Bill Little commentary: The best of everything
"What," asked the television announcers of a handful of Longhorn football players on Friday before Saturday's game with Kansas, "is the most important thing that has happened to you here off of the football field?"
Each player answered. All the responses were powerful and deep in their meaning. And somebody said, "I came here because it represented the best of everything."
And one more time in a special 10-0 season, Saturday they went out and did their deal. This time, they left no doubt.
A year removed from the scare in Kansas that almost short-circuited last year's drive to the Rose Bowl, Texas swapped despair for destruction, anxious for annihilating. In short, for most of the 66-14 victory, they delivered.
The best of everything.
Offense, defense, special teams...shoot, the Marine F-18 flyover and the Kyle Sisters National Anthem were hard to beat as well.
If anyone was looking for a statement from the Longhorn seniors in their final home game, they didn't have to search very far. In fact, the Longhorns played so many players in the 66-14 romp that it was impossible to keep up with who was in the game and when.
Whether all of the talk about if Texas deserved to win the game in Lawrence a year ago helped motivate the team, we'll really never know. But a showdown between two of the nation's best statistical defenses never materialized, lost in a landslide of a Texas rushing game that didn't even include any yards from Vince Young.
Kansas had led the Big 12 in denying opponents third down conversions. Through the third quarter, Texas had converted six of eleven.
The 52 points Texas put on the board in the first half was the most a Longhorn team had posted in a home game, and the 52-0 lead represented the largest halftime lead in school history, eclipsing a 52-3 margin the Longhorns posted against TCU in Fort Worth in 1974.
It was a complete victory, and a balanced victory. The perfect game to close the 2005 season at home.
Nine different people scored. Nine different players, including Vince Young with only six carries, rushed the football. In all, Texas posted 336 yards rushing against the nation's top run defense. Three backs -- Ramonce Taylor, Jamaal Charles and Henry Melton -- rushed for more yards individually than Kansas had been surrendering per game.
Young hit on 19-of-27 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with 10 different receivers.
Defensively, Kansas had one first down and a total offense of 43 yards in the first half.
Despite a good effort by Jayhawk punter Kyle Tucker, who averaged 42.6 yards on 11 punts, Texas also won the kicking game. Aaron Ross had a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown, and David Pino was perfect on eight PAT's and a 35-yard field goal.
The Longhorns finished the game with third and fourth teamers. It was a day for the best of everything.
Most of all, it was a day for the seniors. At his Thursday meeting with the team, Mack Brown had talked to his team about their last game in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The young men in the room had never lost a home conference game, in fact the only blemish on a perfect record for the last five years was a non-conference loss to Arkansas two years ago.
They knew the stakes: The nation's second longest winning streak, a chance to clinch the Big 12 South Division title and the berth in the Championship game in Houston, and a chance to reach the National Championship game in the Rose Bowl.
When he finished with his talk to the full team, he asked the seniors to leave.
Then, he exhorted the underclassmen to play for their teammates...to not let those who had served so well go out with anything less than victory.
At first, it looked as though the fight was on. Richmond McGee, who had averaged only two punts a game in recent contests, punted twice in the first five minutes of the game. But on the Longhorns' next possession, Young hit Limas Sweed for a 45-yard touchdown, Kansas muffed the kickoff and Texas recovered and scored on the next play.
For the record, those were the 24th and 25th times Texas has scored in fewer than four plays this season.
When the players and the announcers were talking Friday, "The best of everything" meant reasons to come and play for Brown and his Longhorns. It meant a family atmosphere, a top-level program, great facilities, tremendous academics, etc. All of those things that have driven this outstanding pool of talent to come to Texas.
Saturday "The best of everything," fit just about, well, everything.
And this time, there was no doubt about that.