3:30 PM ET, November 26, 2004
Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, AUSTIN, TX
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas took care of its fiercest in-state rival and ensured at least one more week of bickering about the Bowl Championship Series.
Afterward, Texas coach Mack Brown made a passionate case for his team to win an at-large bid in the BCS.
"If you've got a vote, vote for us," Brown said, pleading directly to voters in The Associated Press writers poll. "I'm asking you to do that and I'm asking everyone across the nation.
"This team deserves to be in the BCS," he said. "They deserve to go more than some teams that are being talked about."
The AP poll is one of the factors used to determine the BCS standings.
The victory could get the Longhorns (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) their first BCS bid if they get a big enough boost in the standings to pass fourth-place California. Texas fans chanted "B-C-S!" after the game.
California, which only a week ago thought it had locked up a berth in the Rose Bowl, needs a win Dec. 4 at Southern Mississippi to fight off the Longhorns, who are fifth in the standings.
And another team out West, Boise State, could ruin the party for both of them. If Boise State creeps into the top six in the BCS, they would join Utah in the two at-large berths, knocking Texas and California out of the mix.
As complicated as that sounds, the game itself was full of strange and rare plays that saw momentum swing back and forth during the first three quarters.
The teams traded touchdowns and missed extra points in a tight first half. Benson had 105 yards on 18 carries in the half, but one play on which he didn't get the ball proved costly for the Longhorns.
After driving 88 yards to the A&M 1, Texas was on the verge of punching the ball into the end zone with less than 30 seconds left in the half. Instead of handing off to Benson, the 6-foot-5 Young tried to leap over the line of scrimmage.
Holding the ball in his right hand, he stretched for the goal line and A&M's Justin Warren punched it loose. The ball bounced right to Jonte Buhl, who scooped it up and dashed 98 yards for a touchdown and a 13-6 Aggies lead at halftime.
The play stunned Texas, which thought Young had crossed the goal line -- although television replays showed he didn't. Young stood looking around while Buhl raced for the end zone and Brown grimaced on the sideline.
Then things got really weird.
After forcing the Aggies to punt on the first possession of the third quarter, Texas' Michael Griffin blocked the kick and Bobby Tatum recovered it for a TD.
"We knew we had to get momentum back. That was huge," said Texas senior linebacker Derrick Johnson, who had eight tackles and one sack. "The posse came up with a big play."
But because the Longhorns' regular holder, wide receiver Tony Jeffery, left the game earlier with a rib injury, backup QB Matt Nordgren was sent in and he dropped the snap, causing Dusty Mangum to drive the kick along the ground.
The ensuing scrum ended with the Aggies' Jaxson Appel on top of the ball in the end zone, giving Texas a rare 1-point safety that tied the game at 13.
"I'm a little embarrassed," Brown said. "I didn't know that was a rule."
Said A&M coach Dennis Franchione, "I don't know that I've ever seen a one-point safety. That was a unique call."
Texas took a 16-13 lead on its next possession when Nordgren held onto the snap and Mangum kicked a 44-yard field goal. With a strong wind at his back, Mangum extended the Texas lead to 19-13 with a 52-yarder later in the third.
Texas took complete control in the fourth, harassing the elusive McNeal with a tenacious rush that collected eight sacks and dominated the line of scrimmage. In one fourth-quarter sequence, he was sacked on three straight plays before throwing an interception.
"They were hitting me more than I expected or wanted," McNeal said.
With Benson pounding out yards between the tackles and Young stretching the Aggies' defense with the option, the Longhorns drove 88 yards to the A&M 1. Benson got the ball this time and slammed over the goal line to make it 26-13.
"Benson is a physical runner that gives great effort," Franchione said. "He got stronger as the game went on."
Even with the loss, the Aggies rebounded from last season's 4-8 finish to become bowl eligible against the toughest schedule in the nation. Three of their four losses have come against teams ranked in the top six.
Benson's 10th 100-yard game this season highlighted a stellar career in which he ranks sixth all-time among Division I-A rushers with 5,470 yards.
After his final game in Royal-Memorial Stadium, he took a victory lap around the field to a standing ovation from Longhorns fans.
"I wanted to get a good look at everything my last time out," Benson said. "The fans made me feel really good. They came a long way with us this season."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-15||7-16|
|4th Down Conversions||1-4||1-1|
|TD||2:34||VINCE YOUNG 3 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 14 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||0:46||DEQAWN MOBLEY 33 YD PASS FROM REGGIE MCNEAL (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||0:10||JONTE' BUHL 98 YD DEFENSIVE FUMBLE RETURN (TODD PEGRAM KICK)||13||6|
|TD||13:33||BOBBY TATUM 10 YD BLOCKED PUNT RETURN (MISSED KICK)||13||13|
|FG||6:36||DUSTY MANGUM 44 YD FG|
Drive info: 9 plays, 30 yards.
|FG||1:22||DUSTY MANGUM 52 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 23 yards.
|TD||8:57||CEDRIC BENSON 1 YD RUN (DUSTY MANGUM KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 89 yards.