Game 12: Big 12 Championship
Dec. 3, 2005
California Here We Come!
By Bill Frisbie
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.
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.
When Charles scored on the option pitch from two yards out with 25 seconds remaining in the half, UT's 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 a bigger ticket for a Longhorn game, you weren't even born. This year, at least, every Rose has its tHORNS.
Big 12 Championship Game Turning Point
By Dusty Mangum
Smelling Roses!!! After the rout of Colorado to clinch the Big 12 title, Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns earned an invite to the Rose Bowl with open arms. In Houston, as in Columbus, Dallas, and all other stops on the way to a 12-0 record, the Horns displayed their extreme focus on the goal at hand. You would say that they have indeed "Take Dead Aim".
And vs. Colorado, it started early. Texas raced to a 14-0 lead, but the Buffs threatened to get back in the game by driving inside the Texas 20. The Longhorn defense stiffened, setting up the Texas 'block party'. Texas native Mason Crosby, considered one of the top kickers in the nation, came on to attempt the 31-yard field goal. Many say that Texas should have recruited him and offered him a scholarship. There is no denying his leg strength, but in this instance at least, he didn't have the height to send the ball above the outstretched arm of UT's Brian Robison, whose block denied the Buffaloes their first chance at points. Although Vince Young would throw an interception just after the Horns took over possession, again setting up CU near the Longhorn goalline, a reinvigorated Texas defense stuffed the Buffs again. Crosby managed to make his next attempt to briefly cut the UT lead to 14-3, but Colorado didn't scare the scoreboard again till late in the game, and the rout continued unabated. Throughout the game, Texas special teams were special, including Ramonce Taylor's 54-yard kickoff return after Crosby's field goal that quickly dispersed any momentum that had gathered on the CU sideline after Crosby's kick. And later in the game, Michael Griffin blocked his sixth career punt and Brandon Foster recovered in the end zone for the Horns' 56th point.
Vince Young turned in a solid performance, completing 14 of 17 for 193 yards and three touchdowns (improving his stats in two games vs. Colorado to 39 of 46 for 529 yards and five TD tosses). Young also ran for 58 yards and one touchdown. That was a part of the 486 yards of total offense racked up by the Horns. Jamaal Charles seemed to be back to his usual self, again displaying great vision and cutting ability to total 62 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. And the defense allowed Colorado a measly 191 yards. In other words, without mentioning every standout, it was a total team effort. But early special teams play fueled that effort, and provided the turning point.
Culpepper's Commentary: Big 12 Championship Game
By Pat Culpepper
Here is the real story of the Big 12 Cahmpionship 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 tciket 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."
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.
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 dropoff 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.