Oct. 8, 2005
Oh, Hell Yeah!
By Bill FrisbieDALLAS -- It's Texas 45, Oklahoma 12, and it's great to be alive! One month ago, the 'Shoe fit in Columbus and now the Horns can add a Golden Hat to its 2005 wardrobe. But before we give well-deserved props to QB Vince Young, WR Billy Pittman and RB Jamaal Charles, let's first give credit where it is richly deserved.
The Longhorn offensive line owned a Sooner defensive front that was considered the strength of its unit. Texas rolled to 203 yards rushing against a crew that was giving up just 65.2 ypg (NCAA No. 3) heading into this one. The big uglies up front afforded Young enough time to look for secondary receivers on the way to 14-of-27 passing for 241 yards while equaling a personal-best three touchdown tosses during the Centennial Game of this ancient rivalry.
During the post-game celebration, a jubilant Young leapt into the arms of adoring fans, first on the east side of the Texas section of the Cotton Bowl, then high-five-ing it with members of the Longhorn band tucked away in the end zone, before blowing kisses and extending hugs to the well-wishers on the west side of the stadium.
"Our fans deserve it," Young said. "They do a whole lot for us and they stick in the game with us. I thought that my running around, messing with them, getting them into it and lets them feel the things that we're feeling. Just to go up there and touch their hands lets them know we appreciate what they're doing."
The Horns were feeling it all right. The big thud you may have heard at approximately 3:41 p.m. Dallas-time was the gorilla jumping off of Texas coach Mack Brown's back just after his team snapped the five-game losing skid against its arch-rivals to keep alive its dreams for the program's fourth national title.
It was a day when OC Greg Davis trusted the talent enough to call an aggressive game plan and generally tapped into his across-the-board advantage in seasoned talent. And even when he's not turning the page in the playbook, Davis' weapons are so explosive in his arsenal that bread-and-butter plays (such as the zone read call on Charles' 80-yard run) have go-the-distance potential.
"With these guys, you have an opportunity to have some explosives even when they're not designed to be explosives," he said.
Case-in-point: Jamaal Charles' 80-yard dash in the first quarter was not only a personal best but was also the longest run ever by a UT back against Oklahoma. The Sooners' 26-yard FG was set up by RB Selvin Young's fumble (his fourth of his first 25 carries of the season) and had just narrowed the Texas lead, 7-6. But Charles' took the handoff from Young, cut back, spun out of MLB Zach Latimer's grasp and, well, this is how Charles describes the play: "I tried to zone-read it and I saw the linebacker read me like I was going that way (left) so I just cut back. I felt somebody grab me. I just spun and broke away."
Charles exited the game midway through the third quarter with a twisted ankle and did not return.
The freshman led all rushers with 116 yards on just nine carries as Texas rolled to 444 yards of total offense. In fact, Charles had more yards at halftime (100 on five carries) than the entire Oklahoma offense had all day (77 on 33 carries).
"(Charles) has tremendous speed and he can jump sideways," Brown said. "He doesn't seem to be bothered by the environment around a game like the one at Ohio State. It seems to excite him."
RB Adrian Peterson, held out of practice for most of the week with a high ankle sprain, was primarily a spectator after touching the ball just three times for 10 yards.
RB Kejuan Jones got the starting nod instead of Peterson but was held to 19 yards on eight attempts. Donta Hickson was OU's leading ground-gainer with 22 yards on five totes. OU coaches tried to jumpstart their ground game by calling designed running plays for QB Rhett Bomar out of a spread offense. When he wasn't running for his life, the RS-freshman was given a chance to make plays with his feet. Bomar netted nine yards on 12 attempts.
I mentioned Friday that this promised to be a huge game for WR Billy Pittman. And it was. The sophomore led all receivers with 100 yards on five receptions, none bigger than his 64-yard grab on the out-and-up pattern from Vince Young with just 17 seconds remaining until halftime.
"I thought it sent a message that this team was going to be aggressive and play with a lot of confidence throughout the day," Brown noted.
Teammates had been ribbing Pittman ever since he was caught from behind after his 63-yard gain at Ohio State. Pittman would still be running considering how wide-open he was against a much-maligned Sooner secondary. The CB was nowhere in the picture as Pittman had a good 10 yards on Oklahoma safeties.
"I felt like I had to make a big play just before the half," Pittman said. "I had jumped off-sides right before so I wanted to make a big play. Vince threw a good ball. I mean, that ball just fell right on my chest."
The 24-6 lead, in a game so thoroughly dominated by the Longhorn defense, was enough for you to wonder if Sooner fans would return for the third quarter.
"The late second quarter was the breaking point for us," OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Pittman was the first 100-yard receiver for Texas against OU since 1999. The game also represented Pittman's first multi-TD game of his collegiate career, also scoring on a 27-yard pass at the 5:26 mark of the third quarter.
