"We felt badly about such an effort tarnishing our season," Washington coach Rick Neuheisel – who spent most of Christmas week fending off a media blitzkrieg of Notre Dame questions in the wake of the George O'Leary fiasco - said after accepting the Holiday Bowl bid on November 26. "We now have to rise up, accept the challenge, and fight again.
"And that's what we're in San Diego to do."
For Texas, who fell three points shy of a probable National Championship date with Miami at the Rose Bowl, the game represents redemption on two fronts. They can soothe the notion of "what could have been" by ending the season with their first Top-10 finish in 19 years. They can also erase the memory of last year's San Diego experience, when the Longhorns dropped a 35-30 barnburner to Oregon in their first-ever Holiday Bowl appearance.
"Not many teams have a chance to win 11 games and finish in the Top-10, and that's something we want to do," Texas coach Mack Brown said after the Longhorns' bid acceptance. "It will be a great match up with Washington. I'm sure Rick (Neuheisel) will have his team ready to go."
"We haven't been a great bowl team," Brown said on Wednesday after his team's two-hour practice at nearby Mesa College. "And we want to change that legacy, especially for these seniors."
Coach Brown didn't wait long to announce his quarterback situation for the Holiday Bowl either, naming senior Major Applewhite as his starter the following day. Applewhite is 1-1 in previous bowl starts, while junior Chris Simms is 0-1. Brown then left for a recruiting trip without commenting on the decision, only to reiterate his goal of winning 11 games when he returned.
"Instead of hanging this over the kids' heads, I thought it best to make a decision before we started up with practice again," Brown said. "We were a week behind in recruiting, and that was more important than having a press conference about the quarterback situation.
"The real reason that Major's going to play in this game is he had momentum at the end of the last game, and he gives us momentum going into the Washington game. It might have been better for next year to just let Chris go ahead and play, but we need to beat Washington. I want to win 11 games."
Neither team has had any success in San Diego – Washington is 0-2, the Longhorns 0-1. Both teams figure to bring plenty of celebrating fans (Texas was allocated 11,500 tickets, Washington 10,000), though many Texas fans were hoping to be 130 miles north up I-5 one week later.
It's harder to figure if these two teams will share in their fans' Holiday spirit, given their season-ending circumstances. It should make for one hard-hitting show.
Texas Longhorns Two-Deeps
Washington Huskies Two-Deeps
Per Game: 39.2 points, 412.6 yards (162.3 rush, 250.3 pass)
RUSHING: Cedric Benson 223-1053-12 TD (4.7) Ivan Williams 101-519-5 TD (5.1) PASSING: Chris Simms 214-362-11, 2603 yards, 22 TD Major Applewhite 29-46-1, 379 yards, 3 TD RECEIVING: Roy Williams 67-836-7 TD (12.5), long 68 B.J. Johnson 41-539-4 TD (13.1), long 92Fifth in the country in scoring, it's the fourth-straight season that offensive coordinator Greg Davis' offense has averaged over 400 yards per game. The senior leadership is in the interior line, and the skill positions are young -- and loaded. Take out the three-point performance against Oklahoma early in the season, and the Texas scoring average increases to 42.5 points per game.
It isn't often that you find an all-conference performer relegated to a reserve role for the bowl game, but that's the case at quarterback, as senior crowd-favorite Major Applewhite gets the call to start ahead of third-team All-Big 12 selection Chris Simms. Applewhite, the Big-12's offensive Player-of-the-Year as a sophomore in 1999, holds the UT record for career completions, yardage, and touchdowns – not to mention 34 other school records. He was the starter up to the ninth game of last year, when a sprained knee ended his season. Simms then took over, quarterbacking the Longhorns in last year's Holiday Bowl and making all 12 starts this year. The left-hander had some huge games this year; tying a school record with five TD passes against Oklahoma State and throwing for four more against Missouri. However, in Texas' two most important games -- Oklahoma and the Big-12 championship game against Colorado -- Simms threw for no TDs and seven interceptions. After dislocating a finger on his throwing hand late in the first half, Simms was removed in favor of Applewhite, who promptly lit a fire under the Longhorns, throwing for 250 second-half yards. Simms understood the switch. "I know I let down possibly one of the greatest senior classes at Texas. I just did not play well, and the coaches had to do what they felt was best for the team. It's all part of being a quarterback."
