SAN DIEGO — Major Applewhite made a triumphant return and a grand exit Friday night at the Holiday Bowl, leading Texas to a dramatic victory over Washington in the most impressive performance ever by a University of Texas quarterback.
Applewhite, the senior who lost his job to Chris Simms before the season and won it back in the Big 12 championship game, threw for 473 yards and four touchdowns in his final game as a Longhorn as Texas overcame a late 19-point deficit to win 47-43.
The winning score came on a three-yard touchdown run by Ivan Williams with 38 seconds left in the game — his second of the game.
“It was a great night, ” Applewhite said. “Unbelievable. Unreal. It started rough, but we refused to quit.”
“I’m just sad that it’s over.”
Texas Coach Mack Brown, describing the final drive, said: “I thought with three timeouts and 1:49 left we’d win the game because we were moving the ball so well. I just didn’t want to score too quickly because they were moving it, too.”
After the game, in the glow of an unbelievable victory, Applewhite was serenaded by loud chants of “Ma-jor! Ma-jor! Ma-jor!” from the Texas fans who were among the 60,548 at Qualcomm Stadium.
It wasn’t just Applewhite, though. Receiver Roy Williams caught 11 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. B.J. Johnson caught six for 157 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a classic Holiday Bowl — a straight shootout, ” said Washington running back Willie Hurst, who ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
“We lost to a great team.
Despite Applewhite‘s heroics, Texas didn’t clinch the game until eight seconds remained, when a horde of Longhorn defenders chased Washington quarterback Cody Pickett out of bounds on a fourth-down play at midfield.
Just 30 seconds before, UT took its final lead when Ivan Williams scored his second touchdown of the game to cap off an 80-yard drive. Applewhite had two key throws, both to Johnson, who caught passes of 25 and 32 yards.
“Major Applewhite had a fitting end to his unbelievable career, ” said Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel, whose Huskies fell to 8-4.
The victory gave ninth-ranked Texas 11 wins for the season. At 11-2, it was the best season ever for Brown, and it also marked the first time a UT team has won that many games in a season since 1983.
Texas almost surely will earn a spot in the final top 10 for the first time in 18 years when the poll is released Thursday.
The win also avenged the Longhorns’ 35-30 loss last year to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.
“Last year we were participants, this year we were champions, ” screamed Brown, who didn’t crack a smile until the team began celebrating the win with eight seconds to go in the game.
Applewhite was the Holiday Bowl co-offensive player of the game, along with Washington’s Hurst.
Longhorn freshman linebacker Derrick Johnson was defensive player of the game. He had a sack of Pickett late in the game along with an interception that set up UT’s next-to-last touchdown which gave the Longhorns their first lead of the evening with 6 minutes remaining.
Texas went ahead for the first time in the game at 40-36 when Applewhite found tight end Bo Scaife at the goal line for the touchdown. The touchdown gave UT 23 unanswered points — two touchdowns for Williams, one score by Scaife and a chip-shot field goal by Dusty Mangum.
Yet just more than a quarter before Applewhite‘s fourth touchdown pass of the game, defeat loomed large for the Longhorns.
Washington appeared to have put the game away midway through the third quarter with the Huskies methodically driving 12 plays and 91 yards to go up 30-14.
Pickett completed six of eight passes for 65 yards on the drive, which ended with a 17-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens.
Texas scored on all but two of its second-half possessions to finish the rally. Texas cut the deficit to 13 two minutes later on Dusty Mangum’s 26-yard field goal, but went down by 19 late in the third quarter.
Given the ending, it hardly seemed possible that the teams were scoreless in the first quarter, the first time that’s happened at the Holiday in 17 years.
But the second quarter was another matter, with Washington taking a 23-14 lead. The 37 points scored in the second quarter were the most in Holiday Bowl history.
Texas was extra generous to the Washington effort. The Longhorns had three turnovers, all Applewhite interceptions, which led to 13 Washington points.
Staff writers Olin Buchanan, Mark Rosner, and correspondent Richard J. Marcus contributed to this report.