Charles ran for 72 yards on 13 carries, including a pair of TDs. His eighth rushing TD of the season puts him up there with Ricky Williams and tied for the third on Texas' freshman rushing TD list. Yet, you could feel the collective breath depart the partisan Longhorn crowd at Floyd Casey Stadium when Charles gingerly stepped toward the sideline early in the fourth quarter. Not to worry.
"(RB coach) Ken (Rucker) told me that Jamaal tweaked his ankle but it probably wasn't bad," Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said. "He was just at the bottom of a pile. I thought he looked like he was really close to being 100 percent."
The Longhorns, as a whole, looked close to being 100 percent against an improved Baylor club that was looking for a program-establishing shocker over a storied program. It was the closest Texas has come to playing a complete game this season, head coach Mack Brown said.
"We've played some really good halves," Brown said, "but today we dominated a game for three quarters and then our other guys took over in the fourth and continued to play. This is, by far, the best team Baylor has had since we've been at Texas."
UT was a team that wanted to send a statement that it was also college football's best team this side of Southern California.
"The message is that we are one of the top two teams in the country," Brown added. "That's not been in question. When there were some question marks last week on the road (at Oklahoma State), we won by 19. Today, we won by 62 and that's without running it up."
The afternoon represented Charles' most extensive action since twisting an ankle during the third quarter against Oklahoma. He listed himself as "about 90 percent" recovered and said he laid off the soft drinks that resulted in cramps last weekend in Stillwater.
"This is the best I've felt since I turned my ankle," he said.
Meanwhile, the best he looked all afternoon was on Texas' second possession of the second quarter. Charles accounted for 31 yards on four carries, finishing the 14-play, 80-yard drive with a flourish with a nifty, seven-yard TD that will certainly be overshadowed by all the other highlight reel plays in this one (including back-up QB Matt Nordgren's 29-yard TD run to cap the scoring. Nordgren fumbled on the Baylor 15 before recovering his own loose ball three yards downfield and then lumbering into the end zone). But if there was a moment where Baylor fans surrendered all hope of pulling the upset and turned their attention to women's basketball season, it came when Charles' TD run gave Texas a 20-0 lead with 2:58 remaining until halftime.
Most of the pre-game publicity centered on RT and FL Quan Cosby, a couple of former Waco-area prep stars, assuming prominent roles back in their old stomping grounds following injuries to Longhorn starters. RB Selvin Young (ankle) clearly hasn't been well all season while starting FL Brian Carter was sidelined by a knee injury suffered at OSU. Taylor's only other collegiate start was at WR against Ohio State when Texas opened in a four-wide set.
"Selvin did not practice early in the week with his sprained ankle and we weren't sure if he was going to be 100 percent," Brown said. "With Jamaal's cramps and his inability to play during the past four or five weeks, we thought it was Ramonce's turn. And we didn't think it hurt that he did it in front of a home crowd."
Taylor, of course, was the starting RB throughout spring drills but has become Texas' fourth RB this season. Saturday's game marked the first time that Taylor had both a rushing TD and a receiving TD in the same game.
"It doesn't matter who gets the ball because everybody on this team is good," Charles said. "When I go in, I just try to carry the load."
Texas rolled to 645 yards, the fifth largest offense explosive in program history, and it came against a Baylor team that had been presenting its run defense as its calling card. The combined 347 yards rushing and 298 passing is the most Texas has posted since, well, last week (606) at OSU. The O-line gave Vince Young ample time to pick apart a Baylor defense that got increasingly frustrated (LE Montez Murphey was ejected in the fourth quarter after a late hit on VY and then for whispering sweet nothings into an official's ear). Young finished with 16-of-27 passing, including two TDs and no INT, and was never sacked. The Heisman candidate has thrown for 200+ yards in seven games this season and is 26-2 as a starter (No. 8 on the NCAA all-time win list).
Billy Pittman led all receivers with 60 yards on three grabs. Cosby finished with a career high 79 yards on two grabs.
The defense posted its first shutout of the season and its third over Baylor in four years. One week after its most suspect outing of 2005, Texas held Baylor to 112 yards rushing (30 attempts) and 201 total yards. QB Terrance Parks notched his first starting assignment of the season, and second of his career, finishing 10-of-23 passing for 201 yards and two INTs. The Horns held Baylor to just 2-of-13 on third down conversions.
"We know we're good enough to get shutouts," Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said. "It was just good to see them respond after last week with a shutout. I thought the timing of it was really key."
RS-freshman Brian Orakpo started in place of injured Brian Robison at power end and was credited with three tackles, including a seven-yard sack of Parks late in the second quarter. MLB Aaron Harris was Texas' leading tackler with seven stops, including one TFL for nine yards. Texas P Richmond McGee was the loneliest guys in Waco as the senior was not called on to punt all afternoon. Baylor P Daniel Sepulveda lived up to billing, averaging 47.2 yards on eight punts.
