Football

Daily Longhorn football history: The 2003 season

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Posted August 20th, 2017

The Texas football program dates back to 1893. Each day, we look at a little piece of Longhorn history. We’re starting by looking at each Longhorn football season. 

OK, so here’s a blurb by Statesman reporter Suzanne Halliburton from spring football in 2003:

If there’s a budding quarterback controversy on the Texas football team, the two guys at the center of it weren’t following the script on the first day of spring practice Monday.

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After icy weather forced the team to spend most of Monday’s workout indoors, third-string quarterback Vince Young was surrounded by more than a dozen reporters who wanted to hear his first public comments since joining the team last August as one of the most heralded recruits to sign with the Longhorns.

Yet there also was a grinning Chance Mock, the first-string quarterback, jokingly holding up an imaginary microphone to Young as the redshirt freshman answered questions during his first impromptu press conference.

“We have competition, ” Mock said. “The thing we’re trying to avoid is a controversy. I don’t think we have a controversy.”

8/06/03-Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN: University of Texas’ quarterbacks, Chance Mock, left, and Vince Young, right, shake hands as they greet each other during the Longhorns team check-in held at the Jester Center on Wednesday, August 6, 2003. Both freshman and veterans reported to campus to ready for the 2003-2004 football season which begins summer practice on Thursday. Walking past them is offensive guard, Kasey Studdard, center.

It seems so strange to think that Vince Young, the top high school quarterback of the 2002 recruiting class, didn’t walk into his redshirt season in 2002 as the starting quarterback. But Chance Mock, he himself once a top prospect and Parade High School All-American, had sat behind Major Applewhite and Chris Simms waiting for his, no pun intended, chance.

 He had Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls convinced. “There’s a strong chance you’re going to love him,” Bohls wrote, adding “He’s bright. He’s tough. He has a strong arm. He’s very, very mobile. He knows no fear, but he does know the offense. While understudy Vince Young says he practices calling plays in front of his mirror and is far, far from ready, Mock can probably recite them in his sleep.”

There was actually a third quarterback, Matt Nordgren, competing for playing time, but he was a distant third. Mock, by all reports, had the backing of his teammates. Tight end Bo Scaife told Halliburton “He’s just got this aura about him. ”

Roy Williams, who entered the season as a legit Heisman candidate described Mock the best: “He likes to hunt, he dips, he fishes and he wears a John Deere hat. And they want to call me different.”

But there were some signs that maybe Mock was not the clear-cut starter.  That same story described a bad scrimmage before detailing who Chance Mock the person was, straight down to his bumper sticker that read “American by Birth, Texan by the Grace of God.”

Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman Texas quarterback Chance Mock celebrates a second quarter touchdown against Tulane at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 27, 2003.

By Sept. 7, between a 66-7 rout of New Mexico State and a 38-28 loss to Arkansas, Bohls was beginning to change the narrative by writing that coach Mack Brown had two quarterback options, writing “Once Vince Young stepped on the field a week ago and turned New Mexico State inside out — in perhaps the most productive nine plays these eyes have seen out of a raw-as-sushi quarterback — Texas Coach Mack Brown may have unleashed a full-fledged you-know-what on Austin.”

Mock was 7-for-15 with 156 yards passing and two touchdowns in the game. Young was 1-for-1 with a 60-yard throw to Sloan Thomas and five rushes for 61 yards and two touchdowns.

Ranked No. 6 in the country and hosting unranked Arkansas, Mock was 21-for-40 with 264 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 loss to Arkansas.

Young’s first steps toward starting full-time at Texas were taken a few weeks later against Kansas State. Mock played well in the first half, but Kansas State took control in the second half and Mock was ineffective. Young came in to turn the tide and led Texas to a game-winning touchdown with 4:36 left in the game as Texas avoided a second home loss.

Bohls wrote after the game: “Vince Young clearly demonstrated he has the magical feet, the sandlot poise and the All-America-caliber talent to be a starting quarterback.”

“Today you saw the perfect example why the two-quarterback system works, ” Mock said after the game. “Nothing surprises me at the University of Texas.”

 

 

 

10/4/03 Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN; Texas’ freshman QB Vince Young was the man of the hour helping leadf the Horns to a late fourth quarter touchdown. Texas had to come from behind against a tough Kansas St. team to earn their first Big 12 hame of the year 24-20 at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon Oct. 4, 2003.

The next week, Mock’s stock dropped further as the No. 1-ranked Sooners beat Texas 65-13 in Dallas. Mock was benched after starting 4-of-9 with an interception and 21 yards passing. Young finished the game, passing for 135 yards on 21 attempts with two picks, but also rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in the blowout loss.

Young started the next week against Iowa State and the rest is history. He won his first start, a 40-19 win over the Cyclones.

So that’s part of the 2003 story.

Williams entered with major buzz. He caught 70 passes for 1,079 yards with nine touchdowns. He didn’t win any individual awards, but was one of five All-Americans on the team.

