Savior In Stillwater

STILLWATER, Okla. -- With Vince Young's program-record 506 yards of total offense in UT's 47-28 win over Oklahoma State Saturday night in Stillwater, one could say that the Texas QB schooled the Cowboys. But Young pulled out the red marker when grading his own performance.

Deduct points for an interception, a fumble, and some "floaters" in the passing game, and VY graded himself out at a B-minus. Actually, Young did credit himself with an A-plus in "managing the game" and "sideline leadership," but a look at the stat sheet shows that Professor Young may be much too tough on Student Young.

The junior Heisman candidate rushed for 267 yards on 21 carries, including two TDs, and completed 15-of-30 pass attempts for another 239 yards, including two more TDs. And, ho hum, he led his team to its eighth come-from-behind victory while under center.

"Give Vince credit," head coach Mack Brown said. "He's just a playmaker and an unbelievable performer. To get over 500 yards offense tonight is just phenomenal."

Even though Texas trailed 28-12 at the half, Vince already had 133 yards rushing (of the Horns' 141 as a team) when he stepped under center for the opening possession of the second half. And it took less than a minute to boost that rushing total to over 200.

After a no-gain on first down by Jamaal Charles and an incompletion for Limas Sweed on second down, Vince and the Horns stared at not only a third down deep in Cowboy territory, but perhaps the play that would determine which sideline owned the second half momentum.

Young took the shotgun snap, scrambled right and, just before crossing the line of scrimmage, sent Donovan Woods, OSU's closest defender, skyward with a pump fake. With Woods in the air, VY streaked by towards the sideline, turning upfield, and when Sweed cleared out safety Chase Holland, the Cowboys' lost their last, best hope on the play and, as it turned out, in the game. Texas suddenly had 19-going-on-47 points, and all the momentum.

"It helped out a whole lot," Young said of his 80-yard scamper, the longest run of his career and the longest run by a QB in UT history. "It just changed the momentum and sent something out to Oklahoma State to let them know that we were gonna be here and turn it up a notch in the second half. It meant a whole lot to us."

The crowd, which minutes before had been at a full-throated pitch, fell largely silent. Although the Cowboys continued to have some offensive success (typically till they reached Texas territory), a sense of inevitability hung in the air, but particularly on the Longhorn sideline, where this sort of situation has become quite common against Oklahoma State.

"When Vince stepped up, the rest of them stepped up," Brown said post-game of the team's reaction to Young's play.

"He just hung in there and kept working and kept believing in what we were doing and played extremely well," Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis added.

Texas (8-0, 5-0) was forced to punt on its second possession of the third quarter, but the Horns eventually matched OSU's three-TD first quarter outburst with a three-TD quarter of its own. Vince trimmed the Cowboys' lead to 28-26 with an eight-yard TD run, this time juking CB Calvin Mickens to the ground at the five before strolling untouched into the end zone, and he followed that up with his second TD pass of the day to a tight end, this time a 21-yarder to Neale Tweedie (a 20-yarder in the first quarter to David Thomas got the Horns on the board). Texas had its first lead of the night, 34-28, with 48 ticks remaining in the third. After falling behind 28-9 with just under six minutes before the break, Texas had reeled off 25 of what would eventually be 38 unanswered points (Ramonce Taylor, playing tailback due to Selvin Young's ankle tweak, Charles' cramps and Chris Ogbonnaya's ankle tweak, added the Horns' final two scores in the fourth quarter, one a 57-yard run and the other a 12-yarder).

"Give Oklahoma State credit, they came in with a good plan and they played with great emotion early in the ball game and made some great plays," Davis said, "but give our team credit for keeping its poise and coming in at halftime and nobody panicking and being able to make the adjustments and go back out and play well."

Those adjustments came on both sides of the ball.

Texas employed a two-TE set for much of the final 30 minutes, thwarting the free safety blitz which had given the Horns fits in the first half, thus allowing Vince more freedom of movement in the backfield and more time to throw. And, with Young often operating from under center and play actioning to the lone back (a new twist, according to Davis), it also got Thomas and Tweedie into space. The two TEs accounted for five second half receptions for 117 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Gene Chizik's guys went with more of a five-man "Bear" front to slow the Cowboys' runaway running game of the first half, to get more people around the football and to put pressure on erratic but (in the first half, at least) effective QB Al Pena. OSU running back Mike Hamilton finished with 194 yards rushing on 31 carries (6.3 per), and even with the defensive changes, 80 of those came after the break, but the timing of Hamilton's yards were far less damaging, partly because Texas was finally able to get sustained pressure on Pena, forcing the Cowboys into several long yardage situations. OSU managed 162 yards total offense (but no points) after the break and 402 for the game.

"We just didn't play good, there's no excuse," Chizik said of his unit's first half performance. "We just didn't play good at all, then we got things calmed down in the second half."

Brown said he wasn't surprised by the Cowboys' level of play, but UT's struggles over the first 30 minutes came as a shock to just about everyone else. In recent weeks, Texas destroyed the Big 12's top tier teams, both offensively and defensively, while Oklahoma State came in on a four-game skid, including blowout losses to Texas A&M and Iowa State.

But this worst vs. first match-up turned topsy-turvy early when the Cowboys, in a zero-zero game, completely suckered the Texas defense on a fourth-and-one near midfield. QB Pena faked a handoff into the line and tossed to a wide open D'Juan Woods, who had slipped past UT's stacked, 11-man line, for a 49-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

But after two weeks of watching Pena turn the ball over, and over, and over in the passing game, and after two near picks by the Horns on OSU's first series, the Cowboy coaches obviously developed a new strategy: run, and run, and run some more. Out of 20 first quarter offensive plays, Pena went to the air just four times, completing two, and most importantly for OSU, none to the guys in the white jerseys. In the second quarter, he matched those first quarter totals, including an even more improbable Woods' TD.

Following a Vince Young fumble recovered by OSU at the Texas 29, Pena misfired over the middle just inside the 20, but the ball ricocheted off of Longhorn SS Michael Huff and into the arms of Woods, in a full sprint, who took it into the end zone to put Oklahoma State on top 28-9.

At that point, Young said talk on the sideline was "Here we go again." But thanks to the ever more amazing exploits of the Texas QB, in the second half the talk turned to, well, "Here we go again!"


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