Cedric Benson In Benson's final home game at DKR, Longhorn fans in attendance as well as those watching on television had to have mixed emotions. Happiness because Benson was running as hard as ever against the Ags, churning his legs and breaking tackle after tackle after tackle in racking up 165 yards on 33 carries. It was an awesome performance to say the least. But there was also great sadness knowing that this was the last time at home to witness not only one of the greatest runners in Texas history, but one of the greatest running backs in the history of the college game. Yes, Cedric Benson is that special. In relation to this column, he made this category five times this year (realistically it could have been every game except for OU) and went out and earned it each and every week. This season was spectacular not just in pure yardage, but in how he went about doing it. While he will finish with more than 5,500 yards and in the top five on the all-time rushing list in college football, he has to be at or near the top in yards after contact. This guy thrives on contact and loves to dish it out. Just ask A&Ms Erik Mayes who tried to stop Benson on the Horns' fourth quarter scoring drive. It took both Mayes and Jaxson Appel to bring down the bull on the 16-yard run, but Mayes paid the price as he went flying backward a couple yards after contact. Its those types of plays that make the nightly highlights, but its what he does in between getting the ball and getting tackled that Longhorn fans will miss the most. The victory lap after the game was a perfect finish to the game, the regular season, and his career, and allowed Longhorn fans the chance to show their appreciation to the stud from Midland. He probably wont win the Heisman but that doesnt mean hes not worthy of it. Thanks for the memories, Cedric!
Derrick Johnson In his final home game he had another out-of-this-world performance, or something weve all come to expect. Like Benson, Johnson was a mainstay in this column and category this year and deservedly so. Against A&M he finished with 10 tackles including two for losses (one was a sack). Johnson, as he has done throughout his career, surprised us all when he revealed a new weapon in his arsenal with the blocked point after attempt following the Aggies first touchdown. Think about it. This year Johnson showed us a new twist to his game with his propensity for knocking the ball free from the ball carrier (eight timestied for most ever in a season in the NCAA). Add that to his interceptions and his incredible knack to knock the snot out of the ball carrier, and you have a defensive player who can single-handedly change the complexion of the game. He should be rewarded in due time with most if not all the defensive awards given out. D.J., thanks for the highlight hits and all your greatness! You will be missed!
Vince Young There is one number alone that should get Young in this category for the A&M game zero. Thats how many interceptions Young threw and two below his average over the last few games. Okay, he did have the over-the-top leap at the one-yard line (a designed play) that resulted in seven points for A&M, but overall Young did a superb job of managing the game for the Horns. He had a very efficient game through the air completing 12 of 18 for 131 yards and ran for 93 yards on 19 carriers. Following the late first-half turnover, Young, in the second half, once again showed he has a short memory and a penchant for overcoming adversity as he led the Longhorns on three scoring drives to pull away from the Aggies. In the last three games Young has taken the reigns of the Texas offense and shown true leadership skills, which should go a long way toward the success of this team next season.
Tim Crowder and Larry Dibbles The two defensive linemen had excellent performances against the Ags. Crowder added one sack for a total of 4.5 on the season to lead the team, had the big pass breakup on A&Ms first offensive series of the second half, and was credited with nine tackles. Dibbles finished with only three tackles, but he registered 1.5 sacks, had a couple pass breakups, and a pair of quarterback hurries. Both had performances that should serve as a springboard for good things to come next season. With these two coming back, as well as Rod Wright (hopefully), the Texas defensive front should be salty.
