This Thanksgiving marks the 16th Thanksgiving game with Mack Brown as the Head Coach of the Texas Longhorns. Brown has done quite well in Thanksgiving holiday games during his career at Texas, compiling a 10-5 record, with all but one of those games thus far being played against the Texas Aggies.
While Mack has had great success in these games throughout the years, rumors abound that this Thanksgiving game against Texas Tech will be his last. Throughout Mack’s Thanksgiving holiday game career as a coach, there have been several fantastic games, exciting plays, and historic moments. There have been amazing players and outstanding performances. Heart crushing losses one year have been followed by nail-biting last second wins the next season.
With so many superb and illustrius games and moments, members of the Horn Sports Leadership Team have decided to come together and rank the Top 5 Texas Longhorns Thanksgiving holiday games and moments under Mack Brown. The average ranking from all members of the Team that participated in the article determines the final ranking of the game/moment.
So enjoy this walk down memory lane and join us in giving thanks for all of the fond and great memories that we have been fortunate enough to experience over the past 15 years.
5. Colt and Texas Outscores the Aggies on their way to the Title Game (2009)
http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/001/150/495/93613779_display_image.jpg?1312320720 Credit: BleacherReport.com
Coming off a disappointing end to the 2008 regular season where Texas was left out of the Big 12 and National Title game at the hands of the Sooners, Colt McCoy and the Longhorns were determined to find their way to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl for the National Title.
Texas had blown through the regular season, remaining ranked 2nd throughout the year and winning most games by a comfortable margin, save the Tech game which was won by 10 and the Oklahoma matchup, won by 3.
The Texas Aggies had a much different season. The Ags under Sherman were playing poorly, running a 6-5 overall record along with a recent 65-10 loss at the hands of the unranked Sooners in Norman.
With the two teams playing quite differently throughout the season, the Aggies were not expected to play up to the level of the Longhorns by many pundits. But the Ags decided to bring a fight to the Longhorns that Thanksgiving evening.
This game was a game of back and forth scores between the two squads. Jerrod Johnson started the first quarter with a 70 pass on 3rd and 9 to beat all Texas defensive backs. The Longhorns countered a few drives later with a McCoy to Shipley TD of their own.
Back and forth went the scoring until Texas pulled on top 28-21 on a five yard pass from McCoy to Kirkendoll with 1 minute left in the first half.
The Longhorns were ahead and Colt McCoy was having a statistical game of a lifetime to aid his Heisman hopes. The Aggies, however, had their own QB in Jerrod Johnson who was having a career night as well.
Texas began the second half by tacking on another TD to make the score 35-21. At this point, it felt like the Ags’ time had run out. Earl Thomas followed that score up with an interception in the endzone for a touchback.
The Ags were able to stop Texas and put up a field goal to make the score 35-24, but time was running out as the third quarter expired.
The fourth quarter hit and Christine Michael struck for the Aggies, running it in from 16 yards out and making the Texas defense look foolish. A two point conversion put the game within three points.
The game would continue to be a see-saw as Colt hit Kirkendoll for 47 yards and then Johnson once again struck gold on a 20 yard pass to Fuller to pull back within 3 with 7:10 remaining.
Texas was feeling the heat, specifically the Will Muschamp defense that had basically won the Oklahoma game in Dallas. The Longhorns and Mack Brown needed a spark to slow the Aggie momentum and put the game out of range.
The Longhorns had speed. They had the athletes. They needed them to step up. Marquis Goodwin, the USA Olympian, was ready. Taking the ensuing kickoff from the five yard line, Goodwin raced untouched 95 yards to the endzone to put the Horns back up by 10. It was a much needed sigh of relief for an offense that carried the team for much of the game and a defense that was being ripped apart.
The game wasn’t over yet. It took a missed 23 yard field goal attempt by the beloved Randy Bullock to ensure victory with 3:05 remaining.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Colt McCoy’s Heisman status bumped up possibly at that time to the top. He had put up amazing numbers, throwing for 304 yards and 4 TDs with no interceptions, but also leading the team in rushing with 175 yards and 1 TD on 18 carries.
More importantly, however, was that Mack Brown and the Longhorns had moved even closer to that trip to the National Title game that had been ripped out from under their feet the year before.
