No. 6 Texas 56, No. 19 Oklahoma State 35
AUSTIN – Apparently the hole wasn't deep enough.
Trailing by 28 to No. 19 Oklahoma State late in the second quarter, the No. 6 Texas Longhorns came all the way back, scoring 49 unanswered points to beat the Cowboys, 56-35, in front of a sellout crowd of 83,181 at Darrell K Royal Stadium.
With the win the Longhorns improved 8-1 (5-1 Big 12) while the Cowboys fell to 6-3 (4-3 Big 12). The comeback was the greatest in UT history, surpassing the previous high of 19 set against Washington in the 2001 Holiday Bowl.
"We've been a team that some people called soft," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "But you can't be a soft team and do what this team did tonight."
The blueprint changed from UT's first four home victories this year, in which the Longhorns outscored its opponents 130-27 in the first half. The Cowboys made sure of that by scoring on its first two possessions of the game and on three more possessions in the second quarter.
It still wasn't enough to beat the Longhorns.
"That's as good a second half of football played as a team that I've ever been around," said Brown. "I told them not to be too excited about the comeback because that means they were also down that allowed them to make that comeback."
"Oklahoma State is a good team," said UT senior linebacker Derrick Johnson, who had 15 total tackles in the contest. "We made some mistakes and they were able to capitalize on them. It shows the character of this team as far as not giving up."
Sophomore quarterback Vince Young (18-for-21, 278 yards, 12 carries, 123 yards) and senior running back Cedric Benson, (23 carries, 141 yards, 5 touchdowns) led the comeback on offense, while the UT defense was dominant in the second half, allowing just 105 total yards and forcing four straight three-and-outs from the OSU offense, after not forcing one in the first half, allowing the UT offense to take command.
Down 35-7 with just over a minute before halftime, Texas began its stirring comeback.
On its final drive of the half, Young completed seven-of-eight passes, the final completion a five-yard score to senior tight end Bo Scaife who had to stretch out to get the ball over the goal line, making it 35-14 game as the teams headed into the lockerroom.
"That drive right before the half set the tempo for the rest of the game," said Benson.
Young would stay hot to start the second half, as the sophomore connected on a pair of passes to Scaife that covered 40 yards, and then scampered 17 yards on a nifty run to give UT possession just outside the OSU 20. Benson did the work from there, first on a hard-fought 19-yard run, and then plunging in from one yard out on third-and-goal, to cut the Cowboy lead to 35-21 with 11:21 left in the third.
After the Texas defense forced the first three-and-out from the Cowboys, the Longhorn offense continued its assault. Using a pump fake, Young found redshirt freshman wideout Limas Sweed for 37 yards down the right sideline to give UT the ball on the OSU 30. Benson capped the drive, rushing off the right side of the line, finding a crease and racing into the end zone. The 23-yard score brought Texas back to within a touchdown at 35-28 game with 7:36 still to play in the third.
OSU was unable to stop Texas. The Longhorns forced another three-and-out from the Cowboys, and on the ensuing possession, true freshman Ramonce Taylor quickly made OSU pay on a reverse pitch. Taylor eluded a tackle in the backfield and raced 48 yards behind some heavy downfield blocking, tying the game at 35 with 3:44 left in the third.
The next possession for OSU resulted in another three-and-out from the Cowboy offense. The Texas offense, meanwhile, continued to march forward. Young – who set a Texas record with 12 straight completions – started things off with a pair of completions for 36 yards. Benson added a huge 19-yard run on fourth-and-one from the OSU 27, and the senior back then added his 17th touchdown of the year from five yards out, giving Texas its first lead of the game at 42-35 just under two minutes into the fourth.
"I've never seen Vince play any better," said Brown of his quarterback who rebounded from a pair of first half interceptions. "What a drive (he had) to end the first half and then he didn't cool off in the second half. I'm proud that he came back from some adversity in the same game."
Texas kept up the pressure on defense, forcing OSU to punt again without recording a first down, and the UT offense continued to take advantage. The Longhorns marched 50 yards on seven plays with Benson again providing the closer, a six-yard td run, to give UT a 49-35 with just under 9:43 remaining.
"That's as good a second half of football from a team that I've ever been around," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "I told them not to be too excited about the comeback because that means they were also down the most in history."
The Longhorns sealed the victory shortly thereafter, as UT sophomore cornerback Tarell Brown picked off a Donovan Woods pass giving the Longhorns possession at the OSU 42. On the very next play Young raced all the way into the end zone, keyed by a Benson block, the seventh straight possession in which Texas scored a touchdown, providing for the game's final margin.
It was a remarkable turnaround from the first half – a first half in which OSU grabbed complete command.
A pair of big plays on the game's first possession gave OSU an early 7-0 lead. First senior cornerback Robert Jones raced 53 yards to the Texas 46 on the opening kickoff Four plays later, OSU junior running back Vernand Morency (20 carries, 100 yards) took an option pitch 34 yards on 4th-and-1 from the UT 37 down to the Longhorn three. Redshirt freshman Julius Crosslin capped the drive with a four-yard score.
UT then marched 80 yards on eight plays, the key play coming on a 44-yard swing pass from Young to Taylor. Two plays later, the Longhorns used an option play of its own to score, as Benson made a nice cutback off a pitch from Young and lunged into the left corner of the end zone, tying the game at seven with 8:39 left in the first quarter.
On its second possession, OSU showed more of its big play ability as Morency took a Woods pass on the right sideline at the line of scrimmage and shuffled his way through traffic over to the left sideline where he outraced a hard charge by UT's Johnson, diving into the end zone to put OSU back on top at 14-7 with 7:11 left in the first.
UT threatened once more on its final possession of the first quarter thanks to a pair of big runs by Benson (19 yards) and Young (27 yards), but after a pair of false start penalties forced Texas into a first and 20, Young was picked off in the end zone by OSU junior cornerback Daniel McLemore.
The Cowboy offense kept the momentum going, as the Oklahoma State mixed the run and pass on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that lasted nearly six minutes. The drive ended with Morency in the end zone from 13 yards out. The junior's second score of the game gave OSU a 21-7 lead with 9:31 left before halftime.
On Texas' next possession Young's second down pass was batted up in the air by OSU senior nose tackle Clay Coe and then picked off by junior linebacker Pagitte McGee, giving the Cowboy offense possession at the UT 20. After a 19-yard run by Seymore Shaw, Woods scored on a 1-yard keeper, putting the Cowboys up 28-7 lead with 8:13 left before the half.
After the OSU defense forced a UT punt, the Cowboys went on another drive, this one covering 71 yards on eight plays, including a 45-yard pass from Woods to his brother, sophomore wideout D'Juan Woods, on a third-and-six that gave OSU possession at the Texas two. UT's defense stiffened, but on fourth-and-goal from the one, Shaw plunged into the end zone, and OSU was up 35-7 with 1:21 remaining.
That is when the Longhorns began their comeback.