Passing Fancy: Young's Air Raid Grounds Buffs

Behind a record-setting passing performance from freak-of-nature QB Vince Young, Texas dismantled a No. 24 Colorado team, 42-17, that it will likely face in the Big 12 title game this December. The Heisman hopeful threw for a career-best 336 yards and two TDs, making it look easy on an extraordinary 25-of-29 passing day.

We'll let NFL scouts worry about his release (in hopefully two years), but Young completed 16 of his first 18 passes as all five of Texas' first half drives concluded in the Colorado end zone. It remains to be seen if Young's outing -- he committed no turnovers and set a new school record by completing 86.2 percent of his attempts -- will be enough to earn BCS style points when the rankings are released Monday. But head coach Mack Brown surmised it just may have been the best overall performance of Young's career. He also added three rushing TDs and, in essence, did it in three quarters as backup QB Matt Nordgren checked-in with 9:40 remaining.

"The question mark, even after the Rose Bowl, was whether Vince and the receiving corps was ready to have a passing attack. I think we answered that today," Brown said.

And there's no question that Young is enjoying celebrity status even among teammates and opponents because, quite frankly, he is virtually without peer in college football. Following the game, approximately one dozen Buffaloes gathered just to shake Young's hand. VY was the last Longhorn to reach the post-game locker room, obliging visiting recruits and their families with photo-ops.

Is there any one out there who doesn't believe Young has now evolved into a dual-threat QB who can beat you with his arm?

(insert sound of crickets chirping)

And he's only getting better. Again, we're seeing VY pick up blitzes that would have been drive-killers last season. He is finding secondary receivers and making pre-snap decisions that are all but lost on the casual fan. Case-in-point: Young checked-off at the line of scrimmage on 2nd-and-2 from the Colorado 35 and changed SE Limas Sweed's route. The result was a TD toss on a post pattern, the first scoring reception of Sweed's career in Memorial Stadium, and an insurmountable 35-3 Longhorn lead.

The play called for Sweed to run a curl.

"The defensive back was sitting hard on in so he checked me to a streak," Sweed told me. "I just ran and stepped on his toes. Vince just laid it up. I just shielded the guy off of me and looked it in."

RB Selvin Young subbed for a gimpy Jamaal Charles (tweaked left ankle) and finished with 43 yards on 19 carries. The junior still has the fight but not nearly the burst he once had (particularly on east-west carries) prior to suffering a season-ending broken ankle at Arkansas last season. Charles briefly checked into the game on Texas' second possession but coaches opted to sideline him after carrying the ball three times for eight yards. Charles did not practice Thursday but told Brown Saturday morning that he "felt great."

"We didn't see him make a real sharp cut when he went in," Brown said, "so we thought it was foolish to keep him in. We were moving the ball well at that time so we did not want to leave him out there and hurt him more. I think he should be fine."

Even without Charles 8.8 ypc average, Texas managed 145 yards rushing against a CU rush defense that entered the game rated No. 6 nationally. Following a trend, the Buffs are the latest in a line of teams that stack the line and dare VY to beat them through the air.

"I think it's great for us to be the second-leading rushing team in the nation and throw for 337 yards," Brown said. "That tells people we've got the ability to do both."

Almost on cue, Young praised his offensive line ("I think I'm going to have to take them all out to eat this week") for giving him ample opportunity to pick apart what was, frankly, a suspect CU secondary. It was just a matter of taking what the defense was giving him, according to Young.

"The biggest thing for this game was using what the coaches taught me all week and making sure I get all the guys involved," Young said.

My definition of getting "all the guys involved" is when FL Nate Jones makes a grab. The sophomore caught one over the middle for seven yards to convert a 3rd-and-5 at the CU 15 on Texas' second possession of the game. It led to Young's third rushing TD of the game and a 28-0 Longhorn lead.

Young found five different receivers on Texas' opening drive -- eight runs and eight passes -- that covered 90 yards and 7:40 off the clock. He converted a key 4th-and-three from the CU 38 when he found FL Brian Carter down the left sideline for a chain-moving 24 yards. His 14-yard toss to TE David Thomas in the left flat converted a 3rd-and-13 from the Buffalo 17. Freshman RB Henry Melton checked-in as a decoy on 3rd-and-goal from the one, but Young leaned for the score as Texas jumped to a 7-0 lead with 5:46 remaining in the opening quarter.

"We just wanted to get in there and get a good drive going and that's what we accomplished," said Sweed, who finished with 88 yards on seven grabs. "We wanted to slowly move the ball down the field. That's what we work on in practice."

