Major Applewhite's "unbelievable career.""> Major Applewhite's "unbelievable career."">

Horns refuse to lose, snatch win No. 11

SAN DIEGO -- <B>Rick Neuheisel</B> called it a "fitting end" to <B>Major Applewhite's</B> "unbelievable career."

Major called it "redemption" for Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson.

Mack Brown called it a "legacy"-builder.

Longhorns everywhere can simply call it top 10-clinching win No. 11.

UT's 47-43 victory over Washington in the Holiday Bowl Friday night in San Diego cleaned out much of the Horns' haven't-done-since file, registering the school's first 11-win season since '83 (ensuring its first top 10 finish since that same season) and winning an out-of-state bowl game for the first time since the mid-60s.

And the Horns did it in as dramatic a fashion as possible, rallying first from a 19-point late third quarter deficit and then again in the game's final two minutes after Washington turned in a lead-grabbing rally of its own.

Texas scored the game-winner with just 38 ticks left on the Qualcomm clock, but as the contest had gone up to that point, almost anything still seemed possible.

After a scoreless first quarter, Washington lit the board with three quick second quarter scores, including a 38-yard interception return for a TD by Husky DE Terry Johnson on an errant Applewhite pass, to jump on top 13-zip. Major, though, led Texas on two quick scoring drives of its own with a 43-yard TD pass to B.J. and a 25-yarder to Roy Williams to put the Horns (briefly) on top 14-13. The Huskies quickly erased that deficit with a length of the field march in their two-minute offense and then capitalized on another Major INT to add a field goal on the last play of the second quarter to go in at the break with a 23-14 lead.

Washington added to that lead with a TD mid-way through the third quarter and on its next possession answered a UT field goal drive with another TD drive to push its cushion to 19 points at 36-17.

The Texas defense, ranked No. 1 in the nation in total D at the end of the regular season, simply looked rank on the Huskies' first two third quarter possessions, showing little resistance to either the run or the pass, with a particular inability to slow Husky TE Jerramy Stevens and UW RB Willie Hurst. The 6-7, 260-pound junior TE accounted for five catches for 55 yards, including a 17-yard TD, while Hurst gained 84 yards on seven carries, including a 42-yard scamper that set up his four yard TD run on the next play.

With the game slipping from its grasp, though, UT finally responded. After a solid kick return by Ervis Hill, Major drove the Horns 57 yards on eight plays, setting up Dusty Mangum for a chip shot 24-yard field goal that pulled Texas to within 16 at 36-20 with a little over a minute left in the third. Despite failing to get the ball in the end zone, the drive seemed to provide both the offense and the defense a spark that ignited over the next several series.

The UT D, aided by a fumbled snap by Washington QB Cody Pickett, forced its fourth three-and-out of the game on the Huskies' next possession, quickly getting the ball back in the hands of Applewhite and Co. who took advantage of the short field for a 10-play, 48-yard TD drive capped by a Major-to-Matt Trissel TD toss. Even after a failed two-point conversion attempt, the then 10-point deficit at 36-26 with almost 12 minutes to play seemed far more manageable than the 19-point deficit of just a few minutes before.

The Texas defense again stiffened and, after a vicious third down sack of Pickett by a streaking Derrick Johnson, again forced a Husky three-and-out and again set up the offense with a short field. And again, the Horns made the most of the opportunity, traveling 54 yards in just five plays, and more importantly in just over two minutes of clock time, to pull within a field goal at 36-33 with 8:01 to play.

UT's true freshman LB came up big on Washington's next possession, picking off a pass intended for TE Stevens that deflected off of Cory Redding and into his hands. He returned the INT to the nine and Major nailed a slanting Bo Scaife for the go-ahead TD three plays later.

"That (play) to me changed the momentum from us thinking we can (win) to knowing we can (win)," Major said post-game. "There was nobody on the sideline that didn't believe we were gonna win."

But as certain as Applewhite and his Texas teammates may have been at that moment, they certainly couldn't have conceived what the crazy final six minutes of the game had in store.

Each team registered a three-and-out series before Washington, which had gone backwards for a total of nine yards on its four previous possessions, put together its improbable length-of-the-field drive. The Huskies took over at their 20 with 3:27 to play and completed pass of 11, 15, 11 and nine yards before Hurst ripped off a 34-yard TD run to give Washington another lead at 43-40.

Here's where the "fitting end" mentioned above comes in for Major. The senior quarterback, starting his first game since hurting his knee in last fall's Tech game, trotted onto the field 80 long yards away from victory with just 109 ticks left on the clock.

Turns out, he needed just 71 of 'em.

Applewhite completed passes to Bo and then B.J. and then Bo again. And here's where the "redemption" mentioned above comes in for B.J. (Roy's came throughout the game as he totaled 11 grabs for 134 yards and a TD): Johnson hauled in the clutch catch that proved so elusive in last year's Holiday Bowl, snatching the Applewhite offering out of the air and away from Husky CB Chris Massey at the five. Ivan Williams punched it in two plays later for the game-winner.

And that's where the "legacy" mentioned above comes in, not only for Major but also for the entire Texas team.

With its 11 wins and out-of-state bowl triumph, the team not only accomplished what few Texas teams of any vintage have accomplished, it achieved a level of success that will be a benchmark for Longhorn squads of future vintage. And Major, well, he'll be celebrated as one of UT's all-time greats despite his limited senior season PT and he'll certainly forever be one of the most beloved Longhorn players. His 37-for-55, 473-yard, four-TD (three-INT) winning performance doubly ensured that.

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