We've traversed the painful, but important, 2001 season in two parts so far - first, with our general recap of the season, followed by a closer look at the two painful losses. Alas, I'm happy to write the third and final segment of this story - the 2001 Holiday Bowl.
I mentioned that I had been unlucky to be in attendance of the 2000 Holiday Bowl, in which Texas (and I) was quacked to death. 2001 was almost as painful, but Major Applewhite made the most of his last 109 seconds as a Longhorn and Texas pulled out a wild victory.
The 2001 Holiday Bowl: Texas 47 Washington 43
Where to begin? How about with this remarkable fact: the game was tied scoreless after the first quarter. Hard to believe, but true. Here's another one you may have forgotten: Applewhite, named starter after the Simms Big 12 Title Game meltdown, threw three interceptions in the first half, resulting in 13 Husky points. Another remarkable pair of facts: Texas trailed by 19 points in this game, and by 16 (36-20) entering the 4th quarter.
It was a game that got a ton of buzz from television viewers. It was absolutely exhilarating, and exhausting, live in San Diego. And I'm glad I was there.
Applewhite was as good in the second half as he was bad in the first half. On the game winning drive, he took the team 80 yards in just over a minute, completing four of his five pass attempts, including a 32 yard strike to BJ Johnson that set up the game winning touchdown run.
Major destroyed Washington in the 2nd half
of the 2001 Holiday Bowl
Applewhite was named Offensive MVP, Texas ended an otherwise difficult season on a high note, and The Legend Of Major was officially sealed and delivered. It was this game, not the Big 12 title game, that put him over the edge in Longhorn folklore. Stay with me here: if Major had -lost- this game, after having as bad a first half as Simms had in the Big 12 title game, it would have been just that much harder for Horns fans to say, "If Major had been starting all along..."
His gutty comeback and clutch victory, though, sealed his reputation as the ultimate gamer. And he was. I love Major. Who -doesn't- love Major? Maybe Chris Simms, and that's it. The victory led to dozens of gushy stories about the saint that stood by so Chris Simms could choke. And he'll forever be remembered, and revered, by Texas fans. I'd wager good money that the number of ladies in Texas who would marry Major Applewhite -on the spot- is a five digit number. No joke.
I've said it before: the Simms disaster was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to Applewhite. Instead of being remembered as a great, but not elite, quarterback, he's remembered as a Legend that should have never been replaced.
And he -will- coach the University of Texas football team someday. It's allllll gravy for Major Applewhite, Texas Longhorn Hero TM
Applewhite left the Holiday Bowl a certified Texas Longhorn Hero.
Next Up: 2002 - Closing the Book on Chris Simms