COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Battered and bruised, Vince Young and No. 2 Texas are still undefeated and a step closer to the Rose Bowl. Even if it was a much tougher step than most expected.
While far from perfect, Young and the Longhorns were good enough to keep their national title hopes intact with a tough 40-29 win over Texas A&M on Friday.
Ramonce Taylor ran for two touchdowns, Cedric Griffin returned a blocked punt for a score and the Longhorns survived Young's shakiest game of the season.
The Heisman Trophy candidate wasn't even the best quarterback on the field against the Aggies, and for the first time since Texas won at Ohio State by three way back in September, the Longhorns had to put in a full 60 minutes off work to notch the W.
"I was never nervous. That's not me," Young said. "Nervousness, scariness, that's not even in our vocabulary."
Young is one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy, but A&M freshman Stephen McGee made the plays and provided the inspirational leadership the Longhorns usually get from their quarterback.
Starting in place of injured senior Reggie McNeal, McGee ran for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns as A&M made a strong run at pulling off one of the biggest upsets in a 111-year-old rivalry.
"I wanted to have fun and lead these guys. I want to do it with everything I have," said McGee, who raised his arms after both of his touchdowns to whip up the excited home crowd. "I'm already sore. I know I'll be sore tomorrow."
Young came in likely needing a big game to keep pace with USC's Reggie Bush in the Heisman chase — and his penchant for making big plays in Texas' biggest games seemed to guarantee it.
Instead, he struggled against a defense ranked 109th in the country with 162 yards passing, 19 rushing and two turnovers that led directly to Aggies' touchdowns. He did throw for a touchdown and led two key late drives for field goals.
"There are some great guys in the running," for the Heisman, Young said. "I just want to keep playing and keep winning .... may the best man win."
Despite Young's off game, Texas (11-0, 8-0) moves on to the Big 12 title game next Saturday against the winner of the North Division. Win that game and the Longhorns are a lock for a return trip the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 to play for the Bowl Championship Series title.
The Aggies finish with their second losing season in three years under coach Dennis Franchione. A win would have made the Aggies bowl eligible.
In other games Friday:
ARIZONA STATE 23, ARIZONA 20: At Tempe, Arizona State rallied from a 15-point deficit in the second half Friday to beat Arizona on Jesse Ainsworth's 20-yard field goal with six seconds to play. The Territorial Cup victory earned the Sun Devils (6-5, 4-4 Pac-10) a postseason invitation, probably just down the road at the Insight Bowl in Phoenix. It will be the first consecutive bowl appearances for ASU in coach Dirk Koetter's five years at the school.
Terry Richardson's 71-yard punt return and Rudy Carpenter's two-point conversion pass to Zach Miller tied it at 20-20 with 7:52 remaining.
Mike Bell gained 117 yards in 27 carries in his final game for Arizona, but missed most of the second half with a leg injury. Freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama went down with an apparent shoulder injury after being hit while throwing the game's only interception with 11:26 to play.
NEBRASKA 30, COLORADO 3: At Boulder, Colo., in a completely unexpected and ugly flashback to the bad ol' days for Colorado, the Buffaloes were no match for Nebraska.
Zac Taylor threw for 392 yards and two scores, Cory Ross accounted for 142 yards and a touchdown and the Huskers dominated CU on Friday the way they did when Tom Osborne was coach. Colorado (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) lost its second straight game and might have watched its trip to the Big 12 title game go down the drain, too. The loss left the door open for Iowa State, which will earn the spot with a win at Kansas on Saturday.