Texas came out with its No. 2 ranking on the line, the potential for an inside track to a second straight Rose Bowl appearance, and the hopes of not having to live another year with a disappointing loss at the hands of OU, which had won the last five meetings in the newly renamed Red River Rivalry.
The Horns were full speed from the moment they stepped into the historic Cotton Bowl. A fumble on the opening kickoff return by Tarell Brown was a scare for the Longhorns, but luckily the Horns recovered, perhaps foreshadowing that the day was going to be THE DAY for the Horns.
Out came the Longhorn offense led by Heisman candidate Vince Young. The first drive is always an important one. With Texas firing on all cylinders, the Horns capped off the 12-play, 82-yard opening drive with Young's beautiful 15-yard pass to Ramonce Taylor. On the drive, VY completed all five of his pass attempts (to four different receivers) and Jamaal Charles converted a fourth-and-one with an 11-yard scamper, which seemed to ease the Horns into their rhythm for the day on offense.
But as big as it was to put points on the board with the first drive, the turning point came later in the first quarter. After a short field goal drive put the Sooners on the board at 7-3, UT's Selvin Young fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive (and on his first carry of the day), setting up OU at the Texas 20. Gene Chizik's Longhorn defense did what it did all afternoon and stoned the OU offense, but the Sooner field goal narrowed the game to a one-point contest at 7-6 and seemingly swung the momentum to the guys in Crimson. That is, till Jamaal Charles returned to the Texas backfield.
On the first play of the possession, the true freshman running back took the handoff from Vince Young and hit the hole up the middle. He was met by 2-3 OU defenders, but after a spin-move only thought possible on Playstation 2 (hit the O button on the controller), Charles broke the tackle and was off to the races. Eighty yards later, Texas had answered the Sooners with a huge exclamation point. With the quick touchdown, the Horns swung the momentum back to the Burnt Orange and never looked back.
The stingy Texas defense, as usual, played a large role. Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar never found a comfort-zone, seemingly not being able to hit water if he fell off a boat, which landed him with a 36 percent completion percentage, and one giant headache. Every time Bomar dropped back in the pocket, he seemed to just be waiting for a Texas defender to level him.
Earlier in the week, Vince Young gave Bomar a piece of advice upon hearing that the Sooner QB did not plan on shying away from contact. The more seasoned Vince suggested that the redshirt freshman go down rather than take the hit. For Bomar, hindsight must be 20/20, if his vision's has cleared after the shots he took Saturday. On several occasions, the Longhorn defenders seemed to take on the role of gardeners, planting Bomar in the turf with their pile-driving hits. When all was said and done, the Horns tallied several knockdowns and three sacks, the biggest courtesy of defensive end Brian Robison.
Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Robison came off the left edge on a pass rush. With Bomar focused downfield, Robison unloaded on him. (Insert sound effect of someone getting hit and losing their pride.) Bomar lay back-down on the turf as Rod Wright scooped up the pigskin and scampered 67 yards in a convoy of Longhorns for a defensive touchdown. When Wright got that ball in his hands, I do not know if there was a faster player in the stadium. All he saw was the end zone and no Sooner was going to get him with the entourage of Burnt Orange defenders escorting him.
With that defensive touchdown, the Horns had put the final nail in the OU coffin, but the turning point came early, from a twisting, turning and sprinting Jamaal Charles. As I had predicted all week and on several pre-game interviews, the Horns emerged victorious and the Golden Hat is finally back where it belongs.
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.