Sept. 10, 2005
Ohio State 22
The 'Shoe Fits!
By Bill Frisbie
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- How Sweed it is! SE Limas Sweed's falling grab on a 24-yard pattern from Vince Young in the north end of Ohio Stadium reclaimed the Texas lead with 2:37 remaining as the No. 2 Horns went on to a thrilling win at No. 4 Ohio State, 25-22. But the Longhorn defense deserves the biggest piece of that game ball.
"It's a great feeling but it just goes back to practice," Sweed said. "We do it every day in practice, so it really wasn't nothing. Just like another day in practice."
With all due respect, this wasn't just another day in the annals of either storied program. Ohio State's 36 straight non-conference wins at home? Gone! The Buckeyes' perfect 6-0 home slate under the lights? It's history! The No. 2 Longhorns have now won 22-of-23 road games and cleared what should be the biggest hurdle between here and a BCS championship matchup against top-ranked USC.
"At times we didn't play very well but we played hard and we believed and we played with confidence," head coach Mack Brown said after raising his UT record against Top Ten competition to 2-6. "Very seldom can you give up three turnovers like that and still win the game but our guys kept coming back and kept coming back and gave themselves a chance to win at the end."
Not counting the Louisiana-Lafayette rout, Young has now led Texas on seven straight comeback wins. Texas will be favored to post Ws the rest of the regular season but the Showdown at the Shoe recalls one of the things Darrell Royal (in attendance Saturday) has always said about his championship teams: they found a way to win when the offense didn't play particularly well.
Three Texas turnovers (two INTs, one fumble), not to mention 191 return yards against the porous kickoff coverage team, were nearly fatal but the Longhorn D held the Buckeyes to field goal after field goal after field goal. No defensive stand was bigger than the 11-play, 37-yard Buckeye drive late in the fourth quarter. Here, an Ohio State FG would have forced Texas to have scored twice during the final five minutes. Ohio State was operating from the Texas 29 when SS Michael Huff and WLB Rashad Bobino stopped RB Antonio Pittman for no gain on first down. Next play, DE Brian Robison (with a vertical leap that Spiderman would envy) swatted a Justin Zwick pass back into the hands of Pittman, a reception that lost four yards.
On that drive, VY was "walking up and down the sideline telling the guys that we've been through this, play by play, that the defense was going to give us the ball. The defense did a hell of a job for us."
An incompletion, followed by Josh Huston's only miss of the night, and you've got (potentially) the biggest defensive stand of the year should Texas go on to run the table.
It was a night in which Texas' oft-criticized receivers grew up on the biggest national stage they will perform on this regular season and before a record 105,565 in attendance.
The Buckeyes were determined that Vince Young would not beat them with his feet by pinching the perimeter during the final three quarters. The unflappable Young was 18-of-29 for 270 yards, including two TDs. His first six completions were to five different receivers. He added 100 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Who woulda thunk that with Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn, Jr. on the field that Billy Pittman would emerge as the game's leading receiver (130 yards on five receptions). Meanwhile, Sweed's fourth-quarter TD reception was the first of his career. I asked Brown what kind of statement his receivers made in Columbus.
"I thought Limas and Billy for sure played the best game they have ever played," he said. "What a catch by Limas down in the end zone. Billy made two or three great plays and that's the first time Billy's played a lot. I thought that one of the throws that Vince made on third-and-12 (in the fourth quarter) to Brian Carter was a huge play. We felt like we weren't in sync at times tonight and things weren't as smooth, but give Ohio State credit for some of that, but we're really proud of our guys."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is still trying to figure out what to do with Ginn. The sophomore was held to just nine yards (nine!) on two receptions and lost two yards on his only rushing attempt. As expected, Tressel went with a pair of signalcallers. Zwick got the start (9-of-15 for 66 yards) while fleet-footed Troy Smith (5-of-11 for 78 yards) came in in relief.
"We had a lot of opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them," Smith said. "There were a lot of things we needed to do tonight that we were not able to do. My hat goes off to Texas. They did some things and were able to capitalize."
The biggest defensive play of the night belonged to sophomore Drew Kelson who, after logging just his second career start at SLB, forced a QB Justin Zwick fumble that Robison recovered and returned nine yards to the OSU 21 just as the Buckeyes were eyeing a game-winning FG. FS Michael Griffin led the Horns with 10 stops while DE Tim Crowder enjoyed (arguably) his finest day in a Longhorn uniform. The junior contributed two sacks (his first two of the season) and seven tackles.
Moments before the critical 24-yard TD to Sweed, Young noticed that the Buckeye defense dropped back into Cover Two zone for the first time that evening.
"Sweed came off the ball real well and I just threw the ball to the outside so he could make a great play," Young said.
Texas' final possession, following Robison's fumble recovery, saw Texas reach the OSU one-yard line with 29 seconds remaining. Replays showed that RB Henry Melton's dive cleared the pylon but game officials awarded the Buckeyes the ball facing 99 yards of real estate. Instead, Texas capped the scoring when MLB Aaron Harris recorded the first safety (a sack of Zwick) of his career.
Bottom line: with wins over perennial powers Ohio State and Michigan in the past three games, is it fair to crown Texas the Big Ten champs? Probably not, but the Horns have presumably passed the biggest test on the schedule. And it sets the stage for a season for the ages.
Ohio State Turning Point
By Dusty Mangum
On a weekly basis, many teams rise to the occasion and keep their dream of a National Championship alive, while others fall, their title dreams crushed. This weekend, it was the Longhorns that stayed on course on the Road to Pasadena.
