With all due respect, this wasn't just another day in the annals of either storied program. Ohio State's 36 straight non-conference wins at home? Gone! The Buckeye's perfect 6-0 home slate under the lights? It's history! The No. 2 Longhorns have now won 22-of-23 road games and cleared what should be the biggest hurdle between here and a BCS championship matchup against top-ranked USC.
"At times we didn't play very well but we played hard and we believed and we played with confidence," head coach Mack Brown said after raising his UT record against Top Ten competition to 2-6. "Very seldom can you give up three turnovers like that and still win the game but our guys kept coming back and kept coming back and gave themselves a chance to win at the end."
Not counting the Louisiana-Lafayette rout, Young has now led Texas on seven straight comeback wins. Texas will be favored to post Ws the rest of the regular season but the Showdown at the Shoe recalls one of the things Darrell Royal (in attendance Saturday) has always said about his championship teams: they found a way to win when the offense didn't play particularly well.
Three Texas turnovers (two INTs, one fumble), not to mention 191 return yards against the porous kickoff coverage team, were nearly fatal but the Longhorn D held the Buckeyes to field goal after field goal after field goal. No defensive stand was bigger than the 11-play, 37-yard Buckeye drive late in the fourth quarter. Here, an Ohio State FG would have forced Texas to have scored twice during the final five minutes. Ohio State was operating from the Texas 29 when SS Michael Huff and WLB Rashad Bobino stopped RB Antonio Pittman for no gain on first down. Next play, DE Brian Robison (with a vertical leap that Spiderman would envy) swatted a Justin Zwick pass back into the hands of Pittman, a reception that lost four yards.
On that drive, VY was "walking up and down the sideline telling the guys that we've been through this, play by play, that the defense was going to give us the ball. The defense did a hell of a job for us."
An incompletion, followed by Josh Huston's only miss of the night, and you've got (potentially) the biggest defensive stand of the year should Texas go on to run the table.
It was a night in which Texas' oft-criticized receivers grew up on the biggest national stage they will perform on this regular season and before a record 105,565 in attendance.
The Buckeyes were determined that Vince Young would not beat them with his feet by pinching the perimeter during the final three quarters. The unflappable Young was 18-of-29 for 270 yards, including two TDs. His first six completions were to five different receivers. He added 100 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Who woulda thunk that with Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn, Jr. on the field that Billy Pittman would emerge as the game's leading receiver (130 yards on five receptions). Meanwhile, Sweed's fourth-quarter TD reception was the first of his career. I asked Brown what kind of statement his receivers made in Columbus.
"I thought Limas and Billy for sure played the best game they have ever played," he said. "What a catch by Limas down in the end zone. Billy made two or three great plays and that's the first time Billy's played a lot. I thought that one of the throws that Vince made on third-and-12 (in the fourth quarter) to Brian Carter was a huge play. We felt like we weren't in sync at times tonight and things weren't as smooth, but give Ohio State credit for some of that, but we're really proud of our guys."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is still trying to figure out what to do with Ginn. The sophomore was held to just nine yards (nine!) on two receptions and lost two yards on his only rushing attempt. As expected, Tressel went with a pair of signalcallers. Zwick got the start (9-of-15 for 66 yards) while fleet-footed Troy Smith (5-of-11 for 78 yards) came in in relief.
"We had a lot of opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them," Smith said. "There were a lot of things we needed to do tonight that we were not able to do. My hat goes off to Texas. They did some things and were able to capitalize."
The biggest defensive play of the night belonged to sophomore Drew Kelson who, after logging just his second career start at SLB, forced a QB Justin Zwick fumble that Robison recovered and returned nine yards to the OSU 21 just as the Buckeyes were eyeing a game-winning FG. FS Michael Griffin led the Horns with 10 stops while DE Tim Crowder enjoyed (arguably) his finest day in a Longhorn uniform. The junior contributed two sacks (his first two of the season) and seven tackles.
The Buckeyes dropped two passes on their opening possession, setting up a 43-yard punt as the Horns took over on their own 12. VY picked up 52 of the 64-yard, 11-play drive, including a 32-yard scamper on 2nd-and-5 from the Longhorn 30. (Credit FL Brian Carter with a clearing, down field block.) Mixing pass and run (five of each), the result was a 42-yard David Pino FG as the Horns took the early lead with 4:57 eclipsed from the opening frame.
The Buckeyes picked up a first down on their second possession of the contest when Zwick found Santonio Holmes for eight (the Horns showed a nickel package for the first time this season) on 3rd-and-5 from their own 31. DE Brian Robison caught Zwick from behind on 3rd-and-6, setting up a 37-yard punt.
The Horns' 10-play, 84-yard drive on their second possession was a thing of beauty and temporarily quieted the record 105,565 in attendance at Ohio Stadium. Texas went with a no-huddle offense for much of the march and twice burned Buckeye linebackers with the play action pass off the zone read, the very play that produced VY's 5-yard TD toss to Billy Pittman.
Young found Pittman over the middle on a post pattern for 32 yards on the first play of the march. The freshmen RBs had a hand in the drive, as Jamaal Charles' off-tackle carry was good for six yards on 2nd-and-5 from the OSU 45. Four plays later, Charles gathered six yards on the screen pass while Henry Melton moved the chains with his two-yard plunge on 3rd-and-1 from the seven. VY then hit Pittman in the numbers on the TD toss in the middle of the end zone to complete the 10-play, 84-yard march.
