Nov. 28, 2005: Vince Young struggles, Texas puts itself in position to play for title

Phillip Orchard

COLLEGE STATION — Walking through the A&M campus before Saturday’s 40-29 Texas victory, there was an odd and unprecedented mix of resignation and submissiveness consistent among Aggie fans.

The “horns-down” hand signs were limited, several Aggies openly lamented about the season and still more seemed a little bit too willing to praise the Longhorns.

It was as if a great malaise had fallen over Aggieland, all in expectation and preparation for what was sure to be the most humiliating A&M defeat in the 112 years of the rivalry.

The stadium atmosphere was almost worse, capped when the anticipated finale to the Reggie McNeal/Vince Young rivalry never really materialized, limped to an anticlimactic ending when McNeal hobbled in jeans through Senior Day introductions, officially passing the reins to the 3-and-out Gulf Coast offense to gutsy and talented Stephen McGee.

But four hours later in postgame interviews, the attitudes had switched.

Supposedly a pocket passer, McGee had sliced through the Texas defense for 108 yards on the ground. Supposedly the best player in college football, Vince Young had his worst game of the season.

The Aggies have something to talk about during the offseason (which, at 5-6, started Saturday afternoon). The Longhorns have several things to work on before taking on what could be the most talented backfield in college football history.

Texas had beaten their rival for the sixth consecutive time on the road in front of a raucous crowd, but didn’t win by the 78-point margin many had predicted, and the result was an odd mix of apprehension and relief.

Struggling at Kyle Field was a good thing, right? Anyone?

“It’s not good to have it easy all the time,” said fullback Ahmard Hall.

“I think it’s the best thing that could possibly happen,” Mack Brown said. “It got our guys’ attention so we can quit talking about how good we are.”

They’re right. It was. Texas won by 11 without Vince being Vince. If that’s Texas’ worst game of the season, the year will be a smashing success.

Fact: After winning the previous eight games by an average of more than 37 points, Texas needed a close game.

Truth: Neither USC nor Colorado will run the option, and [defensive coordinator] Gene Chizik will make the necessary adjustments to fix the leak in the Texas run defense.

Bold-faced lie: Vince Young is clearly the second-most-deserving Heisman candidate in college football.

While it’s true that Friday’s struggles only added fuel to the nation’s Reggie Bush lovefest and in all likelihood secured Bush the victory, the two should be neck-and-neck heading into next weekend.

Encouraging realities: Three years ago, Texas would have lost this kind of game. Now they’re 11-0 and Texas A&M is stuck talking about next year. Texas is good enough to win on the road when struggling and good enough to score easily on USC’s defense on Jan. 4.

If they win it all, no one will remember one foggy Saturday where, for once, Vince and the Longhorns were less than perfect.

Printed on Wednesday, November 23, 2011 as: Longhorns keep national championship season alive