Ohio State was quick, strong and physical, living up to its hype. The Buckeye defense forced Vince Young and the Horns to mix it up and work for every inch they gained. Saturday nights game was reminiscent of that cool January night in Pasadena where the Longhorns faced off against another great Big Ten opponent for the first time. And this one, too, hinged on a field goal. But this time, it was a miss, rather than a make, that proved to be the Turning Point.
With Ohio State holding a precarious 22-16 lead with just over 10 minutes to play in the game, Justin Zwick led the Buckeye offense on a drive beginning at the Ohio State 30-yard line. OSU, behind Zwick's passing and Antonio Pittman's running racked up three first downs, moving down to the Texas 29 yardline and in range for a possible sixth, and perhaps game-clinching Josh Huston field goal. The Longhorn defense stiffened though, stuffing Pittman for no gain on first down from the 29, setting up arguably the defensive play of the game on second down. Zwick, operating out of the shotgun, threw left, but DE Brian Robison leaped up, blocking the ball back into the hands of Pittman, but DT Rod Wright smothered Pittman for a four-yard loss, pushing the Buckeyes back to the 33. When Zwick's third-down pass for Roy Hall fell incomplete, Ohio State was forced to try a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Huston had been perfect on field goals for the night, and a conversion of the 50-yard attempt could seal the fate for the Longhorns. But the kick sailed just inches wide of the right upright, those four lost yards two downs earlier possibly the difference between and miss and a make, and ultimately between a comeback win and a heartbreaking road loss for the Horns.
With Texas still within six and five minutes on the game clock, the Longhorn nation just knew something special was going to happen. Vince Young took the reins and engineered a drive that put the Horns at the 24 with just under three minutes left. Then, on a second and nine, Young lofted a ball towards the left corner of the endzone where Limas Sweed used his 6-5 frame to corral the ball, landing in the endzone and tying the game at 22. When David Pino completed his perfect night with the extra point, the Horns had their first lead since the first half, and all the points they'd need for the hard-fought win in the 'Shoe. But the result might have been different if not for a four-yard loss, leading to a kick a few inches off, the Turning Point as the Longhorns won the Big Ten Championship (38-37 over Michigan and 25-22 over Ohio State).
Culpepper's Commentary: Ohio State
By Pat Culpepper
After UT's 25-22 win over Ohio State in the 'Shoe, there is no doubt the Longhorns deserve the nations number two ranking in college football.
And as yours truly predicted, Texas found its running back before the 105,000 plus assembled in Columbus, Ohio. I dont think Ive ever seen a better performance by a true freshman.
Jamaal Charles blocked blitzing Buckeye linebackers, caught crucial third down passes swinging out of the backfield and refused to go down on first contact. On a brilliant effort just before halftime, Charles darted back to the inside and broke an Ohio State defensive backs arm tackle to put Texas in field goal range. The freshman got Texas back in the game!
Limas Sweed finally broke through the "potential" barrier. He made big catches all night and the last one was a classic that won the football game.
Sitting high in the south end zone surrounded by a handful of Texas fans and covered up by Ohio State fanatics, one fact that came through loud and clear is that Texas has excellence in the offensive and defensive lines. At the start of the game it was the zone read that scrambled the Buckeye defenders but what was spectacular was the protection in front of Vince Young, allowing receivers to come open. Kasey Studdard, Lyle Sendlein and Will Allen refused the Buckeyes rushing lanes and Justin Blalock and Jonathan Scott forced Ohio State defenders outside Youngs throwing sight lines.
Tim Crowder played the best game of his life at defensive end and Brian Robison wrapped up the Buckeyes' only turnover of the game. Rotation by the Texas defensive interior and coach Tolleson getting max effort from Rod Wright, Frank Okam and Larry Dibbles was outstanding.
At linebacker Aaron Harris played good early in the game and Drew Kelson, after getting burned on an option pass when he came off the tight end too soon, won his strong side linebacker spot. Kelson's strip tackle on flushed quarterback Justin Zwick after Texas took a slim 23-22 lead with two-and-a-half minutes to play was a defensive highlight.
The end zone hit by Cedric Griffin on Ryan Hamby was the defensive play of the game for the Longhorns. As the Buckeye tight end juggled the pass in the back of the end zone, Griffin came off coverage and delivered a lick that sent the ball free and incomplete. A touchdown at that point most likely puts the game away for the Buckeyes
Texas left the huge Horseshoe with its dreams and goals still in place... but no thanks to its kickoff coverage team, which is ranked dead last in the nation.
Those eleven players have almost cost Texas losses to both Michigan and Ohio State. Get this, in the very clutch moments of those games, Texas kicked the ball off to Steve Breaston of Michigan and Ted Ginn of Ohio State! And both of them took it to midfield and to the last Longhorn defender!
Mack Brown fixed the extra point and field goal situation last week by demoting Richmond McGee and elevating David Pino, who came through in outstanding fashion. Its time for Coach Brown to take direct action against this keystone cops kickoff coverage and the coach(es) responsible.
It is not time to be nice on this matter. If the Texas Longhorns plan on beating Rice, Missouri, Oklahoma and all the rest, this element of the Longhorn football team must be fixed.
But mark it down Coach Mack Brown won a BIG game. Actually, another BIG game. He is on top of this football team. He has team leaders like Vince Young and Rod Wright in place. He has a top notch coaching staff and will not let this team pull a TCU versus SMU like what happened in Dallas last weekend: Texas 55, Rice 3.