It may be cliche, but there's truth to it: in a rivalry game, all bets are off. It does not matter what the records are, on any given day, there can be huge upsets based largely on emotion. That is how this years Texas-Texas A&M game started out. Texas survived a scare from an aggressive and scrappy Aggie team that played better than it had played all season.
And UT's emotional leader Vince Young did not appear to be his usual self. He was off key against the A&M defense, and those struggles permeated the entire Texas team. It took a couple of special teams play over the span of just a few minutes in the third quarter to keep the Aggies just out of upset reach and secure Texas undefeated regular season.
A&M grabbed the momentum early in the second half by forcing a Vince Young fumble on the opening drive after the break and then quickly scoring to take a 22-21 lead. Texas, needing an offensive answer on its next possession, drove into Aggie territory but faced a fourth and one at the 44. Mack Brown sent the punt team on the field, but instead of giving the ball back to A&M, with the lead bolstered by a frenzied College Station crowd, the head coach called the fake. Rashad Bobino took the snap and rumbled up the middle for six yards, and the Horns got 15 more out of the deal due to a face mask call on the Ags, setting the offense up 23 yards from the go-ahead score. Three plays later, Ramonce Taylor delivered that score, putting the Horns back on top for good.
But another special teams play sealed the deal. On A&M's next possession, a UT defense which struggled to stop the Aggies all day forced a rare three-and-out. With the line of scrimmage at the 21, A&M punter Justin Brantly took the snap at his own 11 yard line, where he was met by a Burnt Orange stampede. Michael Griffin, streaking in from Brantly's right, blocked the punt attempt and the ball popped almost right into Cedric Griffins hands. From there, number 8 took it in for 6.
Although the Texas defense still struggled to stop the Aggie rushing attack, it did force a fourth quarter turnover deep in UT territory as A&M drove for a potential tying score.
The player of the game for Texas was Ramonce Taylor as he ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns, but on a day when both the offense and defense had troubles, the turning point came in the third quarter, when special teamers stepped up and picked up the team's other units.
An aside: One of the most exciting feats in the game, in my opinion, was Ahmard Halls 14-yard touchdown reception. It is always awesome to see great people making plays and contributing to the team. Ahmard, I salute you, congratulations on the touchdown and being the outstanding person you are.
This Saturday, Texas will meet Colorado in the Big 12 Championship Game in Houston. We all know, but would like to forget, what happened in 2001 vs. Colorado. I was there and let me tell you it was not fun being on that sideline. But I do not see this Texas team allowing a repeat of that disaster. The 2005 Longhorns have shown that with whatever adversity they face, they look it straight in the eye and say, "Is that all you got?"
Until this weekend in Houston, Hook 'Em and the Eyes of Texas Are Upon You
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 Monday after each game during football season here on InsideTexas.com.