Battered and bruised, Vince Young and No. 2 Texas are still undefeated and a step closer to the Rose Bowl. Even if it was a much tougher step than most expected.
While far from perfect, Young and the Longhorns (11-0, 8-0 Big 12) were good enough to keep their national title hopes intact with a tough 40-29 win over Texas A&M yesterday in College Station.
Ramonce Taylor ran for two touchdowns, Cedric Griffin returned a blocked punt for a score and the Longhorns survived Young's shakiest game of the season.
The Heisman Trophy hopeful wasn't even the best quarterback on the field against the Aggies, and for the first time since Texas won at Ohio State by three points in September, the Longhorns had to put in a full 60 minutes of work to notch the win.
"I was never nervous. That's not me," Young said. "Nervousness, scariness, that's not even in our vocabulary."
Young is one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy, but A&M freshman Stephen McGee made the plays and provided the inspirational leadership the Longhorns usually get from their quarterback.
Starting in place of injured senior Reggie McNeal, McGee ran for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns as A&M (5-6, 3-5) made a strong run at pulling off one of the biggest upsets in a 111-year-old rivalry.
"I wanted to have fun and lead these guys. I want to do it with everything I have," said McGee, who raised his arms after both of his touchdowns to whip up the excited home crowd. "I'm already sore. I know I'll be sore tomorrow."
Young came in likely needing a big game to keep pace with USC's Reggie Bush in the Heisman chase -- and his penchant for making big plays in Texas's biggest games seemed to guarantee it.
Instead, he struggled against a defense ranked 109th in the country with 162 yards passing, 19 rushing and 2 turnovers that led directly to Aggies touchdowns. He did throw for a touchdown and led two key late drives for field goals.
* LSU 19, ARKANSAS 17: JaMarcus Russell threw a 50-yard touchdown pass and Justin Vincent ran for a four-yard score to help the Tigers win in Baton Rouge, La.
LSU (10-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) also registered its second safety in as many games after forcing the Razorbacks to punt from the back of their end zone late in the first half, earning two points that proved critical when Arkansas (4-7, 2-6) refused to relent after falling behind 19-3 early in the second half.
LSU had to have the victory to clinch the SEC West and will face Georgia in the conference championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 3, the second time in three years those teams have met to decide the SEC.
The Tigers held Arkansas standout freshman Darren McFadden to 57 yards on 24 carries, leaving McFadden at 1,113 for the season.
But McFadden still made his presence felt. His 13-yard gain on a third-and-nine play kept alive a drive that got Arkansas back in the game, at 19-11, on Casey Dick's 29-yard touchdown pass to Cedric Washington with 4 minutes 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
Trickery got the Razorbacks even closer when Dick threw a backward pass to Washington, who then found Peyton Hillis all the way across the field for a 45-yard gain to the LSU 4. McFadden's one-yard touchdown made it 19-17 with 10:43 to go, but the Razorbacks' two-point conversion attempt was intercepted by Chevis Jackson.
"I was saying, 'We've been here before. Don't put your head down, just fight through it,' " said safety LaRon Landry, whose interception in the end zone ended the Hogs' final drive. "Why should you get nervous? Just make it happen. When you find yourself getting nervous that's when bad things happen."
* WISCONSIN 41, HAWAII 24: In Honolulu, Brian Calhoun ran for 149 yards, including 133 in the first half, and a touchdown to lead the No. 24 Badgers in Coach Barry Alvarez's final regular season game.
Wisconsin (9-3) snapped a two-game skid and now waits to find out which bowl it will play in.
It was the 117th victory and secured the sixth nine-win season for Alvarez, who is retiring from coaching after 16 years. He will continue as Wisconsin's athletic director, a position he has held since April 2004.
Wisconsin's ground attack, led by the quick and shifty Calhoun, wore down the Warriors and opened up the passing game.
Badgers quarterback John Stocco was nearly flawless, going 12 of 16 for 191 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also had a one-yard scoring run on fourth and goal late in the third quarter to put the Badgers up by 17.
* NEBRASKA 30, COLORADO 3: Zac Taylor threw for 392 yards and two scores, Cory Ross accounted for 142 yards and a touchdown and the visiting Huskers (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) dominated the Buffaloes the way they did when Tom Osborne was coach.
A few water bottles and other debris rained down from the CU student section in the fourth quarter, forcing officials to stop action and order two sections of Folsom Field emptied for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Outcoached, outplayed, out-everythinged by Nebraska, Colorado (7-4, 5-3) lost its second straight game and might have watched its trip to the Big 12 title game go down the drain, too.
The loss left the door open for Iowa State, which will earn the spot with a win at Kansas today.
* ARIZONA STATE 23, ARIZONA 20: The Sun Devils rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half to beat the visiting Wildcats on Jesse Ainsworth's 20-yard field goal with six seconds left. The Territorial Cup victory earned Arizona State (6-5, 4-4 Pacific-10) a postseason invitation, probably down the road at the Insight Bowl in Phoenix.
It will be the first consecutive bowl appearances for ASU in five years.