"Texas is pretty good, there's no question about that," BU coach Guy Morriss said. "We lost our composure but that's what good football teams do to you. We knew they were good, but I didn't think we would get dominated that bad on both sides of the ball."
Texas' opening series reached the Baylor 40, but the Bears took over on downs after Young's 4th-and-3 pass fell incomplete. Parks drove the home team to the Longhorn 36 where, on 3rd-and-9, SS Michael Huff came up with his first pick of the year on the tip-drill interception and returned the ball nine yards to the 32.
Charles checked in on Texas' second possession, picking up nine yards on two carries, before RB Henry Melton rumbled for 10 up the middle on the 3rd-and-1 call. (The H-train knocked the helmet off DE Marcus Foreman in moving the chains.) That set up SE Limas Sweed's highlight reel, one-handed grab in double coverage. The 45-yard reception was a career-long for the sophomore, spotting Texas 1st-and-goal from the four where Charles cashed in on the next play. Texas led 6-0 at the 9:17 mark after David Pino's PAT attempt was wide.
The defense forced a BU punt before Texas reached the Bear 22 on the 23-yard square-in route to Sweed. The drive stalled when the Horns lost 15 on VY's bobbled snap.
Pino's pooch kick, downed at the one by DS Nick Schroeder, set the table for Texas' 4-play, 32 yards drive. VY found TE David Thomas for 12 on the zone read, play-action pass but the big play was RT's 21-yard run around right end to the BU 5. Designated scorer Henry Melton's one-yard TD run and Pino's PAT spotted Texas a 13-0 lead with 3:14 eclipsed from the second quarter.
An illegal shift penalty negated an 11-yard Dominique Zeigler first down grab at the Texas 26. A heavy rush from DE Tim Crowder forced a Parks incompletion as Sepulveda's 47-yard punt (against the wind) carried into the end zone.
Texas wasted no time as VY went airborne on first down, connecting with FL Quan Cosby on a deep drag pattern and good for 24 yards. The H-Train careened for six on 3rd-and-1 from the 47. A couple of Charles runs netted 21 yards to the BU 17. RT lost five yards on consecutive plays, two on the handoff and then three on a shovel pass that Foreman blew up behind the LOS. But RT stretched for the first down following a three-yard run to the Baylor seven after Billy Pittman picked up 12 on the completion from Young. Following his lead blockers, Charles darted in from the seven for his second TD of the half to cap the 14-play, 80-yard drive.
From the Baylor 38, VY went up top on first down and hit Pittman streaking down the right sideline for 29 yards (virtually equaling his per-catch average). Taylor's nine-yard TD scamper completed the two-play scoring drive that took all of 31 seconds off the clock as the Horns took a 27-0 lead into the locker room.
The defense forced a three-and-out to open the third, setting up a one-play 42-yard Longhorn scoring drive. You'll never see a more wide-open receiver as was Taylor on the play-action pass out of the backfield. You'll also never see RT draw another unsportsmanlike penalty for his swan dive into the end zone as Mack Brown gave the sophomore an earful on the sideline. (The infraction didn't make a difference with a 34-0 lead it Waco; it could on January 4 in Pasadena.)
Baylor operated from midfield after Greg Johnson's 61-yard KO bounced out of bounds, followed by a UT false start penalty. But the Bears' best chance to score on this wind-swept Saturday was thwarted when Robert Killebrew swatted away Ryan Haven's 47-yard FG attempt with 9:44 remaining in the third. It was Killebrew's third blocked kick in two games. The Horns now have 40 blocked kicks since 2000, tops in the nation.
RT got back in his coach's good graces after notching his third TD of the afternoon to complete a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Taylor negotiated the last nine yards on a pair of runs as this one became a runaway, 41-0. All that was left was to get another Waco-area product into the end zone and Vince Young safely on the sideline.
It came to pass, literally, when Young hit Cosby in stride on the out-and-up pattern down the right sideline. Brown has marveled this week at Cosby's surprising strength and deceptive speed (although, I don't know how deceptive it can be for a guy who's been clocked at under 4.3). But the thing you gotta love about Cosby's 55-yard TD reception was the way he fought off two defenders from 15 yards out, refusing to be lassoed and capping the four-play, 71-yard drive. It gave Texas a 48-0 margin at the end of three and, at this point, you could have shot skeet in the north side of Floyd Casey without fear of injuring a Baylor fan.
"I wouldn't be surprised if (Texas) ended up in the national championship game," RE Marcus Foreman concluded.
First things first. The Horns can secure a spot in the Big 12 Conference title game with a win Saturday against Kansas. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on an ABC regional telecast.
Note: DE Chris Brown (ankle) was helped off the field with 11:46 remaining and did not return.