In Longhorn Hearts and Minds, They're Champs

Colt McCoy and the Texas Longhorns, feeling the snub of a subjective system, showed their championship mettle in overcoming a highly deserving Fiesta Bowl opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes, 24-21 in the final, thrilling moments. McCoy finished with 414 yards passing, three total touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush), and one interception.

Going in, some of the storylines conjured revolved around team motivations. Would Ohio State fold like a tent at the first sign of trouble, or would it be more determined than ever to play a top-notch game on a big stage? Would Texas fail to show the fire after legitimately feeling left out of the national title game, or would it stampede like a bull possessed, out to prove it should be number one?

For a short while, it appeared the script would be written more for a surprise individual instead, forgotten OSU backup quarterback Todd Boeckman. He played a major role in second-half scoring drives for Jim Tressel's Buckeyes, which temporarily stunned Mack Brown's squad and a national audience by claiming a 21-17 lead with just 2:05 to go in the contest.

Ohio State, which seemed to own the Fiesta Bowl (three victories under Tressel with no defeats), also appeared to have taken the "rubber match" after splitting the home and home with Texas in 2005-'06. But, as the Buckeyes would discover, that two minutes was too much for Colt McCoy and the ‘Horns.

As usual, Texas started its ensuing drive very modestly, returning the kickoff to the 22-yard line. Needing a touchdown or nothing, McCoy quickly hit Quan Cosby (14 catches, 171 yards, two touchdowns) on two passes for a modest 13 yards.

The ‘Horns appeared to be hurting when two more plays left Mack Brown's squad with a third and eight on its own 37 and time ticking down rapidly.

McCoy Proves Mettle Again

That's when Texas gave its fans life, as McCoy hit Brandon Collins with a clutch 13-yard play to midfield. Another pass to Collins gobbled seven more, but after two more unsuccessful efforts, Texas faced a potential game-ending fourth and three and still 43 yards from the Buckeyes' goal line.

With a short out pass, receiver James Kirkendoll's effort was ruled just beyond the first down marker, but the play was so close that Ohio State coach Jim Tressel challenged the spot of the ball.

As the ruling remained with Texas, so too did life for the burnt orange. With confidence swelling, McCoy went back to Brandon Collins for 14 to the Buckeyes' 26.

On the next play, Colt read the Ohio State blitz, hitting leading receiver Cosby cutting inside, who bolted past the aggressively shallow last line of defense and found himself free for the go-ahead score. Texas now had the lead, 24-21.

The Texas defense, which had been eaten up by Beanie Wells and the Buckeyes much of the first half and some of the fourth quarter, held together the final couple of plays.

The wild finish climaxed a second half that saw five touchdowns and a field goal, a stark contrast to the puny three field goals with no end zone trips the first thirty minutes.

At halftime, Ohio State held an old-school 6-3 lead. With Beanie Wells gashing the Texas defense repeatedly at that point (12 carries, 95 yards), you had to figure the late Woody Hayes was smiling somewhere at the slugfest.

But Texas played some salty defense of its own in the third quarter, forcing Ohio State and Wells into several three-and-outs while knocking the star runner out of the game with a concussion.

Meanwhile, the offense caught fire for the ‘Horns, stunning the confident and strong-tackling Buckeyes' defense with two long scoring drives that left James Laurinaitis and company gasping for air.

Just as Texas seemed on its way to proving the oddsmakers and the majority of college football fans right with its 17-6 lead, Ohio State answered in the fourth quarter.

Combining the surprise passing of Todd Boeckman with the running wizardry of true freshman and future superstar Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes roared back out in front with what appeared to be the game-winning score with just over two minutes to play.

But that just set the stage for the greatness of Colt McCoy and the Longhorns.

The dubious nature of various voting factions may have shafted him and his teammates in the Heisman and national title races. Yet once again, on the field, McCoy and the Longhorns showed themselves to be undisputed winners.

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