Its hard to imagine, though, facing a finer defense than the one that forced seven fumbles (recovering two) and grabbing three interceptions (returning two for touchdowns) in a front of a record 83,096 home-opening crowd at Royal-Memorial Stadium. And its hard to imagine running into (or, in this case, chasing after) a more special special teams return unit (sophomore Selvin Young scored on a 39-yard punt return after turning the tide with his 97-yard kickoff return for touchdown).
In short, it can only get better for the visiting Aggies. And the same goes for nearly ever facet of a nearly complete Texas win, its most lopsided since pasting Kansas, 59-0, in November, 2001. When everybody plays, and you get points from every phase of the game, and when Texas hangs 66 on someone for the first time since, well, the New Mexico State game in head coach Mack Browns Texas debut in September, 1998, you hate to nitpick about deficiencies. And you hardly know where to begin when its time to heap praise.
Lets just say that the defense, and both the Younguns, stole the thunder on a rain soaked Sunday night in Austin.
Its hard to believe that NMSU actually lead, 7-0, with 10:49 remaining in the second quarter after QB Paul Dombrowksi capped an 8-play, 51-yard scoring drive with his 18-yard TD run. (Things like that happen when two DBs converge on the pitchman, leaving the QB untouched, on a sprint option left play down the east sideline).
But thats when Selvin Young turned in what Brown said was the biggest play of the game. Young collected a Dario Aguiniga kickoff at the three and, 97 yards later, he was in the end zone and in the record books. It was the second longest return for TD in school history and the first regular season TD return since Johnny Lam Jones turned the trick against SMU in 1978.
"Selvins kickoff return changed the entire momentum of the ballgame," Brown said. "They had just gone up and they were really excited. It (kickoff return) took all of the air out of them. It sent a message to them that they probably werent going to win the game".
The Texas offense got on the board on its next possession with 4:24 left until intermission. QB Chance Mock engineered a six-play, 50-yard drive that culminated with RB Cedric Bensons run over right tackle to put Texas up 21-7. The key play was a 23-yard screen pass to Williams.
Spotty at first, Mock finished with a respectable 156 yards and two TDs on 7-of-15 passing and no turnovers.
"Special teams always wins games in openers," Mock said. "You can look across the country, and the teams with good special teams are usually successful in opening games. The special teams and the defense kept us in there long enough to get the offense going and get some points on the board."
Benson, however, ran hard but he didnt run far. Reminiscent of last year, the junior contributed 40 yards on 12 totes (3.3 avg; 11 long).
But Vince Youngs dazzling fourth quarter debut made everyone forget the otherwise erratic running game. From the NMSU 47, Youngs first carry was a 9-yard run over left end. His second attempt, a 7-yard QB draw, was nullified by overly sensitive officials who flagged Young 15-yards for pounding his chest and high-fiving teammates. Facing 2nd-and-18 from the visitors 39, Young rushed over right end for 23 yards. Following another personal foul penalty (this time against SE Sloan Thomas) and a Selvin Young 7-yard run, Vince carried it in from the 16 on a quarterback draw to record his first collegiate TD.
Its not just that Young can beat with his hands and with his feet, its how ridiculously effortless he makes it look. On the first play of his next series, Young lofted a perfectly timed 60-yard toss to Thomas, setting up 1st-and-goal from the six. From there, Young carried it over left end to make it 59-7.
Young actually sounded humble when he correctly stated, "They dont know whether to protect the run or the pass with me. I like to run the ball, or come back at em with a pass. It has them thinking all the time."
Were thinking the time has come for Vince to get quality first half snaps, which was actually Browns intent. Its just that Texas had only 26 snaps at halftime, and coaches wanted Mock to get additional reps at the juncture. But with Texas leading 45-7 at the end of three, its almost cruel to inflict Vince Young on an overmatched opponent.
Coaches were quick to praise both QBs, even when reporters asked specifically about Young.
"I thought Chance was really solid and played well," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said, "and then Vince came in a did a heckuva job. I was real pleased with the way both of those guys played."
Records fall like Memorial Stadium raindrops every time Roy Williams gets his hands on the ball. When Williams gathered in Mocks 15-yard flag pass with 48 seconds remaining in the first half, the Heisman candidate broke WR Herkie Walls' 22-year-old record for consecutive games with a TD catch (six). Williams also extended his own school record of consecutive games with a reception to 35.
And is there a linebacker anywhere for whom you would trade WLB Derrick Johnson? The Butkus Award semifinalists 47-yard INT return for a TD in the second quarter was his fifth career theft (tied for No. 3 all-time among UT linebackers) but it was the first time in his stellar collegiate career that he took one to the house. Johnson led all tackles with 10 stops (six solo), including one QB sack and one TFL.
Not to be outdone, SS Michael Huff snagged a QB Buck Pierce pass and returned it 55 yards for the score. Meanwhile, MLB Garnet Smith and SS Phillip Geiggar left the game with ankle injuries and did not return. The two starters will be evaluated Monday, Brown said.
On the evening, Texas totaled 384 yards (216 passing, 168 rushing) on (again) just 49 plays. The visitors generated 225 yards (150 rushing on 55 attempts, 75 passing on 8-of-15 passing and 3 INT). The Aggies controlled the clock 37:33-22:27.
Texas has an off week before facing former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas at 11 a.m. (CDT) on ABC.