Santonio Holmes' 47-yard return, followed by a personal foul call on Michael Griffin, led to a Josh Huston's 45-yard FG. Troy Smith directed the five-play, eight-yard drive as the home team was on the scoreboard, 10-3.
Texas' first punt of the ballgame resulted in Ohio State's first TD drive of the game. Mixing pass and run, Smith sparked the Buckeye offense and found Holmes (over Cedric Griffin) in the left corner of the south end zone for a 36-yard scoring toss. That knotted the affair, 10-10, with 8:11 remaining until half time.
SLB A.J. Hawk showed why he's everybody's All-American, producing an INT, a fumble recovery and a key 8-yard sack on Texas' next three drives, respectively.
A inauspicious possession for Texas began with Ramonce Taylor's near-safety in the south end zone. The sophomore crossed the plain by, oh, a half-inch or so, and called for the touchback. He remained motionless for a couple of agonizing seconds and then, recognizing his error, circled right, eluding tacklers and scampered up the right sideline for 35 yards. But on 3rd-and-5, VY threw directly into the arms of Hawk who returned it to the 18. The Texas defense stiffened, thanks to DE Tim Crowder's 10-yard sack of Smith as the Buckeyes settled for a 37-yard FG. That four-play drive for minus-1 yard saw OSU take its first lead of the game at 13-10 with 4:33 remaining until the break.
This is where things could have gotten away from the Horns. Hawk recovered a Selvin Young fumble, spotting the Bucks a first down at the Texas 30. Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik unveiled the blitz packages that he kept under wraps in the home opener, as SLB Drew Kelson threw Smith for a six-yard loss on first down. But on 3rd-and-19, Smith found SE Anthony Gonzalez all-by-his-lonesome in the right flat, good for 21 yards. Staring at a potential double-digit deficit at the half, FS Michael Griffin came hard on first-and-goal from the six, saddling Smith with a two-yard loss. After DE Brian Robison and Kelson broke up the next two passes, OSU settled for another FG, this time from 22 yards out to cap the nine play drive. That made it 16 unanswered points for the Buckeyes.
Tarell Brown returned the pooch kick 12 yards to the OSU 31, and with a personal foul tacked on to the end of play, the Horns took over on their own 46 with 31 ticks until half time. The big play was VY's 36-yard completion to Charles. The freshman collected the ball as he cut across the middle and, showing outstanding balance and vision, bounced off a tackler and found a crease down the left sideline. Hawk's 8-yard sack pushed the LOS back to the 20 but Pino ended the scoring drought with his 37-yard FG. Ohio State nursed a 16-13 halftime lead after Texas went 34 yards in 29 seconds.
The Texas defense was called on ah-gain, when FS Nate Salley came up with a tip-drill interception on the Horns' first series of the second half. The Buckeye drive began on the Texas 37. DT Rod Wright had a key PBU on 2nd-and-8 from the 24. The defense kept Texas within striking distance, as Huston tacked on his fourth FG of the night to make it a 19-13 game.
After Charles moved the chains with a three-yard plunge on 2nd-and-8 from the 28, VY connected with Billy Pittman on a 63-yard toss to the Buckeye five. A false start cost the Horns five. Two straight VY runs netted four yards before Pino answered with a 26-yard FG, narrowing the Buckeye lead, 19-16.
Oh, for a KO that carries ten yards deep in the end zone. Ted Ginn Jr. returned the Richmond McGee kick 46 yards to the Longhorn 47. Zwick checked back in at QB and, on 2nd-and-9 from the 35, found SE Roy Hall for 22 yards down the left sideline. That set up Huston's 26-yard FG, resulting in a 22-16 Buckeye lead.
Both teams exchanged a pair of punts before Texas took over on its own 12-yard line. A pair of completions, including a 27-yard to Billy Pittman over the top of linebackers, netted 40 yards. But the dagger in this drive was Charles' hurried toss on the reverse attempt to RT. The freshman fell on his own fumble but the Longhorn drive ended in a 37-yard McGee punt.
That led to the Buckeye drive that saw Huston's 50-yard FG fall short, opening the door for the Longhorn comeback. It was the sixth-year senior's first miss of the season.
"I just didn't get through on it and pushed it a little right," he said. "Coach Tressel told me that he should have got us closer down to it, but I should have made it."
Moments before the critical 24-yard TD to Sweed, Young noticed that the Buckeye defense dropped back into Cover Two zone for the first time that evening.
"Sweed came off the ball real well and I just threw the ball to the outside so he could make a great play," Young said.
Texas' final possession, following Robison's fumble recovery, saw Texas reach the OSU one-yard line with 29 seconds remaining. Replays showed that RB Henry Melton's dive cleared the pylon but game officials awarded the Buckeyes the ball facing 99 yards of real estate. Instead, Texas capped the scoring when MLB Aaron Harris recorded the first safety (a sack of Zwick) of his career.
Bottom line: with wins over perennial powers Ohio State and Michigan in the past three games, is it fair to crown Texas the Big Ten champs? Probably not, but the Horns have presumably passed the biggest test on the schedule. And it sets the stage for a season for the ages.