Big-12 offensive Freshman-of-the-year tailback Cedric Benson didn't even start until Texas' sixth game. But after UT was held to 27 rushing yards against Oklahoma, Benson was shot up from third to first string, and he ended up setting UT freshman records for yards (1,053) and touchdowns (12), besting Ricky Williams' old marks. Debuting with the 131 yards against Oklahoma State, the Midland (TX) native reeled off five-straight 100-yard games, including a record 213 yards and three TDs against Missouri. Benson was off to a terrific start against Colorado in the Big-12 title game until a second-quarter neck stinger sidelined him – an injury that will keep him from starting. Getting the call will be junior Victor Ike, who opened the season as the Longhorn starter. Ike returned a kickoff 93 yards for a score in last year's Holiday Bowl –- Texas' first kick-return score in 22 years -- and has six career touchdowns. Sophomore Ivan Williams, built more like Ricky Williams than Benson, started four of the first five games. He ran for 103 yards and two scores against Houston in his debut, and had a career-best 152 yards against Texas Tech. The blocking back is junior Matt Trissel, who didn't get a single carry this year, though he has five receptions.
Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson re-wrote most of the Texas freshman receiving records a year ago, and have continued to dazzle as true sophomores. Williams, a first-team All-Big 12 performer, has 21-straight games with a reception and over 1,600 receiving yards in his young career. He's also dangerous on the reverse. Johnson, who caught a 92-yard strike from Simms against Houston, equaled his 2000 output with 41 receptions, and has caught at least one pass in every game of his career, only two games short of the school record. Both receivers dropped sure TD passes late in last year's Holiday Bowl, and will no doubt want to atone. TE Bo Scaife is also a sophomore, and proved very reliable all season with 30 catches. Sloan Thomas is yet another sophomore, and had back-to-back two-TD games against Oklahoma State and Colorado in October. Senior Montrell Flowers was off to a big start before a lacerated kidney -- x-rays revealing he was born with but the one -- suffered against North Carolina forced him to retire from football.
Size and experience dominates the Texas interior line, led by first-team All American right tackle Mike Williams. Williams, a senior and a Lombardi finalist, has only allowed two sacks in 27 career starts. For the first time all season, instead of Williams it will be left tackle Robbie Doane protecting the QB's blind-side -- Applewhite is right-handed. Guard Antwan Kirk-Hughes and center Matt Anderson, both seniors, are third-year starters with 66 starts between them. Sophomore Tillman Holloway emerged as the other first-team guard before a neck injury sidelined him against Baylor, so junior Derrick Dockery -- who can play both guard and tackle -- should get the starting nod.
Per Game: 13.7 points, 236.2 yards (89.5 rush, 146.7 pass)
TACKLES/TFL: Ahmad Brooks 84/1 D.D. Lewis 81/9 Derrick Johnson 79/15 PASSES DEF/INT: Quentin Jammer 25/2 Nathan Vasher 20/7 Ahmad Brooks 2 INT SACKS: Maurice Gordon 5.5 Lewis, Johnson, Cory Redding 4.5 eachIf the Miami numbers weren't daunting enough, the Texas numbers are downright scary. Even with the 39 points Colorado pinned on them in the Big-12 title game, the Longhorns were the best in the nation in fewest yards allowed, and ranked third overall in scoring defense (of the nation's top-seven in scoring defense, four were Big-12 teams). And until the Buffs' Chris Brown hit them for 182 yards, the Longhorns had allowed only six 100-yard rushers in their past 37 games. Texas has also picked off at least one pass in seven straight games.
Senior Marcus Gordon came to Texas as a 235-pound tailback, and position-hopped throughout his career before settling in as a quick, slashing tackle. Gordon has ten sacks in the past two seasons, including a team-leading 5.5 this year. 290-pound sophomore Marcus Tubbs is the run-stopper, and has 8.5 sacks in his young career. Junior Cory Redding is a first-team All-Big 12 selection, leading the Longhorn interior with 12 tackles-for-loss and 51 overall stops. Redding scored his first career touchdown against North Carolina with a 22-yard interception return. Sophomore Kalen Thornton had 11 TFL, and was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick. Thornton forced a pair of fumbles in the first Colorado game, and blocked a field-goal attempt against Houston.
