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Turnovers, aggressive, opportunistic defense and a punter's accurate leg spelled disaster for the Longhorns in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, as the Washington State Cougars defeated Texas 28-20.
Three fumbles by the Longhorns in the second half proved costly, as did the seven sacks registered by the fired-up and aggressive Cougar defense. Punter Kyle Basler, the game's defensive MVP, punted seven times for the Cougars, averaging an ordinary 40.1 yards per kick; what the statistics do not reveal, however, is that five of his kicks pinned the Longhorns inside of their own 13-yard line and handcuffed the Texas offense all night.
The Longhorns, who controlled the ball for a Holiday Bowl-record 39 minutes, saw their six-game winning streak snapped and ended with a 10-3 record for the season. Washington State of the Pac-10 conference, also finished at 10-3.
Playing in their third Holiday Bowl in four years, the Longhorns once again failed to register a single point in the opening quarter. Washington State, likewise, failed to score in the opening quarter.
Drawing first blood in the second quarter, RB Cedric Benson capped a 6:17 Longhorn scoring drive with a one-yard plunge over the middle. The lead held for most of the second quarter.
With 59 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Cougar QB Matt Kegel found Sammy Moore in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown, capping a 66-yard, eight-play drive, and tying the game at seven apiece.
Playing aggressively, the Longhorn offense quickly marched down the field, setting up a 39-yard David Pino field goal with 0:04 left. The kick was true and the Longhorns led at halftime 10-7. It was to be the last time the Longhorns led in this game.
The Longhorns came back on the field for the third quarter, but apparently left their focus in the locker room. Dominating the third quarter, the Cougars scored three times—offensive touchdowns of 54 and 12 yards and an 18-yard fumble recovery returned for a score. In spite of missing two of three extra points in the quarter, the Cougars, nonetheless, held a commanding 26-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.
A second David Pino field goal early in the fourth quarter brought the Longhorns within two touchdowns at 26-13.
Stopping the WSU attack with growing success, the 'Horns defense managed to keep the Cougar offense from scoring in the fourth quarter. The Cougars did score a safety with 8:41 left in the game when the Longhorn offense was flagged for a holding penalty in its own end zone.
Down 28-13, QB Chance Mock quickly moved the Longhorns into Cougar territory. Finding WR Roy Williams—the school's all-time leader in receptions, reception yardage, receiving touchdowns and 100-yard receiving games—racing down the sideline, Mock hit him in stride for a 30-yard touchdown. The David Pino point-after was good, and with 4:29 to play, the 'Horns were back in the game.
The Texas defense stood tall, holding Washington State to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. Mock and the offense wasted no time and again drove the Longhorns into Cougar territory; a hook-up of 46 yards to Roy Williams set the Longhorns up on the Cougar 11-yard line.
Following an incomplete pass to Sloan Thomas, Mock was sacked at the 25-yard line and fumbled the ball in the process. WSU recovered at the 36-yard line at the 2:16 mark.
Once again, the Longhorn defense stuffed the Cougar offense, forcing another three-and-out and a punt. Starting at their own 26, the 'Horns began their final possession. Two quick completions of 15 and 13 yards to B.J. Johnson set Texas up on the Cougar 46. After another incomplete pass and another sack—the seventh of the game—the game ended.
Chance Mock finished the game with 14 completions in 34 attempts for 181 yards passing. The leading runner for the Longhorns was Cedric Benson, who rushed for 83 yards on 22 carries.
A player destined to become a Longhorn legend played in this game: Vince Young. Young completed six of 14 passes for for 15 yards, and ran the ball nine times for 50 yards.