Longhorns win Big 12 Championship
HOUSTON (AP) -- With a Texas-sized trouncing, the Longhorns got their tuneup, sent a message and punched their ticket to the Rose Bowl to play for the national title that has eluded the storied program for decades.
Led by four touchdowns from Vince Young and two more from Jamaal Charles, the second-ranked Longhorns embarrassed Colorado 70-3 in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, a predictable result that gave them a spot in the BCS title game, Jan. 4 in Pasadena.
After their resounding win -- the eighth-largest margin of victory the program's 113-year history -- the 'Horns (12-0) waited to see who their Rose Bowl opponent would be. The nation's only other undefeated team, No. 1 USC, played No. 11 UCLA later Saturday.
With the game well in hand, some 'Horns fans clad in burnt orange could be seen sniffing yellow roses in the stands. The Yellow Rose of Texas -- certainly it will be popular symbol in the Lone Star State over the next few weeks. The Longhorns are going for their first undisputed national title since 1969, when Darrell Royal worked the sidelines.
Saturday's win gave Texas its first Big 12 title since 1996 and the first title of any kind for Mack Brown, the veteran coach who built a reputation for his ability to recruit great teams, but never take them to the ultimate destination.
Many felt there was no way Brown could have messed it up with this group. Against Colorado (7-5), it was never in doubt.
But even though they were playing against a vastly overmatched opponent -- a team they had already beaten 42-17 in the regular season -- the Longhorns deserve credit.
Credit for taking care of business early -- the way great teams do -- grabbing a 14-0 lead after 11 minutes and 35-3 midway through the second quarter. And credit for playing relatively mistake-free ball and looking like a true power in this, the week after many questioned their focus in a 40-29 struggle against Texas A&M.
Young got criticized in that win, many wondering if he was really Heisman material if he couldn't dominate against the 109th ranked defense in the country. There were no questions this time. In the two-plus quarters he played, he finished 14-for-17 for 193 yards with three touchdown passes.
His second touchdown throw, a 31-yarder to Limas Sweed (five catches, 102 yards), was well covered but nearly impossible to defend because of the way Sweed screened himself away from the defender and the way Young threw the pass, so nobody but his receiver could catch it.
Young's 8-yard TD to David Thomas was similarly brilliant, thrown toward the sideline as Thomas laid out to make the catch -- again well covered, but in a spot where only he could make the play.
Maybe Young's best play, though, was his 2-yard touchdown run, a play in which all four Texas receivers were covered, as were all the outside running lanes for the mobile QB. So, Young simply picked and poked and tiptoed his way through the inside, knocking down his own teammate, guard Will Allen, to get to the end zone standing up.
The blowout got even more ridiculous in the third quarter when Texas scored on its first possession, scored again off a blocked punt, then made it 63-3 on a run by Charles (seven carries, 62 yards) after CU lost a fumble at its 26.
That score, at the 9:59 mark of the third quarter, gave Young the rest of the day off.
As for Colorado, well, what really is there to say?
Counting their 30-3 loss last week to Nebraska that -- sadly for the Buffs -- wasn't enough to disqualify them from this game, they have been outscored 100-6 the last two weeks. This debacle comes a year after their 42-3 loss to Oklahoma in the title game. On Saturday, CU trailed 42-3 at halftime.
It would have been completely laughable had CU quarterback Joel Klatt not taken a vicious, helmet-to-helmet hit from linebacker Drew Kelson in the third quarter that left him lying motionless in the end zone for a few, anxious moments.
Klatt (14-for-24, 100 yards) was able to stagger off the field, though, and can consider himself lucky if he doesn't remember much of this one.
The Longhorns, meanwhile, will enjoy this victory and feel good about themselves for a few days.
Then, it's on to bigger business.
Unlike last season, when Brown practically had to beg for an at-large BCS berth and a spot in the Rose Bowl, this Pasadena trip is undeniably well deserved.
The Longhorns won their games by an average score of 41-14. They scored 40 points 11 times, 50 seven times, 60 four times and hit 70 in this one for the first time since 1996.
Led by safety Michael Huff and lineman Rod Wright, the defense stayed in the top 10 in the country through most of the season.
Special teams, meanwhile, was solid all year and never more so than Saturday, when the Horns blocked a field goal, scored a touchdown off a blocked punt and also got a 54-yard kickoff return from Ramonce Taylor after Colorado's lone score.
The kicking game was supposed to be Colorado's single edge in this game, but the Horns took that away, too -- one of many indisputable signs that they are, at the least, one of the country's two best teams, no argument about it.