With Vince Young at the helm, the Longhorns journeyed to the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio to battle the Buckeyes in front of 105,565 fans, in what would be the top non-conference match-up played this season, and one of the best college football games ever played. On a weekly basis, many teams rise to the occasion and keep their dream of a National Championship alive, while others fall, their dreams crushed. This weekend, it was the Longhorns that stayed on course on the Road to Pasadena.
But Ohio State was quick, strong and physical, living up to its hype. The Buckeye defense forced Vince and the Horns to mix it up and work for every inch they gained. Saturday nights game was reminiscent of that cool January night in Pasadena where the Longhorns faced off against another great Big Ten opponent for the first time. And this one, too, hinged on a field goal. But this time, it was a miss, rather than a make, that proved to be the Turning Point.
With Ohio State holding a precarious 22-16 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the game, Justin Zwick led the Buckeye offense on a drive beginning at the Ohio State 30-yard line. OSU, behind Zwick's passing and Antonio Pittman's running racked up three first downs, moving down to the Texas 29 yardline and in range for a possible sixth, and perhaps game-clinching Josh Huston field goal. The Longhorn defense stiffened though, stuffing Pittman for no gain on first down from the 29, setting up arguably the defensive play of the game on second down. Zwick, operating out of the shotgun, threw left, but DE Brian Robison leaped up, blocking the ball back into the hands of Pittman, allowing DT Rod Wright to smother Pittman for a four-yard loss, pushing the Buckeyes back to the 33. When Zwick's third-down pass for Roy Hall fell incomplete, Ohio State was forced to try a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Huston had been perfect on field goals for the night, and a conversion of the 50-yard attempt could seal the Longhorns' fate. But the kick sailed just inches wide of the right upright, those four lost yards two downs earlier possibly the difference between and miss and a make, and ultimately between a comeback win and a heartbreaking road loss for the Horns.
After the miss, with Texas still within six and five minutes on the game clock, the Longhorn nation just knew something special was going to happen. Vince Young took the reins and engineered a drive that put the Horns at the 24 with just under three minutes left. Then, on a second and nine, Young lofted a ball towards the left corner of the endzone where Limas Sweed used his 6-5 frame to corral the ball, landing in the endzone and tying the game at 22. When David Pino completed his perfect night with the extra point, the Horns had their first lead since the first half, and all the points they'd need for the hard-fought win in the 'Shoe. But the result might have been different if not for a four-yard loss, leading to a kick a few inches off, the Turning Point as the Longhorns won the Big Ten Championship (38-37 over Michigan and 25-22 over Ohio State). We are Texas! Its what we do
Dusty Mangum played for Texas from 2001-2004 and holds several Longhorn kicking marks. His final kick in the Orange and White, a 37-yarder in the 2005 Rose Bowl, provided the ultimate turning point in the Horns' first-ever BCS win. His Turning Point column appears on Sunday after each game during football season here on InsideTexas.com.