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Texas Isn't Perfect but It Doesn't Matter

Completing the toughest part of its schedule with a 52-17 dismantling of Texas Tech makes complacency perhaps its worst enemy now.

October 23, 2005|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

AUSTIN, Texas — Saturday's game at Texas Memorial Stadium confirmed what seemed obvious.

No. 2 Texas is the best team east (maybe west?) of the Harbor Freeway, No. 10 Texas Tech never belonged in the conversation and, most of all, statistics lie.

Texas Tech had the numbers coming in but Texas had the number going out, 52-17, the outcome leaving the Longhorns five should-get victories short of a probable national title-game berth in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl.

"If you can not have your best game and still score 52, that shows you have a chance to be special," Texas Coach Mack Brown said.

With the Bevo beef of its schedule behind it, Texas' biggest problem through the remainder of a mediocre Big 12 Conference may be not taking every day as seriously as the Longhorns took Saturday.

"Every Big 12 game is a hurdle," Texas defensive back Michael Huff said.

Texas wasn't perfect. Two of quarterback Vince Young's passes were intercepted before he tossed his first touchdown pass and gave himself a "C-plus."

Brown put his best let's-tone-this-down spin on the 35-point victory, saying Texas Tech was everything as advertised, which may have been a stretch.

Texas Tech had cracked the top 10 for the first time since 1977 and debuted at No. 7 in the first bowl championship series standings -- astonishing given what the Red Raiders had done to get there.

Texas Tech had parlayed nonconference wins against three inferior opponents (Florida International, Indiana State, and Sam Houston State) and then won three times against weaker Big 12 North division opponents before Saturday's ballyhooed showdown.

Texas Tech (6-1) led the nation in passing offense and averaged 53 points a game, but those points and averages were obviously distorted. If not, Texas may be the equal of Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.

The Texas defense, orchestrated by first-year coordinator Gene Chizik, who helped Auburn to last year's unbeaten run, knocked the gas out of Texas Tech's high-octane offense.

Quarterback Cody Hodges, who threw for 643 yards last Saturday against Kansas State, completed 42 of 64 passes for 369 yards but only two times could Texas Tech crack the end zone.

Texas Tech possessed the ball for 36 minutes to Texas' 24 -- just the way Texas planned it.

Chizik said he didn't care how many yards his defense gave up.

"It's always about points allowed," he said. "Tomorrow [at the team meeting] we're going to say they averaged 54 and they scored 17. I'll take that every time."

Texas Tech might have thought it had a chance early when it held Texas to a field goal on its opening drive and later used Young's first interception to set up the first touchdown on a three-yard scoring pass from Hodges to Taurean Henderson.

Texas then went on a 49-10 run, though, and the Red Raiders couldn't wait to get back to Lubbock.

It was a 10-10 game when Texas tailback Selvin Young gave his team the lead for good with a 10-yard scoring run with 8:58 left in the half.

Texas then blocked a punt on Texas Tech's next possession, setting up a 15-yard pass from Young to Billy Pittman.

Selvin Young then scored with 1:57 left in the half to make it a 31-10 game at the half. The second half was all about posturing.

Hodges, the opposing quarterback, was asked afterward whether the Longhorns were the nation's best team.

"They way they played today, yeah, probably," he said.

The Longhorns kept talking about how much better they could be once they work the kinks out.

The game was a Heisman Trophy vote-gathering opportunity for Vince Young, yet his numbers were only respectable. He ran seven times for 45 yards with a touchdown and completed 12 of 22 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns to go against the two interceptions.

He was really only proud of the way he bounced back after a shaky start.

"I was pretty frustrated with myself at halftime," he said.

The other Young, Selvin, had 77 rushing yards and Pittman scored two touchdowns and had 138 yards on three catches.

Texas has clearly identified the on-ramp to the road that leads to Pasadena and a possible showdown with No. 1 USC.

What Texas has left is nothing that would keep a championship team up at night: at Oklahoma State, at Baylor, Kansas, at Texas A&M and then the Big 12 title game, a possible rematch against Colorado, a team Texas beat last Saturday, 42-17.

Brown said he knows the hard part now is keeping his team from looking ahead to the finish line.

Rose Bowl officials attended Saturday's game and left with smiles.

Mike Leach, Texas Tech's sixth-year coach, didn't come close to solving Texas with his pinball offense -- but he thinks he knows why.

"I would have to say this is the best Texas team that I have been involved in playing against," he said. " ... I think they are very capable of winning a national championship."

Brown wasn't ready to go there yet.

"I thought at the first of the year that nobody deserved to be No. 2," Brown said. "I thought USC deserved to be No. 1. Now I definitely think this team deserves to be No. 2 in the country."

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