Ranks: lsampson – 6th, MBHORNSFAN – 6th, bbdude – 3rd, Mr. Cossell – 4th, LongviewLobo01 – 6th, Whisenant – 5th, McPhaul – 4th, Santa Gertrudis – 3rd
4. Colt’s First Win Against The Aggies Keep National Title Hopes Alive (2008)
http://blogs.scripps.com/abil/colt/images/colt112209.jpg2008 was roller coaster year for the Longhorns. Texas began the season ranked 11th, but had a quarterback in Colt McCoy coming off of what some would call a sophomore slump after a record breaking freshman year.
The 2007 Longhorns were a letdown, starting the season ranked fourth, but dropping all the way down to 17th before beating Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Fans had seen this all too often…Mack would win 10 or 11 but we’d be relegated to the Holiday Bowl, or Cotton at best. Sure, we won back-to-back Rose Bowls, including a National Title in 2005, but many fans consider those teams Vince’s, not Mack’s.
Mack didn’t have to prove himself. He had already won a title, but the questions were still being asked by many as to whether or not he could win anything without Vince.
In 2008, Mack did what many might consider his best coaching job. Mack took a team full of several question marks at the beginning of the season and overachieved. From August 30th against Florida Atlantic to Oct. 25th in a four point win against #7 OKState, the Longhorns played their finest football.
The only thing that stopped the Longhorns was a murderers row from Oct. 11th in Dallas against Oklahoma, ending on Nov. 1st in Lubbock against the Raiders. Texas had won and won and won and fought and fought and fought until it was knocked down in the final seconds by a miracle Michael Crabtree catch that he dreamed in his head prior to the game.
Three games later, the Longhorns remained tied with the Red Raiders and the Sooners at the top of the Big 12 South division. According to the rules, as we all remember, the BCS standings would determine who would go to the Big 12 title game. All Texas could do was win.
So on Nov. 27th, Texas took the field at DKR in hopes of continuing its quest to the Big 12 title game and hopefully the National Title game.
Colt McCoy had a history of problems against the Aggies. In 2006, he was rushed back from a neck injury that occurred the game prior in a loss to KState. The Aggies proceeded to knock Colt out again and ruin the Longhorns’ chance at returning to the Big 12 title game. In 2007, the Aggies once again upset the Longhorns in another close game, 38-30, as they held Colt to 229 yards passing with 1 TD and 1 Int while sacking him four times.
If Texas wanted a chance at the Big 12 Championship game, they would have to do more than win. Texas would need to win this game with style, by outscoring the Aggies. Oklahoma had been hanging 60 points on their Big 12 foes and it impressed the voters. Texas needed to counter.
So Mack and the Longhorns took the field that day on a mission to prove that they were worthy of that extra vote that would push them past Oklahoma in the BCS standings and into the Big 12 title game.
McCoy and Texas took the field to begin the game and methodically picked apart the Aggie defense with runs, short and long passes, and quarterback draws until Colt ran 14 yards for a TD.
Texas would strike again mid-way through the second on a 20 yard McCoy pass to Brandon Collins to push the lead to two scores. The aggies would strike back with a Bullock field goal, but Texas answered with another McCoy pass to Quan Cosby with 12 seconds remaining in the first half to go up 21-3.
The second half was even better for Texas as McCoy and Chiles each ran for one score and Cody Johnson scored twice to put the game in the bag.
At the end of the day, Texas had done all that it could. They defeated a rival by 40 points on prime time television.
Even though we know the result and that it was not enough, this game had great significance. Colt McCoy was able to overcome his two disasterous losses against the Aggies on his way to New York and the Heisman ceremony. It also was a stepping stone for Mack in that he was able to continue this magical season that very few saw coming.
2008 was a great year for Texas and one of the best for Mack as the head coach of Texas.
Ranks: lsampson – 4th, MBHORNSFAN – 3rd, bbdude – 6th, Mr. Cossell – 6th, LongviewLobo01 – 5th, Whisenant – 3rd, McPhaul – 3rd, Santa Gertrudis – 6th
3. Benson and Vasher’s Record Setting Day Leads Texas Over Aggie (2003)
http://www.nakofan64.net/images/benson30.jpgThis 2003 Rivalry game between Texas and Texas A&M at Kyle Field ended up being a banner day for the Longhorns. Two Longhorns had record breaking days in route to a 31 point win over the rival Aggies.
