Hollywood Ending!

Photo: Will Gallagher/Inside Texas

PASADENA, Calif. -- Dusty Mangum's 37-yard game-winning FG as time expired in the 91st Rose Bowl capped a blockbuster MVP performance from Texas QB Vince Young, scripting the type of cliffhanger that's tailor made for Tinseltown.

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In the famous final scene, Mangum's kick lifted Texas past Michigan, 38-37, for the program's first-ever BCS Bowl victory.

In a stellar production featuring several leading men, in the end it was Mangum who was carried off the field by his jubilant teammates.

"I'm going to Disneyland!" Mangum shouted.

But it was Young who emerged as the record-setting tour guide in Adventureland on this cool, overcast Saturday in Pasadena. The unflappable RS-sophomore accounted for a Rose Bowl record five touchdowns (four rushing, one throwing), tying the mark that was set 103 years ago. All told, Young netted 192 yards (a UT bowl record for a QB) on 21 carries (9.1 ypc) and was 16-of-28 passing for 180 yards on the way to MVP honors.

"I'm not the kind of guy who throws the ball away," Young said. "I like to make plays and stay ahead of the chains."

Young made enough plays this season to become the first player in Texas history to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing (1,079) and passing (1,849) in the same season. The Longhorn ground game generated 264 yards vs. the Wolverines on the way to 444 yards of total offense.

"Vincent played as well tonight as any quarterback I've ever seen," head coach Mack Brown said. "I've never seen an athletic performance from a quarterback like Vince Young did tonight. He's now 17-2, and what a great stage for everyone to see what's in store for Texas football."

For now, Texas football ended the 2004 season at 11-1 for the first time since 1983. (The Horns went 11-2 in both 2001 and 2002). But the Burnt Orange would have been singing the Michigan blues if it wasn't for Mangum's clutch kick as time expired. Just before the biggest kick of his career, Brown called Mangum to the sideline.

"You're the luckiest human being in the world," Brown told Mangum, "because on your last kick at The University of Texas, you're going to be the hero."

Brown said there was "no question in my mind" that Mangum makes the kick. Even so, he had some parting word for his O-line before as well.

"I called the group over and said, 'If y'all protect, the kick's going to be good so y'all help him.'"

The Wolverines used their final timeouts to ice Mangum, who stood apart from his teammates before the game officials whistled for play to resume. Senior Tony Jeffery received the all-important deep snap as Mangum's attempt sailed softly (almost too softly) toward the uprights, appearing momentarily on a wide-right trajectory before dropping through the goal posts. That's when all heaven broke loose for Longhorn fans and players, but especially for Mangum.

"He was jumping up and down and screaming," Brown said. "I was afraid he would hurt himself like Martin Grammatica did a couple of years ago."

Understandably, Mangum said it was the perfect ending to not only an outstanding season but also his collegiate career.

"It's the icing on the cake," he said, "It's been a great four years here at The University of Texas. I've had great teammates. These guys are awesome. The coaches are awesome. It's been a great experience."

Statistically, this win wasn't supposed to happen. The game marked the first time Texas has won during the Cedric Benson era when the Doak Walker failed to top the century mark. Benson suffered a minor knee injury on his first carry but returned later in the series. He was limited to 75 yards on 23 carries, his lowest total since Texas switched to a power running attack midway through the 2003 campaign.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy," Benson said. "I knew they were going to pile the box up, and the only way I was going to get 100 yards was if we dominated up front. They had the box piled up, but that allowed us to do some things with play-action."

With Benson and Young in the same backfield, opponents had to pick their poison in 2004 -- especially after Young's passing game came around.

"They decided they weren't going to let Cedric get 100 yards," Brown said of Michigan's game plan to key on Benson. "They decided they weren't going to let Cedric win the game."

