Schoolgirls Outrun Matthew McConaughey

04/03/2006 at 03:40 PM EDT

Schoolgirls Outrun Matthew McConaughey
Humberto Carreno/Startraks
For PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive Matthew McConaughey, this past week has offered some cases of win some, lose some.

First, the lose some. On location in Huntington, W.Va., where he is filming We Are Marshall, a drama about a 1970 plane crash that claimed the lives of nearly an entire college football team, McConaughey was jogging around the Marshall University track when two middle-school girls challenged him to a 400-meter race.

Never one to resist a contest, McConaughey accepted – and was beaten by a nose. Asked at a press conference on Saturday about the incident, McConaughey laughed: "Those little girls had very, very long legs."

Now, the win some. McConaughey is better looking that the real-life character he is portraying onscreen, former Marshall football coach Jack Lengyel, according to Lengyel himself who told the Associated Press: "I've never looked like Matthew McConaughey – before or after."

To prove his argument, Lengyel admitted that he won first place in an "ugliest man on campus" contest while attending Akron University in the 1950s.

As for why he would make such an admission, the retired coach said: "I've been taking so much heat on Matthew, I decided to come out with that story to counterbalance it."

Though McConaughey doesn't look the part, Lengyel said he's spoken with actor about the story behind the film, and is sure he'll do it justice. "He has recognized that this story is symbolic of faith, commitment and determination," said Lengyel, who was hired by Marshall in March 1971, four months after the team's chartered jet crashed into a hill short of Tri-State Airport, killing 75 people, including 36 football players.

As for how he feels about the role, "It's a great honor to be stepping into the shoes of someone like Jack Lengyel," said McConaughey. "It is very inspiring."

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