The season for the Longhorns had various ups and downs including an early loss to Arkansas in Austin, a comeback win over KState, a blowout loss to Oklahoma, and then a miracle win over Tech from late game heroics by Chance Mock. But even with the two losses, Texas still managed to find itself ranked 6th in the nation and fighting for a chance to play in a New Year’s Day bowl.
This day was a great opportunity for Mack and the Longhorns to prove that it was once again an elite team.
Vince Young started the scoring with a 60 yard TD pass to David Thomas in just the second play from scrimmage. After that, the offense turned into the Cedric Benson show. Benson racked up yards after yards and touchdown after touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Longhorns sacked Reggie McNeal 6 times and forced two fumbles. The top play from the defense, however, was one for the history books as Nathan Vasher picked McNeal off in the corner of the end zone to tie UT Legend Noble Doss’ career interception mark at 17.
When the game ended, Texas’ rushing attack would total 393 yards and five touchdowns, highlighted by a record 283 yards from Benson, the most given up to a single player in the history of the series and the most ever given up by the Aggies all time.
In a record breaking night, Mack and the Longhorns continued their dominance of the Aggies 46-15.
Ranks: lsampson – 3rd, MBHORNSFAN – 4th, bbdude – 4th, Mr. Cossell – 3rd, LongviewLobo01 – 3rd, Whisenant – 4th, McPhaul – 5th, Santa Gertrudis – 5th
2. Ricky Runs To The Record Books (1998)
https://www.hornsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ricky.jpgIn Mack Brown’s first season at Texas, the Longhorns began the season with a 1-2 record with losses to the then number 5 and 6 ranked teams in the nation in UCLA and Kansas State. Following those two losses, Texas went on to win their next six games before losing to Texas Tech the week before the annual Thanksgiving matchup with the rival Texas A&M Aggies.
The Aggies entered Austin ranked #6 in the nation with a 10-1 record, losing only to Florida State in the Kickoff Classic in the first game of the season. A&M had already clinched their spot in the Big 12 Title game as they brought in a high powered defense lead by Dat Nguyen.
The main story of this game, however, was Ricky Williams and his quest to break the all-time rushing record held by Tony Dorsett. Williams entered the game 62 yards shy of tying Dorsett’s record. Against a defense like A&M’s, breaking this record was thought to have been no easy task, but Ricky and the Longhorns were determined to get the task done.
Through most of the the first quarter alone, Major Applewhite had fed Ricky Williams the ball 13 times already for 52 yards. This method was working as Texas held a 3-0 lead with the first quarter nearing its end.
After a short sideline pass to Wane McGarity for four yards, Texas held the ball at their own 40 yard line. Major Applewhite and the Texas offense gathered the play from the sidelines, broke the huddle, and took their place at the line of scrimmage.
Applewhite quickly surveyed the defense and set under center, knowing that there was no audible from the play. After the fullback shifted just to the left, Major brought Cavil in motion toward the line on the same side and the ball was snapped.
The Texas offensive line collapsed the front four of the Aggie defense. A weakside defensive end came crashing down, beating the blocking Longhorn TE. Any other runningback that day would most likely would have been stopped for a loss or no gain, but Ricky beat the poor aggie and took to the second level.
Kwame Cavil, coming in motion from the left side, ran to the secondary and took out a pursuing safety. This left the lone cornerback covering Kavil to stop Ricky Williams before he took to the races. As the CB converged on Ricky, a simple swat of his arm in continuation of his momentum knocked the defensive back to the ground and the record was his…but Ricky wasn’t finished.
The record wasn’t the only thing that Ricky wanted on that play. 60 yards and a touchdown was still his to have. Three aggie defenders continued their pursuit as Ricky barreled toward the corner of the end zone, but Texas WR Wane McGarity also continued his job as a blocker for the Heisman running back.
Williams tore past the aggie 30, then the twenty, but the A&M defenders had the angle. McGarity continued with the angle as well. As Ricky slightly slowed up, one defensive back stood just two yards in front of him. Out of what seemed like nowhere, Wane McGarity took out the defender in perfect blocking form, leaving only aggie defensive back Jason Webster in the way of a historic TD run.