We are, at last, beholding the emergence of WR Ramonce Taylor. The sophomore submitted a highlight reel leaping TD grab for the second straight week. He set the tone in Saturday's contest as his acrobatic 15-yard scoring reception down the right sideline spotted Texas a 7-0 lead at the end of its opening drive. It was the first scoring drive of 80-plus yards against Oklahoma since 2000.
Big D stands for the Longhorn defense on this particular Saturday as Texas limited the Sooners to less than three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust (171 yards on 66 plays). Oklahoma's only TD scoring drive came in the fourth quarter when the contest was no longer in doubt. It covered all of 38 yards after Texas was flagged for two personal fouls following Lendy Holmes' 21-yard KO return. It was the first time in eight possessions this season the Texas D has given up a touchdown drive starting inside their own 40.
Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik unveiled a dime package for the first time this season as his secondary put the clamps on Sooner receivers. Chizik came with well-timed cornerback and safety blitzes, as RCB Cedric Griffin led his team with 11 stops. WR Travis Wilson, OU's leading receiver heading into the game, tallied just one reception for 8 yards. QB Rhett Bomar, under duress much of the afternoon, finished with 12-of-33 passing for 94 yards and one TD. He was sacked three times and committed two turnovers (INT, fumble).
"Our plan was to get him into situations where he's not comfortable," MLB Aaron Harris said. "We just wanted to get to him and frustrate him. We wanted him to make bad throws and get into trouble. That's how Rod (Wright) got his touchdown."
Oh, yes! You know what's particularly sweet about Wright's 67-yard TD return of a Bomar fumble after DE Brian Robison absolutely flattened the RS-freshman? We can replace in our collective Burnt Orange psyche that four-year old image of SS Roy Williams flying into QB Chris Simms with Robison's and Wright's slobberknocker of a play.
"I was in denial the whole time I was running, the whole time I was in the end zone, and the whole time I was on the sideline celebrating," Wright laughed. "It sunk in after a while but the whole time it felt like it was unreal. It doesn't happen very often but when we get the ball we want to get into the end zone."
It would be understandable if Sooner fans are in denial after seeing their team fall to 2-3 for the first time since 1997. The No. 2 Longhorns, meanwhile, upped their record to 5-0 and are still California Dreaming. The Rose Bowl, of course, is the site of the BCS title game and the Horns have now gotten past the two teams that most pigskin pundits said would be the biggest obstacles on the Longhorn schedule.
Oklahoma Turning Point
By Dusty Mangum
The 100th meeting of Texas and OU proved to be an exciting one, and a turning of the tide.
Texas came out with its No. 2 ranking on the line, the potential for an inside track to a second straight Rose Bowl appearance, and the hopes of not having to live another year with a disappointing loss at the hands of OU, which had won the last five meetings in the newly renamed Red River Rivalry.
The Horns were full speed from the moment they stepped into the historic Cotton Bowl. A fumble on the opening kickoff return by Tarell Brown was a scare for the Longhorns, but luckily the Horns recovered, perhaps foreshadowing that the day was going to be THE DAY for the Horns.
Out came the Longhorn offense led by Heisman candidate Vince Young. The first drive is always an important one. With Texas firing on all cylinders, the Horns capped off the 12-play, 82-yard opening drive with Young's beautiful 15-yard pass to Ramonce Taylor. On the drive, VY completed all five of his pass attempts (to four different receivers) and Jamaal Charles converted a fourth-and-one with an 11-yard scamper, which seemed to ease the Horns into their rhythm for the day on offense.
But as big as it was to put points on the board with the first drive, the turning point came later in the first quarter. After a short field goal drive put the Sooners on the board at 7-3, UT's Selvin Young fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive (and on his first carry of the day), setting up OU at the Texas 20. Gene Chizik's Longhorn defense did what it did all afternoon and stoned the OU offense, but the Sooner field goal narrowed the game to a one-point contest at 7-6 and seemingly swung the momentum to the guys in Crimson. That is, till Jamaal Charles returned to the Texas backfield.
On the first play of the possession, the true freshman running back took the handoff from Vince Young and hit the hole up the middle. He was met by 2-3 OU defenders, but after a spin-move only thought possible on Playstation 2 (hit the O button on the controller), Charles broke the tackle and was off to the races. Eighty yards later, Texas had answered the Sooners with a huge exclamation point. With the quick touchdown, the Horns swung the momentum back to the Burnt Orange and never looked back.
Culpepper's Commentary: Oklahoma
By Pat Culpepper
At the start of Texas-OU week, when the Longhorns were installed as 13-1/2 point favorites by Las Vegas oddsmakers, the carping began: Mack Brown, Greg Davis and Vince Young were put in a bag by sports writers and Sooner fans and burned as reasons for an OU upset.
