No. 9 Texas 28, Missouri 20
AUSTIN, Texas -- Facing a stiff test at home against Missouri, No. 9 Texas learned the value of both momentum and turnovers on Saturday afternoon. In a back-and-forth affair, the Longhorns overcame three turnovers in a 28-20 win over the Tigers thanks to a pair of big first half interceptions from a pair of sophomores on defense. Playing in front of 82,981 fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the Longhorns rebounded from its defeat to Oklahoma to improve to 5-1 (2-1 Big 12), while Missouri drops to 4-2 (2-1 Big 12). Texas also survived the loss of sophomore quarterback Vince Young, who injured his ribs on a hit late in the second quarter.
"I'm excited about the win, because it was hard win. It was a win in which we handled adversity," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "I'm proud of the attitude and effort and the way the kids fought. I'm proud the kids didn't give up."
After the Longhorns jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead - its fourth double digit first quarter lead in four home games - Missouri turned the tables in the second quarter. The Tigers had tied the game up and were threatening to take the lead inside the UT 30 with just over two minutes left before halftime.
The Longhorns, though, suddenly regained the momentum, thanks to sophomore cornerback Aaron Ross's interception - the second big pick by a UT sophomore. With Missouri eschewing the field goal attempt on fourth-and-five, Ross stepped in front of the pass by Missouri junior quarterback Brad Smith and raced 64 yards down to the Missouri 12.
"The turnovers got us into bad trouble our end of the field," said Brown. "But luckily the two that we forced led to points, while only one of ours led to points (for Missouri)."
Two plays later, Texas senior running back Cedric Benson bulled his way into the end zone from the 13, bouncing through a pair of Tiger tacklers, as the Longhorns regained the lead at 21-14 with 1:37 remaining in the half.
After halftime, both offenses struggled in the third quarter, with the exception of one play, a 61-yard Benson touchdown run that was called back due to holding.
The UT offense, though, put together one big drive early in the fourth to retake a two-touchdown lead. Benson (28 carries, 150 yards) led the way on the ground, rushing for 45 yards on a 71-yard drive, finishing the drive off with a 14-yard touchdown run, giving Texas a 28-14 lead with 12:52 remaining.
Missouri wasn't done however. The Tigers went on a scoring drive of its own, as Smith completed six of seven passes on a 77-yard drive that ended with Smith one-yard plunge. A muffled snap on the extra point kept UT's lead at 28-20 with 5:25 remaining.
After a stop on defense, Missouri had one final drive, but the UT defense ended any comeback hopes, sacking Smith once and forcing a pair of incompletions on third and fourth downs.
Which was fitting because it was the Texas defense that started it all midway through the first quarter. After a punt from UT junior Richmond McGee pinned Missouri back at its own three-yard line, Longhorn sophomore defensive end Brian Robison leaped to pick off a pass by Smith, and then made the short two-yard jaunt into the end zone, giving the Texas a 7-0 lead with 6:44 remaining in the quarter.
Texas would ride that momentum through the end of the quarter. After the Longhorn defense forced a Tiger punt, the UT offense regained its scoring touch on a drive that showcased the athleticism of Young.
On second-and-eight from its own 34, the Longhorns ran a reverse pass with Young sprinting downfield to catch a 48-yard toss in traffic from freshman running back Ramonce Taylor despite a pass interference penalty on the Missouri defense.
Young then displayed his scrambling ability on a 23-yard touchdown run. The sophomore shook off a hit in the pocket from blitzing linebacker James Kinney, raced outside to the right and leaped into the right corner of the end zone, giving UT a 14-0 lead with just 23 seconds remaining in the first.
Missouri, though, has an athletic quarterback of its own in Smith, who engineered a score on Missouri's next drive. The junior carried three times for 29 yards, and capped the 66-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Sean Coffey, cutting the UT lead to 14-7 with 6:55 left before halftime.
The momentum had clearly shifted to Missouri when its senior cornerback Shirdonya Mitchell picked off a Young pass on the ensuing possession, giving the Tigers the ball on the Texas 33-yard line. Tiger junior tailback Damien Nash sprinted untouched on a draw into the end zone one play later, tying the game at 14 with 5:26 remaining in the half.
Missouri then picked off another Young pass on UT's next possession, with Tiger senior safety Nino Williams stepping in front of Young's throw down the seam. Williams's 23-yard return gave Missouri prime real estate on the UT 32. Young was hit on the play and left the game. He was cleared to play later in the game, if necessary.
But just when it appeared Missouri might threaten to take the lead for itself, Ross stepped up with his interception, helping UT regain both the momentum and the lead.
A lead it would turn into a win.