Ricky shifted his momentum back toward the center of the endzone and bullrushed toward the goal line. Webster had the angle, dove toward Williams, and the two collided at exactly the five yard line. The two continued forward to the two and then one yard line, as Ricky dove to finish what he started that play.
As the Ricky stretched the ball across the goal line, everyone in the stadium knew what had just happened. Ricky hadn’t just scored 7 points, he had run past a twenty plus year old record against a top 10 team and had won the Heisman with that run.
It was a fantastic way for Mack Brown to begin his annual Thanksgiving holiday matchup against the Texas Aggies, but the cherry on top was winning the game on a 24 yard Kris Stockton field goal to knock off the ags 26-24.
Ranks: lsampson – 2nd, MBHORNSFAN – 2nd, bbdude – 1st, Mr. Cossell – 1st, LongviewLobo01 – 1st, Whisenant – 2nd, McPhaul – 2nd, Santa Gertrudis – 2nd
1. Justin Tucker and Texas’ Final Aggy Farewell (2011)
http://gamedayr.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/JustinTucker-Brett-Coomer-Houston-Chronicle.jpg Photo: Brett Coomer – Houston Chronicle
It was an offseason for the ages. The Texas aggies had finally had enough of being called the little brother and living in the shadow of the Longhorns, so they picked up their ball and left for the Southeastern Conference.
2011 would be final season that A&M would be a member of the Big 12. Consequently, Texas didn’t have to play aggie anymore in the regular season, so Dodds, Powers, and the Texas athletic department would not go out of their way to ensure that the Lone Star Rivalry would continue. Texas would be playing aggie for the last time in this annual rivalry at Kyle Field.
In this final rivalry matchup, Texas would enter the game at somewhat of a crossroads. The Longhorns were not only in the second year of a rebuilding process following a 5-7 2010 disaster, but they also had just lost consecutive games against Missouri Kansas state while scoring only 18 points total in those two matchups.
The Longhorns had injury problems at runningback, losing senior Fozzy Whitaker and freshman Joe Bergeron. They also had a hard time deciding who to start at QB, waffling between sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash. To put it lightly, the Longhorns had problems on offense.
Defensively, Texas was doing quite well as they relied on rock solid play from LBs Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson, along with DBs Blake Gideon and Kenny Vaccarro.
The Aggies had their own problems. After beginning the season ranked #8 in the nation, the wheels came off when the nation observed late game meltdowns after meltdowns as Mike Sherman’s squad couldn’t figure out how to hold on to leads against average to good opponents.
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, it was obvious that Sherman was coaching his last game as the aggie head coach. A&M held a 6-5 record and was hoping to send Mike Sherman off with a nice victory farewell, but more importantly to finish their Big 12 and Texas showdowns with a win.
As the game commenced, the ags jumped on the board quickly, scoring a TD just three and a half minutes into the game. That was followed up by a couple of long field goals from current Houston Texans goat, Randy Bullock, for a 13-0 lead with 11:00 left in the second.
In the meantime, Texas couldn’t seem to get anything rolling on offense. Texas started the game with five consecutive three-and-outs and six straight drives without crossing the Texas 40 yard line. What Texas needed was a little bit of luck and it got that when aggie punt return man, Dustin Harris, fumbled a 34 yard punt by Justin Tucker at the aggie 41 yard line.
The very next play, Brian Harsin dialed up some trickery in the form of a double pass from McCoy to Shipley to a wide open Blaine Irby streaking down the left sideline for an easy TD and for solid momentum as Texas would trail only 16-7 at the half.
The Aggies would recieve the ball first in the second half and would proceed to move the ball into Texas territory on a long 11 play drive. Fortunately for Texas, super freshman Carrington Byndom would jump in front of a Tannehill pass and take it 58 yards for a TD as Texas quickly jumped within 2 points, trailing only 16-14.
Texas would strike twice more in the third quarter with a short field goal and a 1 yard Cody Johnson TD to take a 24-16 lead to head into the fourth quarter.
