Taking Stock: Who's Up, Who's Down

This is the last in a series of post-game reports throughout the '04 season that will evaluate players, positions, units, coaches, and any other thing that is worthy of scrutiny.

Stock Up

Vince Young — What else can you say about his performance? All the superlatives have already been used. Let’s just say this–his improvement over the second half of the season capped off by his grand finish in Pasadena point to a lot of promise for next year. Yes, he made some bad throws during several games including one in the Rose Bowl, but he also made some pretty impressive throws during that same stretch. What he did when he tucked the ball and ran, well, that was just plain silly. With Young at the helm for his second full season under center, next year could be very, very interesting.

Offensive line, running backs and wide receivers — While Young’s effort grabbed all the headlines, make no mistake about this one fact, the entire offensive unit paved the way for Young to make all those headlines. The line didn’t have the greatest of games opening up holes for Cedric Benson, but they regularly opened up lanes that allowed Young to take off down the field, scripted or unscripted. Once down the field, backs and receivers were taking on would-be tacklers and creating even more space for Young.

Greg Davis — While some might disagree, Davis did a decent job calling this game. He used the tight ends very effectively as we’ve seen a couple times this year. There were no deep passes as Longhorn fans have come to expect, but he did something he hasn’t done very often since Young arrived on campus. He got out of the way. He set his gazelle of a quarterback free and let him work his magic. While Young ad-libbed on numerous occasions, Davis put Young in position as well by rolling out, calling quarterback draws, and using the zone read and countless other plays that allowed Young to get into space. And one other thing: Davis recognized that Benson wasn’t going to get his average yards with the Michigan defense focusing its efforts on the Doak Walker Award winner, so he adjusted and let Young "do his thing." How refreshing is that?! Would be nice to see that up in Dallas in October.

Dusty Mangum — For all the ups and downs the former walk-on had this season (see the Kansas game), this was one helluva way to end a game, a season, and a career. When Texas moved down the field on that final drive and then appeared to be in no hurry to get additional yardage or take a few shots at the end zone, I’m sure some Longhorn fans were somewhat leery at the prospect of putting the game on Mangum’s foot. Mangum delivered. He stepped up big and will go down in history for it.

Derek Lokey — The true freshman had one tackle, but what a huge tackle it was. Late in the fourth it was Lokey who blew past Michigan’s senior All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, center David Baas, and brought down Michigan running back Mike Hart for a seven-yard loss that put the Wolverines in an extremely difficult third-and-long situation that they were unable to convert. As a result, Michigan punted and gave the Longhorns great field position and the Texas offense took advantage and got on its fourth quarter roll.

Stock Down

Special Teams (Kickoff Coverage) — For all the superlatives used to describe Young’s effort, there are just as many antonyms to describe the kickoff coverage. That unit alone could have cost Texas the game and almost did. If Brown opts to kick it out of bounds on every kick and gives Michigan the ball to start at its own 35, the Wolverines have to travel 15 to 20 yards farther on at least four drives. If that happens, Texas likely wins by more than a point on a last-second field goal.

Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson — They didn’t have their best games of the season being the focal points of Michigan’s opposing units, respectively, but it’s hard to argue with what the two players did this past season and the last four years. If anything, the presence, or lack thereof, of Benson and Johnson in the Rose Bowl reveals the Longhorns will be alright next season.

Clock and Field Management — With Mangum’s game-ending, game-winning field goal, it didn’t matter. If he misses, however, time and field management is all anyone is talking about. Either way, it’s still an issue. Why, oh why in the last minute of the game doesn’t Brown let Young continue to run instead of handing it to Benson? The way things had gone Young was likely to prance into the end zone one more time. Instead, he goes with a pair of runs by Benson that resulted in minimal gains and put Mangum in makeable, yet risky field goal position. It could have been a much closer field goal attempt or even a touchdown.

Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts — Whoa, Nellie! These guys were bad. Jackson is, no doubt, a legend. But now, he’s resting on his laurels. Too many mispronounced and wrong names throughout. And what about Fouts? He was just as bad. On numerous occasions he referred to Derrick Johnson as Cedric Benson. Embarrassing.

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