As mentioned by yours truly last week, Coach Brown never had to make a tackle and Greg Davis was high above the Cotton Bowl in the press box. But the Sooners and their scribes were most wrong about the one that ultimately counted the most -- Vince Young. A close friend in Cleburne has a daughter in a class with the Texas quarterback. Since the school year started, Young has never missed a class and since last season's Texas Tech game he has never entered a game and not been the physical and spiritual leader of the Longhorn football team. He is a Bobby Layne and James Street all rolled into one.
Oklahoma's defense was determined to stop Young from beating them on the keep from the zone read, which meant early on Young could fake to Jamaal Charles and throw to wide open receivers. On one pass in the first quarter, the Oklahoma cornerback was still turned toward the Texas quarterback when Young's pass sailed over his head to Limas Sweed on the Longhorn sideline.
It's not that Greg Davis was afraid to call for Young to get on the corner; he tried, but the Sooners manned the outside rushing lanes. They would pay for their defensive strategy. With the score 7-6, Jamaal Charles darted, bounced and sprinted 80 yards to shock the Sooner Nation. In fact, Charles finished his run right into the middle of the Oklahoma South end zone. The loudest yells of the day from that end of the stadium were "boos" for official's calls. "Boomer Sooner" had a decidedly bad day.
Credit the Texas offensive line for manhandling Dusty Dvoracek and his teammates, allowing Vince Young to rip apart the Sooner secondary. Those were bombs flying through the blue Dallas sky and Billy Pittman, David Thomas and Ramonce Taylor are names Sooner secondary coach Bobby Jack Wright won't soon forget.
Selvin Young should not have seen the field early in the game, a fact borne out by another contact fumble from the junior running back. He is a tip toe runner and, with the emergence of Jamaal Charles, has no business with the football when the game is on the line. And you say, "Jamaal Charles might be hurt for the Colorado game!" True, and if so, it's time for Ramonce Taylor to start at running back. Selvin did make some good runs later in the game (with the game no longer in doubt) but he stutter-steps too much and ends up giving ground. And Henry Melton is too slow getting to the line of scrimmage. He was good versus out-manned defenses like UL-Lafayette and Rice but against the Oklahoma defense he was ineffective.
I told you last week Adrian Peterson couldn't play and it did effect Oklahoma's offense. Same for Texas if Charles is out. Believe me, there should be real concern if Charles can't go at running back this weekend vs. Colorado and the problem won't be solved by Selvin Young. Decisions must be made by the Texas staff early this week. Back to work.
This game was a defensive masterpiece. The Longhorn defensive staff of Gene Chizik, Duane Akina, Mike Tolleson and Oscar Giles are at the top of their game. Their players play with passion, pride and God-given speed.
I have never seen a Texas secondary play a better football game. Aaron Ross and the Longhorn cornerbacks defended the deep ball in outstanding fashion all afternoon.
And this was the best linebacker play Texas has experienced in the Mack Brown era. Aaron Harris, Robert Killebrew and Rashad Bobino covered receivers -- like Killebrew's great play against the Sooners' 6-3, 242-pound senior tight end James Moses -- and they tackled like heat-seeking missiles. They aren't big but they are fast, smart and getting better by the game.
The Texas defensive front -- the big men with hands on the ground -- denied Oklahoma the inside running game and put pressure on Oklahoma's quarterback.
If you watched this game on television you couldn't see or feel all the hits Rhett Bomar took. Four times he was leveled -- both feet went in the air and the first thing that hit was his back on the ground. (I prefer to call them "Mack Brown hugs" since he and his father said they were put off by the Texas coach's show of affection while be was being recruited.) The very best one was Brian Robison's smashing knockdown, popping the ball loose from Bomar which Rod Wright picked up to run 67 yards for a touchdown.
I must paraphrase what Darrell Royal said about my 78-yard interception return in 1960 against the Sooners in a 24-0 Texas win: "It looked like Rodrique was trying to run out the clock."
Write it down: Texas beat Oklahoma physically, the only way to win the second Saturday in October.
The negative? The Texas kickoff coverage team started the game in top shape but digressed to absolute chaos in the second half. Never in 34 years of coaching have I seen a group get three penalties on a single kickoff! They put the Sooners in position for their only touchdown. As I said earlier, back to work!
But on Saturday, the State Fair midway was full of Burnt Orange after an hour of celebration inside the Cotton Bowl at game's end. The Texas fans and players had their pep rally after the game. The freeway from the Cotton Bowl wasn't crowded for the first time in six years. All the cars were headed north because Longhorns were still celebrating.
Credit Mack Brown for putting this all together and getting out of the way enough to let it happen. I hope he puts the trophy that he raised at midfield on his desk to remind himself of what it means to send the Sooners back across the border early. It will always be the Longhorns' biggest game.
But now for the next big game. Colorado will be a severe test in Austin. Last year, Colorado's quarterback Joel Klatt wasn't well in the 31-7 Texas victory in Boulder. This year, with Jamaal Charles well I call it Texas 42, Colorado 10. Without Jamaal, it will be Texas 28, Colorado 21.