The inevitable Cal question emerged, given Texas Tech's win over the Golden Bears Thursday and the Longhorns Rose Bowl triumph. You gotta love Brown's answer:

"The BCS should be answering those questions, not me. I don't know if you were asking those questions the last three years when Texas was left out. I don't think anybody who knows football has questioned if Texas should be here."

The Horns were stellar on third-down conversions (12-of-17) but kept losing the battle for field position. KR/WR Steve Breaston set new school records with 223 return yards (also a Rose Bowl record) and 315 all-purpose yards. Michigan averaged 37 yards per kickoff return.

Biletnikoff winning WR Braylon Edwards was another story. The All-American accounted for 109 yards on a Michigan bowl-record 10 receptions, including three TDs. The Longhorns threw a combination of zone coverage and man-to-man defense to try to contain Edwards.

"Braylon Edwards is Roy Williams," Brown said. "We couldn't cover him."

Michigan QB Chad Henne was 18-of-34 for 227 yards while the Wolverine running game managed 125 yards on 31 attempts.

Texas' game-winning drive was set up by Ramonce Taylor's 32-yard kickoff return after Michigan reclaimed the lead at 37-35. From his own 34, Young picked up nine yards around right end before hooking up two plays later with TE Bo Scaife for eight-yards over the middle. Young then carried four straight plays, notching 25 yards to the Wolverine 21. Benson's one-yard plunge moved the chains on 3rd-and-one at the Michigan 21. He then moved the ball between the hash marks to give Mangum a better angle at the game-winning FG. Texas coaches let the clock tick down to two seconds before calling timeout.

"I was afraid (Breaston) might return the kickoff," said Brown, indicative of his confidence that Mangum, in fact, would split the uprights.

Breaston returned Richmond McGee's opening kickoff 44 yards to the UT 47 to start the game. Henne's 3rd-and-2 completion to Edwards was good for 21, setting up a Wolverine first down at the Texas 24. But a pair of holding penalties moved the Blue back to the UT 35. FS Phillip Geiggar and LCB Tarell Brown blanketed Wolverine receivers on successive incompletions. Adam Finley's punt carried into the end zone.

Benson stepped off nine yards on the option read but came up limping after tweaking a knee on the slippery turf. Benson was helped to the sideline by UT trainers as Will Matthews lined up in a single-back set. After a false start moved the Horns back to their 25, Young picked up four before Lawrence Reid threw him for a five-yard loss on the next play. Facing 3rd-and-16, VY scrambled 24 yards around right end to move the chains. Benson checked back in on 1st-and-10 from the 48 and was held to no gain. Young misfired on his next two attempts, first to TE David Thomas and then TE Bo Scaife. McGee's 34-yard punt carried to the Wolverine 18.

Michigan picked up a first down when DT Rod Wright jumped offsides on 3rd-and-2 from the 26. After TB Michael Hart collected seven up the middle, DE Tim Crowder swatted away Henne's second-down pass at the Wolverine 38. Henne's incompletion on third down set up Finley's 45-yard punt, as PR Ramonce Taylor lost two on the return.

Mixing pass and run, Texas manufactured a 12-pay, 85-yard touchdown drive. Young found Thomas in the right flat for ten yards to move the sticks on 3rd-and-4 from the UT 21. Going to the air again, Young's toss to Scaife was good for 21 as the TE broke across the deep middle toward the left sideline. Young hooked-up with Scaife again, this time for 10 yards on a critical 3rd-and-9 conversion from the Texas 47. Benson reeled off seven yards on the pitch around right end to set up a 3rd-and-three play at the Michigan 30. From there, Benson bounced outside on the draw play, rumbling 10 yards to the red zone. Two plays later, Young took matters in his own hands. Young deftly executed the QB draw and raced untouched into the end zone for the first score of the 91st Rose Bowl game. Dusty Mangum's PAT gave Texas a 7-0 lead with 1:41 remaining in the first quarter.

