Texas 25, Ohio State 22
Vince Young envisioned the scene since January. Throughout the offseason, the Texas quarterback implored teammates not to become complacent after their Rose Bowl victory and to keep two words in mind while working out: Ohio State.
On Saturday, Young accomplished exactly what he had long planned. He made history. No opposing team had ever beaten Ohio State at night at Ohio Stadium before Young's late-game dramatics changed everything, including the national title picture.
Much like he had done in the Rose Bowl against Michigan, Young engineered a fourth-quarter rally against a Big Ten stalwart. This one gave the second-ranked Longhorns a 25-22 victory over fourth-ranked Ohio State to stun a stadium-record crowd of 105,565.
A few pivotal moments turned Texas into a favorite to play for the national championship and make a return trip to the Rose Bowl, the site of this year's title game.
Young cemented his status as a strong hopeful in the Heisman Trophy race with a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Limas Sweed that gave Texas a 23-22 lead following the extra point with 2 minutes 37 seconds remaining. Sweed, who beat safety Nate Salley and cornerback Ashton Youboty to the end zone, caught the pass in the air before landing on his back near the side of the end zone.
Even with the Longhorns trailing throughout the second half, Young remained confident.
"We've been through this before," Young said. "And I was walking down the sideline telling the guys, 'Man, we've been through this play by play, the defense is going to give us the ball.' And they did a great job."
When Texas linebacker Drew Kelson forced Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick to fumble on the Buckeyes' next possession, Texas (2-0) essentially secured the victory after defensive end Brian Robison recovered.
"I don't know about being haunted" by the loss, Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said, "but it's disappointing."
For more than a century, these two programs eyed each other from afar as they collected a combined 10 national titles and eight Heisman Trophies but never met on a football field. They authored a classic game Saturday that displayed the speed and physicality of both programs.
Until Young's seven-play, 67-yard drive for the winning touchdown, Ohio State (1-1) had stopped arguably the nation's best dual-threat quarterback when it mattered most. The Buckeyes' trio of senior linebackers, widely considered the best in the country, relished the opportunity to contain Young, who completed 18 of 29 passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 76 yards.
Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, a two-time all-Big Ten performer, made his impact in the first half. He intercepted Young and returned the ball 24 yards to help set up a 36-yard field goal by Josh Huston that gave Ohio State a 13-10 lead, the Buckeyes' first advantage.
On Texas's next possession, tailback Selvin Young fumbled and the ball landed in the hands of Hawk. The Buckeyes then drove 62 yards to the Texas 8-yard line, and Huston added his third field goal of the half to extend Ohio State's lead to six.
Finally, on a second-and-four play from the Ohio State 12, Hawk sacked Vince Young for an eight-yard loss in the final minute of the second quarter. That forced Texas Coach Mack Brown to settle for a 37-yard field goal by David Pino to close an entertaining first half.
Young opened the game as if he planned to make Ohio Stadium his own Rose Bowl by running past, around and even through the defense.
On Young's first run, a 10-yard scamper on Texas's third play, defenders swarmed the quarterback, forcing his helmet off. That only seemed to inspire him. Young accounted for 52 yards on the ground during the Longhorns' 11-play, 64-yard drive that was capped by Pino's 42-yard field goal to open the game.
On Texas's second scoring drive, Young relied more on his arm than his able legs. Young hooked up with a streaking Billy Pittman over the middle for a 33-yard gain. He finished the drive by slinging the ball in the end zone to Pittman, who ran an inside slant route for a five-yard reception.
Tressel started Zwick but also played Troy Smith. Each had his moments, but neither provided the drama Young did.
"Our defense fought like crazy and came up with things that we needed, like the turnovers," Tressel said. "We just needed more touchdowns."