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Mack Brown and Bowl Games: The 2003 Season

What is it that they say? Sometimes you've got to hit rock bottom before you can work your way back up? In some ways, that was 2003 - the low point being Oklahoma's 65-13 pasting of Texas. As bad as that was - and it was really bad - it would be the last time Vince Young was not the starter for the University of Texas. Young would lose only two more games that he started (the 2003 Holiday Bowl, and the 2004 Red River Shootout).

What went wrong in the first half of 2003? The defense was just atrocious, for one thing. In the second game of the season, Arkansas unloaded 265 yards rushing on the Carl Reese-coached defense. Then in the Oklahoma blowout, the Horns surrendered 363 yards through the air to Texas. That kind of defense won't beat Baylor, let alone an Oklahoma team that would finish the year playing in the BCS title game.

Really, though, the 2003 season was all about Vince's arrival, wasn't it? And so, when you look back at 2003, and even 2004, it's about watching Mack Brown, Greg Davis, and Vince Young work their way up to the championship level that we saw in the Rose Bowl. The Vince Young era is defined by three key points: the 2003 Oklahoma game, the 2004 Missouri game, and the 2004 Rose Bowl against Michigan.

Let's start with a look at Vince's freshman statistics, shall we?

Record as starter: 6-1
Completions/Attempts: 84-143
Completion %: 58.7
TD-INT: 6-7
Rating: 130.64
Rushes-Yards: 135-998
Rushing TD: 11

The low touchdown to interception ratio kept his QB rating relatively low, but then again, how many other guys are also giving you the kind of rushing that Vince was? Even as a freshman, Vince was comparing favorably with his predecessors at Texas in the passing department:

Applewhite 2000 - QB Rating 135.9
Applewhite 2001 - QB Rating 149.4
Simms 2001 - QB Rating 133.5
Simms 2002 - QB Rating 143.0
Young 2003 - QB Rating - 130.64

OU fans mocked Vince Young after his freshman year loss. Little did they know...

Parenthetically, lest any wishful thinking OU fans start making false comparisons, let me remind them:

Rhett Bomar 2005 - QB Rating 113.5
Rhett Bomar 2005 - 90 Rushes, 180 yards, 4 TD

So don't even go there.

What's immediately obvious, though, is that Young was special, even as a freshman. He was still a raw passer, but even during the big learning curve, he was an adequate thrower. As we all know, of course, he was just scratching the surface of his talent.

What's also important to note is that Greg Davis didn't yet trust to build a gameplan entirely around Vince Young. With Cedric Benson still a focal point of the offense, Vince's role was complimentary through the remainder of the 2003 season. It would remain that way until the near-loss to Missouri in 2004, which we'll get to in tomorrow's 2004 review.

The conclusion of the 2003 regular season brought Texas to yet another Holiday Bowl in San Diego, this time against Washington State.

Washington State 28  Texas 20

Not much went Texas' way in defeat. Three second half fumbles, two by senior quarterback Chance Mock, led to 17 Washington State points. Had Texas taken care of the ball, they probably would have won the game, but nothing seemed to go the Horns way.

Cedric Benson wasn't particularly effective for Texas, either, finishing with only 3.8 yards per carry on 22 rushes. And Mock, given most of the playing time in his last game as a Longhorn, struggled through the air, completing only 14 of 35 pass attempts. After two thrilling Holiday Bowls, this one just didn't have the same kind of explosive fun, which explains this rather brief eulogy.

What was important about 2003 was the arrival and development of Vincent Paul Young, Junior. Tomorrow, we look at the last step in his steep learning curve: 2004 and Vince Young's last ever defeat as a Longhorn.

Looking back: 1998 Review, 1999 Review, 2000 Review, 2001 (Part 1 of 3), 2001 (Part 2 of 3), 2001 (Part 3 of 3), 2002 Review

Mack Brown's Record Against Oklahoma: 2-4

Mack Brown's Record In Bowl Games: 3-3