Texas looks to avoid past mistakes in Lawrence

Ryan Haddox

Vince Young. The name alone brings back too many good memories to count and glorious nostalgia that we all so desperately yearn to relive. In his four years at Texas, he arguably accomplished more than any other player to ever step foot on the 40 Acres. One of his most memorable games took place on a cold November day in Lawrence, Kan. The year was 2004, the day was Nov. 13 and the legend of VY was just beginning to grow.

Texas got off to a hot start in 2004 before being slowed down at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas by the Sooners (sounds familiar). After the shutout loss to Oklahoma, Mack Brown and Vince Young rallied the troops, and began to embark on what would end up becoming a very memorable season. The Longhorns ran the table all the way to their victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, but a small piece of the story is often over looked. It all nearly came unraveled at the hands of the Kansas Jayhawks.

It was an 11 a.m. kickoff, like the game this Saturday. Texas was the heavy favorite to go on the road and rout the Jayhawks, like they are this Saturday. Texas was trying to undo past wrongs from earlier in the season to keep their BCS and conference championship hopes alive, like the team is also trying to do Saturday.

The Jayhawks found the scoreboard first on that brisk November day, kicking a field goal at the conclusion of the first quarter. Cedric Benson returned the favor on the next drive, scoring on a 16-yard touchdown run to give the Longhorns a 7-3 lead. The teams traded the lead back-and-forth until the start of the very mercurial fourth quarter. Down 13-9 at the start of the fourth, the Jayhawks found the end zone on consecutive drives to give themselves a 23-13 lead with only 7:41 left on the clock.

Then Vince Young showed up, engineering a 13-play, 87-yard drive to cut the score to 23-20 with 4:12 on the clock. The Texas defense forced the Jayhawks into a three-and-out, giving the ball back to Young, who began to complete the first stage of what would wind up as a fairy-tale career.

Getting the ball back with 1:53 on the clock, the Longhorns marched down the field, ending the drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Tony Jeffery with a measly 11 seconds left on the clock. Texas had avoided the colossal upset and kept the season’s goals alive for another week.

That brings us to this season. The Longhorns again got off to a hot start, stumbled against Top 10 West Virginia and then were decimated in Dallas. Now the Longhorns head to Kansas desperately trying to keep their goals on life support, like they were attempting to do in 2004. It is a morning kickoff, like 2004. Texas is again heavily favored, like they were eight years ago. There is supposed to be a cold chill in the air, like there was in 2004.

And while there certainly seems to be a few interesting parallels between the two games, there are a couple glaring exceptions. For starters, the savior that was Vince Young is no longer clad in Burnt Orange. He is trying to cling to his NFL career and hoping to find a job somewhere. Second, the 2004 team had a defense. Not just any defense, one full of future top NFL draft picks who would go on to have great careers. Fast forward to 2012, and the defense resembles something similar to tissue paper. Sure, there is NFL talent, but Texas is currently sporting a defense in the bottom 10 percent of all FBS programs.

Texas should have no problem with the Jayhawks on Saturday, but Vince Young wasn’t supposed to have any problems, either. The Longhorns better hope they don’t find themselves in a dog fight heading into the home stretch of the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium if they want to avoid letting the season go sideways like the past two. Texas has no more wiggle room left this season, and Vince Young isn’t walking through the door to save it anytime soon.

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Looking back: heavy favorites in 2004, Texas clawed its way to a win