The one area where Texas showed little improvement all season has been on kickoff coverage. This time, Breaston returned McGee's boot 37 yards to the Wolverine 48. But on 3rd-and-5, junior Aaron Harris showed why he may be the next All-American linebacker at Texas. The MLB shot the gap and threw Henne for a 10-yard loss, one of his team-leading eight tackles. PR Aaron Ross was dropped for a one-yard loss following the 49-yard punt.

Scrimmaging from its own seven, Texas failed to convert on 3rd-and-1. McGee's punt covered 35 yards and, for the third time in four possessions, Michigan began its drive near midfield. Hart carried three times for 11 yards, moving the chains to the UT 39. That's when Henne went up top and found Edwards in the left corner of the end zone for the Wolverine score.

Taylor sparked the Horns with his 40-yard return, weaving right before shifting gears and cutting back against the grain to the Michigan 42. On 3rd-and-4 from the 48, Young connected with SE Tony Jeffery on a play-action pass, good for seven yards. Facing another 3rd-and 4, WR Nate Jones diving five-yard grab in the left flat. Benson picked up six on the delayed handoff, moving to the Wolverine 27. Texas collected a first down on a 4th-and-1 call when Michigan jumped offsides. Young's toss to Matthews out of the backfield was good for eight. Two plays later, Young hit Thomas in the right flat as the junior streaked into the end zone on the 11-yard play. Texas regained the lead, 14-7, with 7:52 remaining after Mangum's PAT capped the 13-play, 52-yard drive.

When the Texas D forced a three-and-out on Michigan's next possession (holding the Wolverines to zero yards on both second and third down), you're thinking Texas is going to get good field position and will be in prime possession to punch one in to get some separation just before the half. Instead, Taylor mishandled Finley's 38-yard punt and Michigan safety Anton Campbell recovered the ball at the UT 34.

Staring at 3rd-and-11, Henne rifled a 16-yard pass over the middle to Breaston to keep the drive alive. Henne then found his TE Tyler Ecker for nine yards, setting up 2nd-and-1 from the Longhorn nine. After Hart's three-yard carry collected the first, a determined defense forced a pair of Henne incompletions. But on 3rd-and-8, Edwards cut a wide swath to the back of the end zone and was standing all-by-his-lonesome when Henne tossed him the rock with just 20 seconds remaining. Edwards' 38th career receiving TD set a new Michigan and Big 10 record.

The score was knotted 14-all at the break. Michigan's average starting field position was its own 42-yard line during the first two quarters of play.

Texas began the second half at its own 28 following Taylor's 23-yard return. Facing 3rd-and-10 from the 28, Scaife notched 11 yards on the crossing route. But it was the next third down play that sent the partisan Burnt Orange crowd into La La Land. Operating from the shotgun, VY looked to throw downfield on 3rd-and-9 from the 40. But then the freak-of-nature immediately opted to do what he does best. Tucking the ball, Young scrambled around right end and, making three Wolverines miss, raced untouched into the end zone on the 60-yard scoring run. Young became the first Longhorn to both rush and throw for 1,000 yards in a single season following the play. Texas led, 21-14, with 12:53 remaining in the third quarter.

Here's a thought: if McGee kicks the ball out of bounds and spots Michigan at the 35 each time, then maybe Texas can get a cushion on these guys. Instead, the Wolverines immediately answered with what should be called the Steve Breaston Drive. First, the junior returned McGee's KO 43 yards to midfield. Then, on 3rd-and-10, Breaston collected a Henne pass on a crossing pattern, turned on the jets, and blazed into the end zone to force the third-tie of the contest at 21-21.

The Wolverine defense forced a 44-yard McGee punt and responded with a 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Michigan played vintage, smashmouth football, pounding the middle with RBs Michael Hart and Max Martin. The big play was Henne's 20-yard completion to TE Tim Massaquoi on 3rd-and-1 from the Texas 44, followed by a 5-yard face mask infraction against FS Phillip Geiggar. It was deja vu all over again as Edwards snagged his third TD toss of the game on 3rd-and-goal from the nine. Texas trailed for the first time, 28-21, with 6:29 remaining in the third.

