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7 Texas

Aug. 16, 2004
Aug. 16, 2004

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Aug. 16, 2004

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7 Texas

The Longhorns’ mission: Beat Oklahoma. If they do, Vince Young could lead them to a Big 12 championship

They met five years ago, on a sticky summer afternoon at a football camp in Perkinston, Miss., and now they speak to each other at least once a month. Vince Young didn‚Äôt expect to form a close relationship with Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair when Young attended McNair‚Äôs camp before his sophomore year at Madison High in Houston, but since that day on the Delta the two have come to regard each other as family. This summer McNair watched hours of Texas game tape from 2003 and offered his protégé three tips that could turn him into an AllAmerica: 1) make his reads quicker, 2) improve his accuracy and 3) rely more on his natural talent.

This is an article from the Aug. 16, 2004 issue Original Layout

“I listen real closely to everything Steve says, because he’s the quarterback I want to become,” says Young, a sophomore who was Parade’s national high school player of the year in 2001. “His advice always makes me a better player.”

Young’s development will be the key to the Longhorns’ season and, more significant, to coach Mack Brown’s future. Last year Texas won 10 games--the third straight time it has hit double digits in victories--but lost to Oklahoma for the fourth consecutive year. With each loss to the Red River rival, the pressure on Brown builds. “I understand that we need to do a better job against Oklahoma,” says Brown, “but I really think we’re getting closer and closer to the national title. And Vince Young will hopefully help us get there.”

The 6'5", 220-pound Young, who’s run 4.5 in the 40, replaced Chance Mock as the starter after the 65–13 loss to Oklahoma last Oct. 11. Young threw for 1,155 yards and rushed for 998 last season, and though he struggled to complete midrange throws, the Longhorns won six straight games before bowing to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. He was particularly effective in the Gun ’n’ Run offense, which gives him the option of running or passing out of the shotgun. “Our offense really started to click after Vince started getting more snaps,” says senior running back Cedric Benson, who’s looking for his fourth 1,000-yard rushing season. “Now that Vince has some experience, we’re a very confident football team.”

The big question in Austin is, Will Young be good enough to beat OU? --L.A.

FAST FACTS

2003 RECORD 10–3 (7–1, 2nd in Big 12 South)

FINAL AP RANK 12

RETURNING STARTERS 14

KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)

RB Cedric Benson (Sr.)

Nation’s leading active rusher (3,706 yards)

LB Derrick Johnson (Sr.)

Horns’ first consensus All-America LB since ’83

QB Vince Young (Soph.)

Texas scored on 52.3% of drives he directed

DT Rodrique Wright (Jr.)

Led D with 7 1‚ÅÑ2 sacks and 30 QB pressures

T Jonathan Scott (Jr.)

Made smooth transition from right to left side

TELLING NUMBER

278

Consecutive games the Longhorns have played without being shut out. The last team to blank Texas was Baylor, which won 16–0 in 1980.

BREAKOUT PLAYER

Garnet Smith had moved up to starting middle linebacker last fall, but a sprained right ankle in the season opener sidelined him for the year. After taking a medical redshirt, the 6'3", 230pound sophomore is back, this time on the strong side, where he’ll bolster a run defense that ranked 58th in the nation.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 4 NORTH TEXAS

11 at Arkansas

25 RICE

Oct. 2 BAYLOR

9 vs. Oklahoma*

16 MISSOURI

23 at Texas Tech

30 at Colorado

Nov. 6 OKLAHOMA STATE

13 at Kansas

26 TEXAS A&M

*at Dallas

COLOR PHOTODARREN CARROLLHELP FROM ABOVEYoung has gotten advice from his mentor, McNair, on how to make the most of his abilities.