70-3! California Here We Come!

HOUSTON -- Texas' season-long run for the Roses, which erupted into a 70-3 Longhorn stampede over Colorado Saturday in the Big 12 Championship, did more than earn Mack Brown his first title as a head coach. It did more than represent the most lopsided conference championship game in NCAA history. What it did was set the stage for the most significant Longhorn football game in 35 years.

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It won't be official until late Sunday afternoon, but a storied program and its title-starved fans who have collectively been California Dreamin' since January 1 -- will awaken Sunday morning to the reality that The University of Texas will -- in just one month -- compete for its fourth national championship in football. Football. Not swimming. Not women's hoops. Football!

"Most people do not have an opportunity to play for a national championship, let alone win one," Brown said. "I'm so proud that this bunch has been fighting the pressure, since the OU game, of whether they were going back to the Rose Bowl. It's been the most amazing thing I've ever seen. This bunch has controlled their destiny all year and we did the same today."

The decidedly Burnt Orange contingent who stuck around for the post-game celebration saw Brown gather his seniors atop a platform near mid-field who, then, took turns elevating the championship hardware much to the delight of their applauding teammates and adoring public. Almost to a man, every other Longhorn had a single, perfect rose tucked behind an ear on clasped between his teeth. The only question is whether there is now a Houston florist with even a dozen roses in stock, given the preponderance of bouquets among the announced 71,107 on hand at Reliant Stadium who began tossing stems at the feet of the undefeated Longhorns exiting the field like conquering matadors.

Before heading west, Texas fans need to get in step with the latest rap that several Horns performed prior to post-game interviews.

"We're goin' goin'!, Back, back! To Cali, Cali!...We're goin' to the 'ship! We're goin' to the 'ship! We're goin' to the 'ship!"

As in championship. And it's been a long time comin'. Hey, we haven't had that spirit here since 1969.

The spirit, and heart, and soul of the 2005 Big 12 Champion, BCS Title-game bound Texas Longhorns is, obviously, one Vince Young.

"Vince Young is the most valuable football player on our team, for sure, and on any football team across the country," Brown said. "I don't think we'd be sitting here today without Vince."

Young was devastatingly efficient, completing 14-of-17 passes for 193 yards in just over two quarters of work. His three passing TDs gives him 26 this year, tying Chris Simms' single-season record. Young had his hand in four TDs, giving him 78 this season and breaking Ricky Williams record (76). Young is now 29-2 as a starter, eclipsing legendary Bobby Layne's record for most wins in program history. His winning percentage (.935) is the sixth best by a starting QB in Division-I history. He also added 57 yards rushing on eight carries (7.1 ypc) and gave Heisman voters pause to consider before casting their ballots on Tuesday.

When asked if there was one thing he could say to Heisman voters, VY replied: "Just watch the game before making your decision. Basically, (see) how I am a leader to my teammates, and how much I love them guys and how much I love playing with them. The stats, they basically happen, but (look at) the victories."

There are 12 of them now, and that 12-0 slate represents the most wins ever in a single-season in school history. It comes courtesy of the most devastating Longhorn offense on record. On Saturday, a Colorado run defense that was ranked No. 2 nationally gave up 268 rushing yards (on 57 attempts). RB Jamaal Charles led all rushers with 62 yards and tallied three TDs (two rushing, one receiving). His 26-yard TD run in the third quarter capped the Horns' tenth one-play drive of the season and gave Texas a 63-3 lead with 9:59 remaining. It was also the first 100-yard game of Sweed's collegiate career, finishing with 102 yards on five receptions. (His previous best was 88 yards on seven catches against the Buffs on October 15.) The offensive play of the game was his 31-yard TD reception in the second quarter as Texas would score on seven straight possessions.

The most telling defensive stat was that Colorado's only scoring drive, a 25-yard Mason Crosby FG in the second quarter, lost three yards. Otherwise, the D held the Buffs to 82 yards on 26 rushes. QB Joel Klatt was held to 100 yards passing, one INT and no TDs, on a 14-of-24 afternoon. Klatt suffered a concussion late in third quarter when he went helmet-to-helmet with SLB Drew Kelson (Kelson was flagged for a personal foul). Klatt was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, a move that a Big 12 spokesman said was primarily precautionary.

The D forced seven punts, four fumbles (recovering three) and held CU to just 3-of-14 on third-down conversions. The loneliest man in town was Richmond McGee whose first punt came with 89 seconds remaining in the third and Texas holding a 67-point lead.