Richmond McGee McGee finished with an average of 44.5 yards on four punts, but it was one punt and one kickoff in particular late in the game that McGee gets kudos for this week. With the Texas kickoff coverage unit giving up big returns in recent weeks, it seemed it was only a matter of time before the Ags broke a long one. Following Cedric Bensons one-yard run that put the Horns up 26-13, the ensuing kickoff into the very stiff breeze seemed like the perfect opportunity for the Ags to return the ball for great field position. Instead, McGee kicked the ball all the way to the A&M 7 and close to the sideline; a great directional kick. The coverage unit got down quickly and brought down the A&M returner at the 18. Then, following Texas next offensive possession, which ended at its own 30 after a personal foul penalty by Will Matthews, it appeared to be another chance for A&M to pick up good field position. McGee put those thoughts aside quickly as he booted a 41-yarder into the wind that A&M fair caught on its own 29. With the wind causing so much havoc throughout the game, those two plays late in the contest were huge.
Officials These guys were bad. Throughout the contest they missed calls, made the wrong calls when they didnt miss them, and consulted on several calls for inordinate amounts of time only to miss them. Here is one example from each category.
- Missed call In the second half on the kickoff following the blocked punt for touchdown, Michael Griffin had a bulls eye on the return man until he got blasted from behind in the back completely knocking him out of the play. This one was very obvious. No call.
- Wrong call On a third-down pass in the first quarter from Reggie McNeal to Terrence Murphy, it was quite apparent that the ball skipped at least once before Murphy clutched it in his grasp. Ruling: a catch.
- Consulting on a call On the halfback (Ramonce Taylor) pass play in the third quarter, several flags were thrown. The official initially indicated each team had committed an infraction. Obviously, with one on each team it would be offsetting penalties and replay the down. After the length of time if takes an NFL official to go to the sidelines, get under the hood, then come back on the field and make the call, the referee turned on his mike and made the call. Offsetting penalties. Even Brad Nessler of ABC commented after the call was made, "There goes five minutes of our life well never get back." Amen.
What? You didnt think Id forget the missed-then-made extra point play did you? Yes, the officials actually got this one right. Thats whats amazing. These guys miss the most pedestrian of calls and get a call correct on a play that most have never witnessed in years of college football. How is that possible?!
Mack Brown and Timeout Management While it didnt affect the outcome of the game, it affected the final score. The Horns burned all three of their first-half timeouts in the first quarter and didnt have one available with under a minute to play in the first half when they could have stopped the clock with the ball at the A&M one-yard line. Instead, Greg Davis and Mack Brown made a rushed offensive call, the over-the-top quarterback sneak that has worked in the past but is never without serious risk as we found out. Instead of Texas going up by seven, they trailed by seven at the breaka 14-point swing in the final score. While the first two timeouts were justifiedone by the Texas defense with A&M going for it on fourth down in Texas territory and one by the offense facing a third and goalthe last one was completely inexcusable. After A&M picked up 21 yards on a pass play to move to the Texas 42, the Longhorns burned their final timeout of the half. For what? Who knows? Whatever strategy was discussed it didnt work as the Aggies scored two plays later.
Texas receivers Although the Texas running game was huge against A&M as it has been all season, the absence of catches by the receiving corps was perplexing. Whats most troubling about this is thinking about next year where there will be no more Cedric Benson and the experience on the offensive side of the ball will be at the receiver position. Benson, by himself caught three passes, followed by David Thomas and Bo Scaife with two apiece. Limas Sweed caught two passes for 18 yards and dropped another perfect pass that would have resulted in a first down. Nate Jones caught a pass of his own but also mishandled a precise pass on the sidelines. These drops can be chalked up to inexperience this year, but next year these guys have to step it up especially considering the run game will likely not be as productive.
ABC Telecast Who the hell wants to hear interviews with Urban Meyer, Tommy Tuberville and Bob Stoops during the middle of the game? Isnt that what halftime is for? ABC decided not only to interview them during the middle of the game, but the announcers, Brad Nessler and Bob Griese, did not even try to conduct the interview in between plays. Instead, they just asked questions during the middle of play and ignored the game action on the field. Thats bad. And ABC and its production staff added to the shameful telecast on several occasions coming back from commercial break in the middle of the play. Thats inexcusable, fellas.