The grades are in - Ohio State report card
The Texas Longhorns just wouldn't be denied. Despite losing the turnovers and field position battle for most of the night, Mack Brown's club found ways to hang in the ball game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night, and in the end, junior quarterback Vince Young did what he does best – make plays in the clutch to win a game.
In what might go down as one of the biggest wins in the history of the Longhorn program, Young led Texas to a 25-22 win in a game that immediately became an ESPN Instant Classic and gave the Longhorns some major "street cred" across the nation.
Here's a position-by-position of the Longhorns' performance.
QUARTERBACK – For a guy that simply cannot win a big game with his arm, Young did okay, didn't he? With the Ohio State defense determined to not let Young run wild, the Heisman front-runner made them pay dearly by completing 18 of 29 passes for 270 yards and two huge touchdowns. Yes, Young did throw two costly interceptions, but his performance will be remembered for the way he led the team down the field in the fourth quarter for a game-winning seven-play, 67-yard drive. At the end of the day, Young racked up 346 yards of total offense, but his performance is judged by leading this team to a win that many thought wasn't possible.
Overall grade: A
RUNNING BACKS – There's good news and bad news. Let' start with the positive – it certainly looks as if the Longhorns have found themselves a real starting running back. True freshman Jamaal Charles emerged from this game as the future of this team's ground game, especially after recording 95 huge all-purpose yards. While Charles was making big plays in the passing game of all places, current starter Selvin Young found himself on the bench after losing a fumble for the second straight week. It's one thing to put the ball on the turf against Louisiana-Lafayette, but it's quite another to do it in the Horseshoe against the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, Charles played with poise and determination beyond is years, while adding a number of key plays on the team's final game-winning drive. The rushing stats were pretty ugly, as the trio of Charles, Young and Henry Melton combined for 39 yards on 13 carries, but Charles' performance shouldn't go unnoticed because he stepped up big when the pressure was on.
Overall grade: C
WIDE RECEIVERS – I've been hyping up sophomore Billy Pittman for a couple of months and it was only a matter of time before he busted out with a breakout performance, but who would have ever guessed that he'd torch the vaunted OSU secondary with five receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown? The speedy Pittman was able to make vertical plays in the passing game and without his presence on the field, the Longhorns probably don't win this game. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Limas Sweed stepped up with the first big-time performance of his career. His 24-yard touchdown reception to put the Longhorns ahead for good in the fourth quarter was as important of a play as any receiver has made for a Texas squad in the last decade. Surprisingly, Ramonce Taylor had a very quiet night in the offense and redshirt freshman Jordan Shipley didn't touch the field.
Overall grade: B
TIGHT ENDS – It's amazing that the Longhorns were able to throw for 270 yards and senior David Thomas was virtually a non-factor in the process. But, the Longhorns were not able to get Thomas going and you have to give OSU credit for limiting his effectiveness.
Overall grade: C-
OFFENSIVE LINE – Even thought the Longhorns never did establish any kind of a running game, the offensive line actually performed pretty well given the circumstances, especially in pass protection. Forget about OSU's three sacks, the UT offensive line gave Young plenty of time on most occasions to pick his poison in the passing game. Special credit has to go to sophomore Tony Hills, who played extensively for an injured Jonathan Scott. Overall, this wasn't an award winning performance for the big uglies, but they battled hard all night long and gave a winning performance.
Overall grade: B
DEFENSIVE TACKLES – One area where the Longhorns were expected to have a huge advantage on Saturday night was in the battle between the UT interior defensive line and the OSU offensive line, but the truth is that both units pretty much battled to a stalemate for much of the evening. The trio of Frank Okam, Rod Wright and Larry Dibbles didn't make many big plays, but they also saw to it that the Buckeyes never established any kind of real inside running game. While their performance wasn't sexy, they did have a major role in the success of the defense being able to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone for much of the night.
Overall grade: B-
DEFENSIVE ENDS – While the tackles were somewhat limited on Saturday night, the duo of Tim Crowder and Brian Robison stepped up in a major way by combing for 11 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. Crowder was especially tremendous, as the junior from Tyler turned in the best game of his career. His four tackles for loss and two sacks were game changing plays and came at huge junctures in the game.
Overall grade: A-
LINEBACKERS – On a defense that is full of players capable of making game-changing plays, sophomore Drew Kelson made the defensive play of the game when he stripped Justin Zwick with just over two minutes remaining in the game. That game-sealing forced fumble made up for the interception that he dropped that could have put the Longhorns up 17-3. Kelson's speed and playmaking skills were apparent all night long and he arrived on Saturday night as a real force to watch for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, senior Aaron Harris was nails all night, as his seven tackles led the unit. The thing that was most impressive about this group was the work they did in unison to limit the OSU offense for most of the night. It didn't always translate to production in the statbook, but these guys played very well as a group.
Overall grade: B+
SECONDARY – Bravo! In case you didn't know, UT defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has a ton of confidence in his secondary. How much so? For most of the night he left his cornerbacks on an island with two of the best playmakers in the country, and other than brilliant touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes in the second quarter, the UT defensive backs pretty much controlled the game. The combination of Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. combined for only six receptions for 81 yards. Really, it cannot be stressed how well these guys played in perhaps the most pressure-packed environment they'll ever see. Time and time again, Tarell Brown, Aaron Ross, Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff were left all by themselves without safety help against some of the best receivers in the country and they rarely gave anything up. Like Kelson, Cedric Griffin made up for getting beat for a touchdown by turning in a huge plays in the fourth quarter when he smoked OSU tight end Ryan Hamby in the back of the end zone to break up a pass and force the Buckeyes into a field goal situation. Also, junior safety Michael Griffin made a team-leading 10 tackles on the night. Overall, it was a brilliant performance by Duane Akina's group.
Overall grade: A
SPECIAL TEAMS – Oh, will the Longhorns ever learn how to cover kickoffs? Just like in the Rose Bowl, the inability to cover kicks almost cost the Longhorns a huge game. However, the team did a great job in the punting game and limited Ted Ginn Jr. to eight yards on one return, while Richmond McGee averaged 38 yards on four punts. Also, you have to give special props to David Pino, who came out of nowhere and was money all night on field goals and PATs. Without Pino's three field goals, this win isn't possible. In the end, the Longhorns didn't win the special teams battle, but they didn't get blown out either.
Overall grade: C+
OVERALL – In perhaps the signature moment of Mack Brown's career at Texas, the Longhorns pulled out a win on the road against a top five opponent, despite long odds. They lost the turnover battle, gave up to much field position for most of the night and never did establish dominance up front on the lines. Yet at the end of the game, the scoreboard reported that they had won the game. That's getting the job done by any means necessary. Kudos to everyone in the Longhorn program because it was definitely a team effort.
Overall grade: A+