Derrick Johnson, an All-American linebacker, was a finalist for the Butkus Award his junior year and would win the award as a senior. He led the Longhorns with 125 tackles.

11/1/03 – Jay Janner/American-Statesman – UT lb Derrick Johnson (right) chases down Nebraska qb Jammal Lord in the fourth quarter on Saturday Nov. 1, 2003, at Royal Memorial Stadium. Texas won 31-7.

Nathan Vasher had six interceptions in 2003.

But this season is where Cedric Benson went from good back to great back and eventually after his senior year an all-time back. Benson rushed for 1,360 yards and 21 touchdowns his junior year.

The running game has rarely been better at Texas — that’s saying something– as Young also added 998 yards and 11 touchdowns.

After the loss to Oklahoma, Texas was 4-2 and ranked No. 20 in the nation. After bashing Iowa State, Texas beat Baylor, Nebraska and Oklahoma State by scores of 56-0, 31-7 and 55-16. Two of those wins were against ranked Nebraska and Oklahoma State teams.

10/25/03 Ralph Barrera AMERICAN-STATESMAN; Texas vs. Baylor in Waco, TX.–Texas’ QB Vince Young had another solid game leading Texas to a shutout victory over the Baylor Bears 56-0. Young scored on two TD runs and also threw a TD pass in their Big 12 game Saturday night October 25, 2003.

Texas won a shootout with Texas Tech 43-30 as Benson rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns while Young added 213 yards passing with two touchdowns.

But it was Mock who saved the day for the Longhorns.

Trailing 40-35, Mock took over at quarterback on the final drive with about two minutes left to play. Mock led a 7-play, 86 yard drive and hit B.J. Johnson with a 9-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds left to win.

“Mock grew up in Lubbock, and both his mom and dad are graduates of Texas Tech,” Brown told the media after the game. “He has been really positive throughout the year. He really stepped up for us tonight. We talked to him early in the game and told him that we would put him in during the third series, but he said that we were in a rhythm and to leave Vince (Young) in. That is the kind of classy guy he is. We decided that since passing is what Mock does best, we would put him in to throw downfield. We had no doubt that he would go in and play well. The receivers responded and made some great plays.”

The Longhorns moved onto College Station the next week, Young back leading the offense for the No. 6-ranked team in the nation. Also arriving for the first time in the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry was A&M coach Dennis Franchione.  But Young and Franchione were overshadowed by one of the greatest performances a Texas player has ever had against the Aggies.

Benson rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns in a 46-15 win.

10/11/03-Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN: Texas’ running back, #32, Cedric Benson, right, is tripped up by Oklahoma’s #7, Brandon Everage and #23,Brodney Pool during the first quarter of action held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, October 11, 2003. The Longhorns were defeated 65-13 by the Sooners. ORG XMIT:

Following Young’s 60-yard touchdown throw to David Thomas, it was almost all Benson, who would cap of the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run.

After missing out on a BCS bowl bid, Texas accepted an invitation to the Holiday Bowl to play Washington State. Texas led 10-7 at halftime, but Washington State scored 19 points — including scoring off a fumble — in the third quarter to take the lead. The Cougars won 28-20.

Young was 6-for-14 with 15 yards passing, while Mock was 14-for-34 with 181 yards and a touchdown.

Texas’ 10-3 season in 2003 isn’t what fans expected, but the next two seasons would be some of the best football in program history. Young got the experience he needed that would help him go 2-0 in two BCS bowl games the next two years in 2003.

Williams and Marcus Tubbs were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Vasher was taken in the fourth round, and Sloan Thomas was taken in the seventh round.

There were serious question marks after the bowl game. Statesman reporter Cedric Golden wrote after the bowl loss: “Juniors Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson could be early-round selections if they choose to enter the 2004 NFL draft, while Chance Mock, who lost his starting quarterback position to Vince Young midway through the year, has entertained thoughts of transferring to an NCAA Division I-AA school in time for next season.”

Benson, Johnson and Mock all returned for their senior seasons. Johnson joking with the media at a press conference as described by Halliburton in Jan. 2004:

Still, for several seconds, Johnson had a throng of people — including several members of Coach Mack Brown’s staff — guessing at whether he had changed his mind. Johnson opened his remarks by thanking his family and teammates and listing his college career goals, such as earning All-America honors and helping the Longhorns to a top-10 ranking.

“I have accomplished those goals, ” he said, “so it’s time for me to go to the next level.” There was a pause. Then he broke into a sheepish grin. “No, I’m just kidding.”

Benson and Mock announced on the same day, with Mock saying: “Four years ago I made a commitment to Texas, and Coach (Mack) Brown made a commitment to me to help me become the best player I could possibly be. I did briefly consider looking at other options, but the more I looked, the more I realized that the University of Texas is the best place for me.”

With Benson, Johnson, Young and more talent returning, the Longhorns were about to make serious noise in the college football world.

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