The inside scoop on Colorado heading into '04 was that the off-season scandals had drawn this team into an us-against-the-world mentality. That translated into three season-opening wins before the start of Big 12 play brought the Buffaloes back to reality. But Sam told me that the Buffs had their best practices of the year last week on the heels of an overtime loss to then-top 20 Texas A&M, which they felt they had outplayed.
So last week, I predicted the Longhorns would have to come from behind. And at 8:50 of the first quarter cornerback Terrence Wheatley cut in front of a Vince Young pass and ran untouched for a touchdown to put the Horns in an early hole. And then, near the end of the first quarter on the 14th play of a Texas drive, Vince Young threw a terrible pass for another interception.
It was a bad start, but Young's early problems didn't deter the Texas defense, which had a plan to stifle the Buffs. Coordinator Greg Robinson brought blitzes from everywhere which led to sacks, pressure and TFLs that absolutely destroyed a Colorado offense that had totaled over 500 yards just a week before in College Station. The Texas linebackers, running at the line just before the snap showing a split 4 middle blitz, forced by my count five false starts by the Buffs.
I tried my best to keep up with the defensive highlights, but there are simply too many to mention. But here are a few observations: defensive end Tim Crowder played his best game this season; Derrick Johnson was in Colorado's backfield so often, he should have been wearing a CU jersey; Michael Griffin executed a beautiful safety blitz in the third quarter; Aaron Harris got home on at least two blitzes; DBs Michael Huff and Tarell Brown made first-down saving tackles after big pass receptions by the Buffs; and Larry Dibbles -- all 285 pounds of him -- almost got an interception as he dropped into coverage on a zone blitz!
The performance in one word: dominant.
Here's my run down on the best two drives by the Longhorn offense. To tie the ballgame, the Longhorns started from their 10-yardline and hammered 12 plays, culminating with a Vince Young sneak. Eleven runs -- Cedric Benson drove through tacklers on six runs, a couple of QB keeps and a quick handoff to fullback Will Matthews -- and one quick stop pass to Limas Sweed.
Then, after the defense forced its third straight three-and-out, the Texas offense took nine plays to take the lead for good, with seven runs, including a well-executed quarterback draw that got the ball to Colorado's 7-yardline.
I'm almost certain that the Colorado coaches, despite seeing their team dominated in the first 30 minutes and trailing 14-7 at the break, believed they still had a chance to win in the second half. Why? Because they had watched film of the Oklahoma and Missouri games and the Texas offensive coordinator's love of the dropback pass.
But Greg Davis was either directed by Mack Brown to run, run, run, or he has taken up chewing Red Man at halftime, because the Texas offense punished the Buffaloes in the final 30 minutes with a clinic of solid line blocking (even with Will Allen sidelined), hard-charging inside running and a beautiful quarterback sweep for one of two second half touchdowns.
How successful was the Texas rushing offense and defense with the game on the line? With 8:11 left in the game, Texas had run for 282 yards and Colorado had -4.
As Texas took care of business, strange things were happening on Halloween eve to BCS contenders Miami and Florida State but especially to pretender A&M at Waco. Under Brown, the Longhorns have never been embarrassed by a team like Baylor, as the Aggies experienced this weekend. Yes, Oklahoma has Texas' number at this point, but there are lots of scalps on that pole.
Oklahoma State and Les Miles, though, came close to adding another Sooner scalp to their collection Saturday, falling 38-35 when a last-minute, game-tying field goal slipped just wide of the mark. So expect this Saturday in Austin to be a war. Being objective, I would rank the Big 12 coaches in this order: Bob Stoops, Mack Brown and Les Miles. Under Miles, the Cowboys back up to nobody, including Texas in Austin. And OSU has already had its worst game of the year (Texas A&M). Texas, though, will continue its post-OU roll and win in the fourth quarter 27-21.
Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.