Thursday, November 24, 2011
Updated: November 25, 9:00 AM ET
These Horns have their moment
By Carter Strickland
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- History waited for the last second.
As it should after 118 games between Texas and Texas A&M.
But when history finally did arrive it wrapped its arms around Justin Tucker, Case McCoy and the Texas football team.
Texas 27, Texas A&M 25.
"Instant classic," linebacker Keenan Robinson said.
More like a game and a moment forever frozen in time. With one 48-yard drive and one 40-yard kick as time expired, a middling Texas team became instantly unforgettable.
"To know that's what we accomplished, to know what this means.
You hardly have the words for it," cornerback Carrington Byndom said.
No, it was more the actions that told this story. Justin Tucker, a senior who spent years with his father Paul holding the ball, counting down the clock, kicking field goals in the shadows of UT on the Westlake High practice fields, finally getting to his moment, his chance from 40 yards to put an indelible mark on the history of Texas football.
A quarterback, Case McCoy, who has long lived in the shadow of his brother Colt, stepping into the brightest of spotlights, taking his team 48 yards on seven plays, scrambling for 25 of those, to set up the game-winning field goal on the longest drive of the night.
A team, which has been ridiculed, booed, lost its leaders and its direction, finding the resolve in the toughest of places and the toughest of spots, to do what was necessary to get a win.
"Amazing," senior David Snow said. "You see it happen and you just say 'Amazing.' "
It sure was. Texas (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) was a team that had been left for dead and the SEC.
To know that this was the group entrusted to playing Texas A&M (6-6, 4-5) for the last time was something that gave those in burnt orange more than pause. It gave them angina. Texas had scored one touchdown in the previous two games. The offense was without direction or a leader. The play-calling was being questioned. Fozzy Whittaker, the heart of the team, was gone. No, this was not the group to play Texas A&M, not at Kyle Field. Not anywhere.
Then, to have this collection of players and coaches to live up to the significance of the moment was something that stunned most of the 88,645 maroon-clad fans at Kyle Field. To be honest, it had to stun those in orange, as well, but not the players in their road whites.
"We knew we could do it," said Case McCoy, who was 16-of-27 for 110 yards. "We believed in ourselves."
They may have been alone in that belief. But as the game progressed, hope did flicker for Texas. Down 16-7 at halftime, Texas, through the collection of spectacular special teams and defensive plays, came back. The Longhorns scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter. Again, that's more points than they had scored in either of the previous two games.
Unlikely heroes stepped to the forefront. Quandre Diggs, who had not returned a punt more than 15 yards all year, took one 81 yards to set up a score. Byndom, who was battling leg cramps, jumped a route and scored a 58-yard touchdown. Malcolm Brown, who averaged 0.8 yards per carry in the first half, went on a bruising run inside the 10 to give Texas first-and-goal at the 1.
"Every phase of the game determined this game," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
|Case McCoy's 25-yard run on Texas' final drive set up the winning field goal.|
|Carrington Byndom had one of Ryan Tannehill's three interceptions and returned it for a score.|
Certainly, the defense came into play. This was the unit that had held the team together. These were the guys that kept them in games. All of a sudden, this defense, the top defense in the Big 12 for the past month, was the unit that almost let Texas down.
The Aggies and their 12th man willed themselves to the go-ahead touchdown with 1:48 remaining. Forgotten were Ryan Tannehill's three interceptions. It was 25-24 and the Aggies were going for two.
But Texas proved to be their equal on the play. The Longhorns and their first-year defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, had just the defensive set. Diaz had even told his players during the fourth quarter that if the Aggies were to score to be ready to execute that set.
"I just got everybody together and told them," Robinson said. " 'Pick your heads up and go make this play. We've been talking about it, now we have to do it.' "
With that, the defense once again gave the offense a chance. That was all McCoy wanted.
The sophomore bowed his head on the sideline, said a prayer and turned to Mack Brown.
"Here's where you become the guy," Brown told him. "Every quarterback has to have a signature moment and this is yours."
To that point the offense had 189 yards on the night. When McCoy started the drive it appeared there would be no more yards. A flag and three completions and maybe, just maybe, there was a chance.
"I was down on one knee on the sideline, just praying," defensive back Kenny Vaccaro said.
Then McCoy took off.
"I am over there blocking and I saw him scamper off to my right and I just started yelling, 'Go. Go,' " Snow said.
McCoy went 25 yards, to the A&M 23. After two runs, McCoy left it to Tucker.
"It was special," Tucker said. "This is what we play for in college football. We play for our teammates. We play for our brothers in the locker room. And being able to put a smile on every Longhorn's face tonight was special to me.''
That smile, unlike the rivalry, is something that will last.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation
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