-leading yards on kick returns. Today's foe, Nebraska, allowed big returns the past two weeks - a 78-yarder by Texas' Quan Cosby and a 39-yarder by Kansas State's Justin McKinney.

2-11 The combined league mark of SEC teams South Carolina has beaten this season (Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt), though SC coach Steve Spurrier says, "There's a lot of guys out there that'd love to be (5-2) going into their last five.''

Compiled by Times staff writer John Strickhouser using information from the Associated Press, Cox News Service and McClatchy Newspapers.

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