Young's most impressive drive had to have been Texas' second series of the contest. (It was evident on this possession that Charles would not be a factor Saturday.) Facing a 3rd-and three from the Texas 40, Young found Thomas on play-action for 18 yards. On the very next play, a scrambling Young threw one of those are-you-kidding-me, across-the-body passes to WR Billy Pittman, good for 25 yards. Then, on 2nd-and-nine from the Buffalo 16, Young kept the ball on the zone read play and then put some ankle-breaking moves on the Colorado DBs before extending his arm at the pylon to score a diving TD. The play capped a 67-yard, six play drive and spotted the Horns a 14-lead with 52 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

"He just breaks teams' backs," Brown said. "Those are things he couldn't do last year at mid-season."

Pittman led all receivers with 99 yards on three catches, including a game-best 62-yarder on Texas' third scoring drive. (LCB Aaron Ross' second INT of the season set up the series.) Young lofted the ball against the wind to Pittman who was about as wide-open as he was against OU last Saturday on that 64-yard score just before halftime. Against the Buffs, Pittman and WR Brian Carter crossed downfield as both DBs converged on Carter.

"When he hit the deep post to Pittman, I was screaming (for Vince to) run," Brown said. "I'm glad he didn't hear me."

The long ball would set up a 5-yard Selvin Young TD run and all the points Texas would need at 21-0 with 10:27 remaining in the second quarter.

Three days after Brown bemoaned his team's post-Oklahoma lackluster effort at practice, it was a focused and fiery group of Longhorns that served notice from the opening series that this one was going to be no contest and showed no signs of easing up until after staking a 25-point halftime lead. The Horns did most of their damage in the first half, scoring on their first five possessions.

"So much for hangover," Brown grinned. "I worried about it all week, but the young people did what they were supposed to do and our coaches did what they were supposed to do."

And Vince told Brown to chill.

"Hey, coach, we're fine," VY told him. "Don't worry about us."

The first time a Texas drive didn't conclude in the Colorado end zone was on its first possession of the second half when David Pino misfired on a 39-yard FG attempt. Previously, Pino had connected on all five of his FG attempts this season. Texas notched 482 yards of total offense and dominated the game clock by holding the ball for 38:54. The Horns converted 7-of-8 third down attempts during the first half and 10-of-17 for the game. In fact, Colorado did not force a Texas punt until there was 4:18 remaining in the third quarter.

The only tense moment for Horn fans was when VY lay motionless on the field following a carry late in the third quarter. Moments later, he walked to the bench on the Texas sideline where trainers replaced his microchip. (Seriously, VY had the breath knocked out of him after falling on the ball.)

Young's efforts all but overshadowed another suffocating performance by the Longhorn defense. Gene Chizik's crew held the Buffs to 45 yards rushing on 19 carries and were in QB Joel Klatt's face all afternoon. The D set the tone early as MLB Aaron Harris came on a delayed blitz on CU's first possession, hitting Klatt just as he released and forcing an incompletion. When a reporter asked Harris when he realized Colorado wouldn't be able to run on Texas, he replied, "When they ran the ball and we stopped them."

Klatt bears a reputation as one who is not easily rattled but Chizik's game plan was try to get inside his head anyway. The Horns based out of their 4-3 but, at times, stacked the outside linebackers on the LOS to get to Klatt. Chizik also blitzed safeties, blitzed cornerbacks and threw some zone blitzes at Klatt. Texas also showed some nickel and dime coverage but, hey, the fifth-year signal caller is no Rhett Bomar. Klatt finished with 19-of-39 passing for 189 yards, including two TD and one INT.

"We have six DBs who could play anywhere," said SS Michael Huff, who led Texas with eight tackles. "We're just gonna line up and play."

Colorado finally crossed the goal line when Klatt found WR Evan Judge in the back of the end zone with one second remaining until half time. That drive was set up by a 33-yard KO return after the Horns had built a 35-3 bulge. The Buffs tacked on a meaningless score with 9:40 left in the game after WR Ramonce Taylor fumbled at Longhorn 11. A personal foul on Mike Garcia moved the ball the UT 5. Klatt found TE Joe Klopfenstein in the back of the end zone on 4th-and-four.

Colorado was the only Big 12 team that Texas did not own a series lead versus. With the win, Texas now holds an 8-7 edge over the Buffs and have now taken four-of-five from the bunch from Boulder. The Horns are 3-0 in Big 12 play for the first time in school history while the 6-0 start is the program's best since 1983.

The post-game press conference was delayed as Texas coaches and players gathered to watch the end of the USC-Notre Dame game, a last-second Trojan win.

"If you asked if I was disappointed with the outcome, I'd say 'yeah,'" Brown admitted, "but I'm a lot more excited about beating Colorado."

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