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November 11, 2005

Young relives Kansas scramble

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AUSTIN, Texas - Fourth down, 18 yards to go.

With time running out and Texas trailing at Kansas, Longhorns quarterback Vince Young rolled to his right, faked a pass and then took off.

Breaking a tackle - his left ankle was in the grasp of Jayhawks linebacker Nick Reid - Young covered 22 yards for a first down in what became the game-winning drive last November.

Longhorns coach Mack Brown calls it the most important play in Texas' 16-game winning streak that has the second-ranked Longhorns in the thick of the national title chase.

"It's a play that's almost unheard of," Brown said. "I thought it was one of the great plays in Texas football history because it led to a Rose Bowl game that gave us a chance to win on the national scene and put us in the position we are today."

Texas (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) and Kansas (5-4, 2-4) meet Saturday in a rematch that has conjured up a week's worth of memories of Young's dramatic play, Jayhawks coach Mark Mangino's post-game tirade and the what-ifs had Texas lost.

Texas might not have gotten the ball for its final drive if not for an offensive pass interference penalty on Charles Gordon of Kansas with a little more than 2 minutes to play.

Mangino was critical of officials and seemed to suggest they wanted Texas to win so it could bring a BCS windfall into the league.

"You know what this is all about, don't you? BCS," he said at the time. "That's what made the difference in a call in front of their bench. Dollar signs."

He was publicly reprimanded by the Big 12 and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

But without Young's big, Texas loses and never reaches the Rose Bowl, where he carried the team to another dramatic victory over Michigan with 190 yards rushing, 180 passing and five total touchdowns.

Brown credits the Rose Bowl win over Michigan with giving his team the boost it needed to be one of the national title favorites this year. It also thrust Young into the Heisman Trophy race.

Given all that's happened since, it's easy to overlook just how close the Jayhawks came to spoiling everything.

"If I make that play, we win the game," said Reid, who leads the Jayhawks with 85 tackles this season but acknowledges he still thinks about the one that got away. "I've thought about this game a thousand times since last year.

"It stings to think about it right now, but luckily we have a chance to go down there and do something about it."

The Longhorns were pushing for a berth in the Bowl Championship Series but ran into serious problems against a Jayhawks team that led 23-20 with just over a minute to play.

Young, who seems so calm in pressure situations, admits he was nervous. He had been sacked for an eight-yard loss on first down and threw two incomplete passes.

"I was nervous that play because I didn't know what to do," Young said. "I knew they were going to drop back real deep and protect the deep pass. I put it upon myself to use my legs.

"I was nervous because our season was in jeopardy. After we broke the huddle, I was thinking about what I was going to do to get a first down. It was crazy, but it saved our season."

And it created a year's worth of nightmares for Reid. After his scramble, Young hit Tony Jeffery for 21 yards and the winning touchdown with 11 seconds left.

Kansas, which had fought so hard, was denied one of the biggest wins in school history.

"It was a game that we should have won," linebacker Kevin Kane said. "We were just a couple plays short. It just makes you think what could have been done differently, but that's in the past. We have to worry about this week."

The Jayhawks will be huge underdogs again. The Longhorns have won their last seven games by an average of 35 points.

Catch Young on Saturday and Kansas could wipe out not only its own bad memories but wreck Texas' title hopes as well.

"He's such a great athlete," Reid said. "He's going to make some big plays."

The Jayhawks only wish they had made that one play on defense.

For more coverage of the Texas Longhorns, check out Orangebloods.com.

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