Culpepper's Commentary: Texas-CU II

Here is the real story of the Big 12 Championship Game: the Longhorns have their energy back! From the start, Texas came to play with the kind of passion that it will take to reach their ultimate team goal, winning the National Championship.

The morning before the title game, I stood just outside the Texas will call ticket window and had a conversation with Jamaal Charles' uncle.

He was proud of his nephew's progress in school academically and I had to ask him about Jamaal's physical condition because against Texas A&M, Charles wasn't himself.

He answered with a smile, "Today, he is fine. He is finally over his ankle problem and the hand he hurt at A&M doesn't bother him. You're going to see the difference."

And how!

For all of you, and for myself as well, I thanked his uncle for his help in raising a youngster that had enough character to withstand the competition of college football and the classroom.

The 2005 Texas Longhorn football team is now 12-0, Big 12 champs, and will be going to the Rose Bowl to face the 12-0 USC Trojans. The best part? All the Longhorn guns are operational and are ready to be unleashed in Pasadena.

On offense, Vince Young is ready to run and throw. (By the way, for those who've questioned Young's arm, does anyone drill the sideline bubble pass better? That pass is thrown on a line 40-50 yards across the field while the inside wideout blocks. It works if the pass is a laser bullet. It brings up second and five or better almost without fail.) Oh my does Vince want to run again, and he did it in Houston are the Longhorn coaches dusted off the speed option several times, with red lights going off from Houston to Los Angeles. You can bet the quarterback sweep and the roll back pass-run option will be part of the Rose Bowl package.

What I love is that the big Texan isn't afraid to get hit. When he runs with the ball, he turns into an outstanding running back. To be sure, the Longhorn staff has put the bit in his mouth but on Jan. 4, his ability and toughness go beyond Heisman Trophy business. His play that day will be about winning a national championship. Nothing will be held back.

Jamaal Charles lived up to his uncle's promise with a darting 26-yard touchdown run and caught a flat pass from Young for another score. He was the same player with marvelous skills as he had been against Ohio State and Oklahoma.

If Selvin Young will run with the same determination and hard-hitting speed as he did on his three carries Saturday that netted 42 yards and one touchdown, Ramonce Taylor could be moved back to wide receiver for the Rose Bowl.

That means if Texas can line up at wide receiver with Taylor, Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed, the Longhorns are back to their most dangerous lineup, just as they were against Oklahoma!

An opposing defense must spread itself and the middle becomes vulnerable for David Thomas, Jamaal Charles and Vince Young.

All of that depends on the Longhorn offensive linemen, who were outstanding in their zone blocking for the run vs. the Buffs and who gave Young time to complete 14 of 17 passes against the Buffaloes.

Should all of those offensive pieces fall into place, the Longhorns could match the Trojans score for score on Jan. 4.

I am ready to say that the combination of Michael Huff at strong safety and Michael Griffin at free safety is the best pair ever for the Longhorns in those positions. They make standout plays every football game.

Colorado took the opening kickoff and used a variety of roll back tight end passes and quick opening cutback runs to get inside Longhorn territory. But Huff stopped it with a solid tackle causing a fumble inside the Texas 30 yardline. On the following Colorado possession, Huff deflected a sure first down pass to force a punt. Texas, meanwhile, scored on both possessions.

Michael Griffin blocked the sixth punt of his Longhorn career and recovered one of the Buffalo fumbles. More than that, though, he was all over the field enforcing Longhorn dominance on defense again.

This Texas secondary will be put to the supreme test Jan. 4 but let's put it this way, USC hasn't played against corners like Aaron Ross and Cedric Griffin in terms of recovery speed and hitting ability.

Drew Kelson's hit on Colorado's quarterback Joel Klatt might be his coming out announcement. This is a Longhorn great in the making. His special teams play has gotten much better as well.

There was no drop-off up front for the Texas defensive line. Brian Robison and Tim Crowder have elevated their play to a higher level at end.

Mack Brown enjoyed a week of praise from Sports Illustrated on down, and now several more are in store for the Texas head coach. He has kept this ship in the water sailing toward its destiny. Nobody could know of the crucial decisions he had to make or the one-on-one talks that saved a player's confidence.

Brown is too much of a competitor to back down to Pete Carroll of USC and his football team has come too far to quit if the going gets tough like the last Big 12 Champion did against USC.

Texas is no Oklahoma. That's what USC will find out quickly.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.


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