The Aggies and Longhorns would trade several possessions before Texas A&M called on Randy Bullock yet again to add three points on the board and just a TD from taking the lead.
Texas gained possession of the ball with 5:56 left in the game, but couldn’t run more than a minute and a half off of the clock as Tucker and Texas was forced to punt and give A&M one last shot at winning the game with just over 4 minutes remaining.
After gains of 29, 9, and 4 yards, the aggies took the ball down to the Texas 26 yard line. The Longhorns then held the Ags to two incompletions as they faced a 3rd and 10 with just over 2 minutes left. Ryan Tannehill used his athletic ability to rush for 10 yards and a first down to the Texas 16 yard line. The aggies needed just one more play where Tannehill hooked up with Jeff Fuller across the middle for a 16 yard score with 1:46 remaining to take a 25-24 lead.
Hopes looked dim for Texas as the Longhorns offense had been a problem for the last few games. Aside from a trick play TD and an interception return, Texas had only scored a TD one other time, but that was on a 21 yard drive after a Kenny Vaccaro interception deep in Aggie territory.
The odds of driving down the field and winning the game weren’t in the Longhorns’ favor. The destiny of the Texas Longhorns legacy of the final game matched up against A&M was left in the hands of Case McCoy and company.
Texas started their drive at their own 29 yard line and immediately took advantage of a nickel defense, as McCoy completed passes of 10, 2, 7 and 4 yards, as well as a personal foul penalty after an incompletion to Mike Davis.
With 49 seconds left in the game and the ball resting on the Aggie 48 yard line, Case McCoy took the snap and dropped back to pass. As the defensive pressure closed in, Case stepped up in the pocket and took off toward the middle of the field. The beaten and worn McCoy ran nearly 20 yards until he was blindsided from his right by an Aggie defensive back. The undersized and outmatched QB, wearing his Texas road Storm-Trooper uniform that looked more dark grey than white from the hits and knock-downs endured throughout the game, took the blow and continued forward five more yards until he met six other Texas A&M defenders bearing down and clawing at the ball as they pulled him to the turf.
McCoy and the Texas offense had done the first part of the job: They moved the ball into field goal range to the Aggie 27 yard line.
So it came down to one play. A field goal to determine the winner of the final showdown between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies. Three seconds remained on the clock and fourty yards of distance from the hold of a football to the goal posts of victory.
Justin Tucker, the Texas kicker who was 15-17 on the 2011 season, was being called upon by Mack Brown to win the ball game on a tough but makeable 40 yarder.
Mack had been in this situation several times in the past – Dusty Mangum’s field goal as time expired to beat Michigan in Texas’ first BCS game, Kris Stockton defeating the Aggies in 1998 on a FG, and Hunter Lawrence sending Texas to the Rose Bowl with a last second kick in Dallas, amongst others. If there was anything we knew about Mack Brown from his previous years and games as Texas head coach, it was that he knew how to handle his team under pressure…especially field goal kickers.
The Aggies tried to put the pressure on Tucker by calling a timeout just before the snap, but it just gave Mack and Tucker one more quick fun talk before the final seconds of the last play of a long bitter rivalry.
So it came down to the snap from Alex Zumberge to the hold of Cade McCrary. The Longhorn field goal unit took the line. The Aggie FG block unit attempted to overload the left side. The crowd noise was deafening.
On one side of the field Mike Sherman was on one knee with his face down and eyes closed, unable to watch. On the visitor’s side of the field was Mack, hands on his knees, eyes focused on the finality of a great game and a history series coming to a close.
Perfection was what it took in that final play, and perfection was what occurred. From the snap, to the hold, to the blocking, to the kick. As soon as the ball left the foot of Justin Tucker, there was no question.
Ranks: lsampson – 1st, MBHORNSFAN – 1st, bbdude – 2nd, Mr. Cossell – 2nd, LongviewLobo01 – 2nd, Whisenant – 1st, McPhaul – 1st, Santa Gertrudis – 1st
Others receiving votes: Chris Simms’ Big Game Redemption (2000) – Ranks: lsampson – 5th, MBHornfan – 5th, bbdude – 5th, Mr. Cossell – 5th, LongviewLobo1 – 4th, Whisenant – 6th, McPhaul – 6th, Santa Gertrudis – 4th