Jeffery's father, though, was smiling. His son had just turned in the game of his life. Tony had run a reverse for 15 yards and totaled seven catches for 131 yards, including grabs that set up and then scored the decisive touchdown.
There's more. Jeffery is a credit to his family. Young Tony looks you in the eye as he shakes your hand and in conversation, "yes sirs" and "no sirs" are sprinkled throughout. Tony is well built but is a small man in a big man's game at 6-1, 175. But more important is the size of Tony's heart and depth of his character. The heart is big and the character is strong. Hurt when the Horns took on Oklahoma, and then watching Limas Sweed, David Thomas and Bo Scaife carry much of the pass-catching load until the Longhorns went north, T.J. bided his time.
And his time came in Lawrence. With five catches already on the stat sheet and the clock ticking towards zero Saturday, Jeffery hauled in a first down catch from Vince Young and fought to get out of bounds, saving Texas the necessity of calling its final timeout. Tony was hit four yards from the Texas sideline but believe me, he knew he had to get out of bounds, and he made it at the Kansas 21, stopping the clock with 17 ticks remaining.
So Texas had 17 seconds left without having to hurry a play or call its final timeout (Kansas did call a timeout). Vince Young would get at least one chance to win the game instead of Dusty Mangum, who had already missed one field goal on the day, trying to tie it. That's how big Tony Jeffery's catch and fight for the boundary was. His head as well as his heart was in the game.
Then, Vince Young lofted a perfect pass to Jeffery in the left corner of the north end zone. Despite a defender's arm in between his body and the ball, Jeffery held on to the game-winner
After watching the Horns escape, television viewers that saw Auburn, Oklahoma and USC later that day and night will be first to admit that the Longhorns weren't in their class, at least Saturday. The Texas team sleepwalked most of the cool, clear morning in Kansas.
- Cedric Benson got hit at the line of scrimmage and behind the line more times than any other game of the year.
- Vince Young was sacked three times.
- The Longhorn secondary couldn't play the long ball from Kansas' fourth-team quarterback, partially because the Longhorn DL got precious little pressure on the Jayhawks' signalcallers.
- And, the special teams' lackluster play has now reached the point of game-losing concern. A Longhorn fan near me asked, "Who in the world coaches our special teams?" after another 42-yard kickoff return against the left side of the Texas coverage unit, after a substitute failed to enter the game on the extra point try after Young had sprinted 18 yards to narrow the score to 23- 20, and after Cedric Griffin ran over Kansas' punt returner, which drew an unnecessary 15-yard penalty.
Another glaring deficiency that needs to be addressed is the D's shoddy tackling over the last two games. If Texas intends to defeat Texas A&M and hopes to win against whatever opponent lines up opposite in a bowl game, the Horns must begin to be the deadly tackling team they were at midseason.
Any football team with top-of-the-BCS aspirations in game 10 of the season should not be committing these mistakes, at least not all of them in the same game!
Give the Longhorn coaches credit for trying, though: through my binoculars, I could see different Texas assistants trying to rouse the troops throughout the game. But blank stares were what they got in return. (At halftime, while their team held a 9-7 advantage, a whole group of young Kansas fans sang "Boomer Sooner" as they passed Texas fans in the long lines for concessions. If only they could have walked near the Texas lockerroom where Mack Brown and assistants were trying to awaken their team!)
Kansas fans were awake, but it was largely in anticipation of Sunday night's hoops matchup between the Jayhawks and D-II Washburn. Let's put it this way, I saw more enthusiasm for football at the Southlake Carroll vs. Denton Ryan high school matchup a month ago. These people don't tailgate in any serious fashion. And they can tell you that Washburn fell to Purdue last Monday, 81-72, much sooner than that they can tell you (if at all) that their football team has lost four games by less than a touchdown this season.
Longhorn fans, who this time of the year care more about the BCS than the RPI, unlike their Saturday hosts, should not be upset if Utah, with a win over BYU, and Michigan, with a W at Ohio State, leapfrog the Horns in the standings next week. After a scare like Saturday's, trailing until seconds to play (and then an off week), such is life in the fast lane of big time college football.
Forget Heisman, Butkus and BCS, Texas had to fight for its life to beat the Baylor of the Big 12 North.
Finally, in a post-game tirade, Kansas coach Mark Mangino charged that side judge Freeman Johns' offensive pass interference call against KU receiver Charles Gordon, who pushed off Texas corner Tarell Brown to free himself for a 16-yard gain that if stood would have helped the 'Hawks' attempt to run out the clock, was influenced by Texas' BCS rankings and the possible loss of revenue to the Big 12 should the Longhorns lose to his team. Mangino claimed Gordon made a swim move on Brown, but television replays didn't support that claim -- Gordon pushed Brown at his cut point, creating the separation that led to the reception -- and the flag came before the catch of the ball. Mangino also failed to mention that the Longhorns were flagged 10 times for 103 yards while his team totaled just three flags for 23 yards. The KU coach later (sort of) retracted his conspiracy theory comments. Regardless, his accusations don't hold up to scrutiny. What does hold up, however, is that his team was ready to play and took Texas to a heartbeat of defeat. But on this day, the heart belonged to Tony Jeffery and the Horns and it never missed a beat during the 17 seconds that saved a season.
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.