"Before the game, we talked about getting turnovers," said LDT Rod Wright, "and I think we got four or five. Whenever we do that, our offense is going to put up a lot of points when we give them the ball. That was our goal."

Special teams came up huge. Ramonce Taylor's 54-yard KO return following the CU field goal was a dagger in whatever momentum the Buffs had wrangled to their sideline. Six of Greg Johnson's 11 KOs went for touchbacks. DE Brian Robison blocked a FG attempt in the first quarter while Michael Griffin blocked his second punt in as many weeks. Brandon Foster scored when he recovered the loose ball in the end zone, resulting in the first blocked kick for TD in Big 12 Championship history.

"We've got faster players than we've ever had," Brown said. "We have the ability to block or return now. It puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the guys. I thought the first field goal block sent a great message."

And let's give credit where credit is due: Thank you, Texas A&M. That 11-point moral victory on November 25, and subsequent chest-thumping from Aggies content with a double-digit home loss to their arch-rivals, did more to arouse a sleeping giant than could any photo of a mouse trap worn from Brown's neck.

"All week we had a bad taste in our mouth," Wright said. "We were upset about the rushing defense, and we took it upon ourselves, and the coaches pushed us a lot to focus on stopping the run."

Until Saturday, that was Colorado's calling card. Colorado had given up just three runs of 16+ yards all season, and VY had a pair of those on Texas' opening drive. The series was set up when SS Michael Huff forced a Hugh Charles fumble at the Longhorn 35 on Colorado's first possession. Young followed his 18-yard run with a 16-yard scramble, setting up a first-and-goal from the one. That signaled Henry Melton Time as the freshman put Texas on the scoreboard with 5:16 elapsed from the first quarter following the seven-play, 65-yard drive.

The defense forced a three-and-out, setting the table for the Jamaal Charles Drive. Looking healthier than he has since suffering the ankle injury at OU, Charles collected 31 yards on four carries, including an 18-yarder from midfield. He capped the eight-play, 52-yard drive with a three-yard TD reception. Texas led 14-0 with 5:59 remaining in the first frame.

Robison has the vertical leap of Spiderman and blocked Crosby's 31-yard FG attempt on CU's third possession. But safety Tom Hubbard's 15-yard return of a Young INT spotted the Buffs a 1st-and-goal at the Texas five. CU settled for 25-yard FG after its drive lost three yards

Ramonce Taylor's 54-yard return was the spark for Texas' seven-play scoring drive. Young hit TE David Thomas for 14 and then connected with FL Quan Cosby for 14 more on a left sideline pass. Melton lost a yard trying to bounce outside but a jitterbugging Young stepped into the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from the 2. Texas led, 21-3, three minutes into the second quarter.

If there was still any doubt, two plays slammed the door on this one. First, LCB Tarell Brown stepped in front of Klatt's toss on CU's next series and returned it 11 yards to the CU 31. (It was Brown's first INT of the season.) Young then went up top on first down, finding SE Limas Sweed streaking down the middle of the field. The sophomore wideout made the grab in double-coverage at the goal line. It was Texas' ninth one-play scoring drive of the season and good for a 28-3 lead with 11:37 remaining in the second quarter.

Sweed came up big on Texas' next possession, gathering 38 yards on the post pattern on 1st-and-10 from the 44. Will Allen's holding penalty negated Young's six-yard TD run but, on 3rd-and-goal from the eight, a diving Thomas accounted for Texas' third TD reception of the half. It gave Thomas the Longhorn single-season reception record for a TE with 39.

When Charles scored on the option pitch from two yards out with 25 seconds remaining in the half, the 42 points set a new first-half scoring record for Big 12 title games. The only question was when Brown would assign his MVP safely to the sideline after giving Heisman voters pause to reconsider. Backup QB Matt Nordgren would check-in with 9:54 remaining in the third and Texas nursing a 63-3 lead. The senior led Texas on a 16-yard, six-play scoring drive set up by Michael Griffin's fumble recovery and capped by Melton's one-yard TD plunge.

70-3. It gives one pause to consider if perhaps Texas was the best team to play in Reliant Stadium this year. No, wait, Indianapolis was in Houston last month. For Young, though, the hardest part about Saturday's game was securing enough tickets for family and friends in his hometown.

"The crazy deal was trying to find tickets for everybody," Young said. "It was crazy walking around the locker room asking the other guys if they had tickets for me."

Prepare yourself, Vince. The last time there was bigger ticket for a Longhorn game, you weren't even born. This year, at least, every Rose has its tHORNS.

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