With 5:23 to play before the break, following a 16-play, 76-yard drive touchdown drive, Okie State looked to have all the momentum with its 16-7 lead. But Vince Young and Roy Williams grabbed mighty mo for the guys in the Orange and White, and they never let go.
After a two yard run on first down from the UT 19, the redshirt freshman quarterback hit the senior wideout with a nice touch pass in a seam over the middle for 12 yards before lofting a perfect deep ball down the right sideline to a streaking Williams, who slipped the attempted tackle of outstanding corner Darrent Williams at about the 15 and waltzed into the end zone for a 69-yard catch-and-run TD. The three-play drive lasted just 1:22 and allowed the Horns to go to the break within two at 16-14.
"We knew that first half was all they really had," Cedric Benson said postgame. "I felt we would come out a lot stronger than them in the second half and we came out there that first series, we were down, and we knew we had to put some points on the board to take the momentum."
Ced, despite the score, the Horns already had it. But if there was any doubt, the opening drive of the third quarter sent doubt packin'.
Texas took the opening kick of the second half and methodically and efficiently ate up yards and clock on a 12-play, 80-yard, 5:34 go-ahead (and never look back) touchdown drive. The Horns marched into Cowboy territory with a large dose of the run game -- with Vince out of the shotgun either keeping on handing off on drag plays to Benson -- and a beautifully placed down the center pass to Bo Scaife (something we all hoped to see about four times a game this year, but hey, we'll take 'em when we can get 'em). Then, Texas went to the I formation and its short yardage sets to cover the remaining 25 yards for the score.
The two-point conversion failed when Young's pass attempt was picked off at the goalline. On the INT return, Jason Glynn was whistled for a personal foul penalty, which forced Richmond McGee to kick off from the 20, setting up the Cowboys with good field position at the 37 and a chance to regain their lost momentum.
They almost did.
Marcus Tubbs sacked OSU QB Josh Fields on first down and pressure from Kalen Thornton and Rodrique Wright forced Fields to throw the ball away on second down, putting the home team in a third-and-19 situation, but Fields fired a 25-yard strike to D'Juan Woods on a slant route that Cedric Griffin simply couldn't cover. That would be the last big gainer for the Cowboys, though, while the outcome was still in doubt. The next three OSU plays netted three yards, forcing the Cowboys to punt.
Texas, lining up in the I formation on every play except in short yardage situations, responded with, in succession, a five-play, 79-yard TD drive, a five-play, 46-yard TD drive and a 12-play, 62-yard TD drive. Toss in Michael Huff's INT return for a touchdown after that first drive and back-up safety Matt Melton's 48-yard fumble return for a score and you've got a 55-16 final.
"They came out and gave us their best shot (in the first half) and we felt like we hadn't even begun to play really good football," Nathan Vasher said. "We came out in the third quarter to prove a point that we can go out and play well and play physical and that's what we did."
Vasher drew Rashaun Woods duty all night, and after a shaky start -- Woods caught two slants on the Cowboys' opening drive for 26 yards -- the senior corner basically shut down the league's receiving yardage leader, allowing him just two catches for 17 yards the rest of the night.
"Nathan Vasher did as good a job tonight as anybody can do on Rashaun Woods," Mack Brown said. "I thought the secondary overall played super. They tackled well, they covered well...we're really, really pleased with our defense overall."
At the half, the Poke offense had 16 points and 206 yards of total offense. At the final gun, OSU had 16 points and 309 yards of total offense, with almost half of that second half offense coming in trash time.
A key to the D's second half dominance was, of course, Vasher's shutdown performance on Woods, but also noteworthy was the play of the defensive line. Members of the front four -- particularly DEs Mike Williams and Thornton and DTs Wright and Tubbs -- had Fields on the run, or on his back, much of the second half. The OSU QB was sacked twice on the game and completed just 11 of 31 attempts for 149 yards with two INTs.