The starting linebackers are all seniors. D'Andre (D.D.) Lewis, a Butkus finalist, starts his school-record 51st-consecutive game. He recorded 13 tackles in the Big-12 finale and has 10 career fumble recoveries, another all-time Texas record. Everick Rawls and Tyrone Jones have 112 tackles between them -- Jones is also a special-teams terror. Freshman Derrick Johnson ranked third on the team in tackles, and earned Big-12 Freshman co-defensive Player-of-the-Year honors even though he's not listed as a starter. Johnson registered 13 tackles against Texas Tech, and can get to the QB in a hurry.
CB Quentin Jammer – Photo courtesy Longhorns Illustrated Magazine
Senior corner Quentin Jammer was one of three Thorpe Award finalists (won by Roy Williams of Oklahoma). Jammer is a two-time All-Big 12 first-team member, and is UT's all-time leader in passes defended. He's big enough to play safety, and will undoubtedly be a high pick in next April's NFL draft. Junior corner Rod Babers went 54 yards with an interception in the Big-12 title game, and also had two punt-blocks on the year -- both resulting in touchdowns. The safeties are small but hawkish on the ball. Senior Andre Brooks, Texas' leading stopper, twice had 16-tackle days (vs. Houston and Colorado), and sophomore Nathan Vasher was a second-team All-Big 12 selection at both strong safety and punt returner. Vasher picked off seven passes, including two against Kansas, and broke up 13 others.
TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS
PLACEKICKING: Dusty Mangum 16-23 (long 51) FG, 54-55 XP PUNTING: Brian Bradford 56-36.3 (long 53) KICK RETURNS: Victor Ike 13-30.7 (long 60) Ervis Hill 5-20.4 (long 26) PUNT RETURNS: Nathan Vasher 37-15.0 (long 60), 1 TDThe Longhorn special-teams story was the punt-returning exploits of Nathan Vasher. He set school records with 555 return yards on the year -- 153 of them (including a 44-yard TD) coming against North Carolina. The TD broke a 99-game Texas drought for punt-return scores. Vasher also had 60 and 59-yard efforts this season. Victor Ike averaged 30.7 yards per kickoff return, which would have ranked sixth in the nation -- just ahead of Washington's Roc Alexander -- but he fell one return short of the NCAA minimum to be ranking-eligible.
Freshman kicker Dusty Mangum has a strong leg, hitting on two 50+ yarders, and he missed on only one extra-point all season. Mangum ranked ninth in the NCAA in kick scoring. Junior punter Brian Bradford was adept at getting kicks inside the 20, but only averaged 36-yards per boot in his first major college season.
The Longhorns blocked five kicks this season. Two of them -- both punt blocks by Rod Babers -- resulted in scores.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Saturday, December 22, 1979
Washington 14, Texas 7
Washington 14, Texas 7
|2nd Quarter:||Washington||Skansi 18-yard pass from Flick (Lansford kick)|
|Washington||Mackey 4-yard run (Lansford kick)|
|Texas||Beck 5-yard pass from Little (Goodson kick)|
|42-98||Rushing Attempts-Net Yards||60-199|
|67||Net Yards Passing||37|
|7-15-1||Passing (Completions, attempts, interceptions)||4-15-1|
|165||Total Net Yards||236|
|Tyler, 19 rushes for 70 yards||Rushing||Beck, 16 rushes for 98 yards|
|Coby, 7 for 26 yards||Clark, 19 for 61 yards|
|Mackey, 4 for 19 yards (1 TD)||Little, 16 for 44 yards|
|Flick, 6-14 for 57 yards (1 TD)||Passing||McIvor, 3-11 for 32 yards|
|Little, 1-4 for 5 yards (1 TD)|
|Skansi, 5 for 52 yards (1 TD)||Receiving||Koenning, 2 for 18 yards|
|Bayle, 1 for 11 yards||Beck, 1 for 5 yards (1 TD)|
|Placken, 1 for 4 yards|
The emotional turning point of the game occurred on the opening drive. Washington won the toss and opted to take the very strong wind that was blowing, hoping to get good field position after Texas' first punt. Instead, the Longhorns moved the ball down to the 5-yard-line where they failed to convert a fourth and one situation. Although Texas later scored in the second quarter, their failure to score on that opening drive served to energize the Huskies' defense, which was led by Doug Martin, the game's Most Valuable Lineman. Paul Skansi of Washington was named Most Valuable Player.
Television Rating: 10.2
1979 Payout per Team: $219,804
Television Share: 35%