On first-and-10 from the Texas 47, ILB Prescott Burgess stepped in front of Young's pass and returned the gift 23 yards. The turnover resulted in Rivas' 44-yard FG, capping a six-play, 18-yard drive. Now, Texas trailed, 31-21 with little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The Horns, however, had been down this road before, battling from behind for the fourth game in a row. Young tried to keep his teammates relaxed.

"If the guys see me smiling and poised in the huddle, ready to go down and score a touchdown, they have confidence we can do it," he said.

On Texas' next possession, Benson's six-yard carry around right end spotted the Horns a first down at the Michigan 36. But the Wolverine defense stiffened following Young's five-yard scramble, forcing a 46-yard McGee punt. Michigan scrimmaged from its own 13 where, on 2nd-and-6, true freshman Derek Lokey came up big with a seven-yard TFL. PR Aaron Ross returned Finley's 38-yard punt nine yards to midfield.

The Horns launched the ten-play drive with Young's nine-yard completion to midfield. Benson toted the rock for four yards around left end to set up 1st-and-10 from the 37. Young's 18-yard completion to Scaife moved the chains to the Michigan 19. Young pump-faked on first down and, with one Wolverine wrapped around his ankles, completed a right-sideline pass to Thomas for six yards. A roughing the passer penalty gave Texas a 1st-and-goal from the six. Then, facing 3rd-and-goal from the ten, Young came up with the kind of play that solidifies him as a pre-season Heisman candidate in '05. Dropping back to pass, the pocket quickly collapsed. Scrambling, juking, and ad-libbing, the freewheeling Young eluded at least three tackles and stepped into the end zone. Inside the press box, several members of the sports media literally gasped as VY completed the eight play, 50-yard drive. The Horns narrowed the Wolverine lead, 31-28, with 9:51 remaining in the ball game.

But the Wolverines reached the Longhorn 14 on the sixth play of their next possession, following Breaston's seven-yard gain on the lateral from Henne plus the 15-yard facemask penalty against Texas. DT Larry Dibbles saddled Hart for a one-yard loss, and after a pair of incompletions, Michigan settled for a 32-yard Rivas FG. Now, Michigan led 34-28 but the stop meant Texas still had a chance with 6:09 remaining.

It didn't take Young long. Three plays as a matter of fact. His 19-yard strike over the middle to Jeffery was followed by his soft-touch 27-yard toss to Thomas down the right sideline. Now, in prime real estate on the Wolverine 23, Young showed the 93,468 on hand that they ain't seen nuthin' yet. Young scrambled left and, as he did most of the day, left defenders grabbing for air as he hoofed his way across the goal line, putting the exclamation point on the 69-yard drive.

Texas was back on top, 35-34, with just under five minutes remaining. Worst case scenario: Breaston breaks another big one.

He did. Collecting McGee's boot at the four, Breaston zipped 53 yards up the left sideline. Hart carried for ten yards on first down, but the Longhorn D forced an incompletion on 3rd-and-2 from the 25. Rivas' 42-yard FG put his team back on top, 37-35, with little more than three minutes remaining. That set up Texas' 10-play, game winning drive that began on its own 34 with 2:57 remaining and ended with Mangum's last second shot.

"There may not be a better football game in the Rose Bowl than that," Brown said. "Texas and Michigan should come down to the final two seconds."

As Young made his way through the tunnel leading to the Texas dressing room, adoring fans shouted "MVP! MVP!" Meanwhile, one optimistic Orangeblood held up a sign that said it all: "Keep my seat warm until next year!" The Rose Bowl, of course, hosts next year's national championship game.

Indeed, the only thing finer than a Rose Bowl win on the first day of 2005 would be a Rose Bowl win in 2006. And in a town renowned for the motion picture industry, a Longhorn sequel just may be in the works.

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