"Particularly in the second half, that was the difference in the ballgame," Carl Reese said. "We talked at halftime about adjustments but it wasn't anything but let's go out there and call the same defenses and play them a little better and be a little sharper. We got better pressure, better coverage and we didn't do much different, I just think we played a little better and took it to them."
The Texas offense also took it to the Cowboys, following up its 14-point, 240-yard opening 30 minutes with a 27-point, 262-yard second half outburst (plus the D's 14).
"We threw it better today than we did last week," Brown said of Young's nine-of-13, 195-yard, one-TD performance. "Both quarterbacks played well all week and Chance didn't get many chances tonight (one three-and-out series in the first quarter) because Vince was so good we just kept him in there. That may be the best I've seen Vince play, and it opened up the running game for Cedric and our offensive line continues to get better and those guys continue to open up a lot of holes."
Benson and Vince Young each averaged about seven yards per carry on the night, with the junior running back totaling 180 yards on 27 carries while Vince finished with 92 yards on 13 attempts. Each registered a TD, Benson's coming on a one-yard plunge on the opening drive of the second half to make it 20-16 and Young's coming on a 23-yard QB draw to the left pylon on UT's next possession
"Vince's run against the blitz on the quarterback draw was something of beauty and I thought Cedric ran as well tonight I've ever seen him run," the Texas head coach said. "He had great balance, broke a lot of tackles. The last two weeks he's been a really, really special football player."
Fullback Will Matthews also got in on the scoring act, not once, not twice, but three times, scoring TDs on runs of two, seven and six yards.
The Cowboys jumped on top right out of the gate, taking its opening possession 45 yards to set up a 52-yard Luke Phillips field goal. On the drive, Okie State mixed in runs from Tatum Bell and passes for Rashaun Woods to immediately put the Texas D on its heals. Woods beat Vasher on a slant route for 16 on the first play from scrimmage and hauled in another slant for 10 two plays later. Bell grabbed 16 yards on the series, but the Horns finally held after the Cowboys were whistled for a false start, forcing them into first and then second and long.
The drive, though, would prove to be an omen (for the first half, at least). Not only did Oklahoma State consistently move the ball throughout the first half, they did much of it with star tailback Bell on the bench. Bell went to the bench late in the first quarter when Derrick Johnson sliced through the Cowboy offensive line to stuff the back for a two-yard loss. With Bell sidelined, Seymore Shaw and Vernan Morency took over the ball-carrying duties.
Texas got on the board midway through the first quarter after a Vasher INT -- his 16th career pick, tied for No. 2 on the all-time UT list with Jerry Gray, one shy of Noble Doss' record of 17 -- set the Horns up at the Oklahoma State 19. Benson burst for 17 on the first play of the drive and Matthews earned the first score of his career on the next play, giving Texas a 7-3 advantage.
OSU kicked its second field goal of the night, making it 7-6, two possessions later, two plays after Bell left the game with an ankle injury.
Then, Texas quickly gave the ball back to the Cowboys despite a 10-yard, first-play run from Benson and then a nine-yard keeper from Vince Young on the next play, setting up a second-and-two from the UT 39. Oklahoma State held Benson to no gain on a straight hand-off up the middle on second down and then smothered him a yard deep on third-and-one after a deep hand-off. On both plays Vince set up under center after lining up in the shotgun on the two previous plays that netted 19 yards. McGee hit a nice 46-yard punt, but OSU return man Gabe Lindsay almost gained it all back with his 45-yard return to the UT 39. The Texas D allowed the Cowboys just three yards, but kicker Phillips followed up his earlier 52-yard field goal with a career-best 53-yarder to give the Pokes the 9-7 lead.
The Horns followed with a balanced, 57-yard drive (22 rushing, 40 passing; Texas had a five-yard illegal pass penalty also), but Young's third down attempt for Sloan Thomas in the end zone sailed just long and Dusty Mangum missed wide left on his 40-yard field goal attempt, turning the ball over to the Cowboys for their long (and only) touchdown drive.