As quarterback Vince Young slowly exited Kyle Field after Texas' 40-29 victory against Texas A&M, a crush of Longhorns fans mobbed him in the end zone.
In the sea of burnt orange, where fans held signs that read, "Win It All, Horns" and "Can You Smell the Roses?," Young flashed the traditional Texas "hook 'em" hand gesture twice and continued to walk solemnly off the field.
The victory kept the No. 2-ranked Longhorns (11-0, 8-0 Big 12) undefeated heading into next Saturday's conference championship game in Houston, and in line for a possible meeting for the Bowl Championship Series' national championship against top-ranked Southern California in the Rose Bowl. But Young was clearly less than pleased by his and his team's performance.
The game was supposed to be the one for Young to make his best case for the Heisman Trophy before a national television audience. Instead, he fumbled once, threw an interception and was held to 1.7 yards per carry rushing.
Young, a junior from Houston, finished with 181 total yards, 137.8 yards below his season average. The Longhorns' defense, ranked sixth nationally, surrendered its most points this season.
"I don't believe that as a team we played like the University of Texas today," said Young, who was 13 of 24 passing for 162 yards with a touchdown. "I really take that in a whole lot. Even though we got the victory and are 11-0, we can't have games like this."
Texas, which is seeking its first national title since 1970, trailed the Aggies (5-6, 3-5) by a point on two occasions and were outgained, 398-336.
The second deficit occurred after the redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen McGee, making his first start, ran 11 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give Texas A&M a 22-21 lead.
But by scoring 19 of the game's last 26 points, the Longhorns outlasted the pesky Aggies before 86,617 rowdy fans in the 112th meeting between the rivals.
Texas has won the annual day-after-Thanksgiving game six consecutive years by an average score of 38-17.
"I think this is the best thing that could have possibly happened to us today," said Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team has won 18 consecutive games. "It's got our guys' and coaches' attention. They're going to go back to work now so we'll quit talking about how great we are."
The flurry of second-half points by Texas started with Ramonce Taylor's second touchdown run, with a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter, to give the Longhorns a 28-22 lead. That was followed by a blocked punt that Cedric Griffin returned 11 yards for a score, and two field goals by David Pino.
But McGee's gutsy play in place of the senior Reggie McNeal, Texas A&M's career leader in total offense, who stood on the sideline with a left ankle injury, kept the Aggies in the game.
Directing an option attack that gained 280 rushing yards, McGee ran for a game-high 108 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, and passed for 83 yards.
McGee also had two turnovers -- an interception that led to Texas's first score, and a fumble at the Longhorns' 14 that killed a potential game-tying drive with less than 10 minutes left in the game. The Aggies trailed, 37-29, at the time and had moved 67 yards in nine plays.
"I should have held on to the ball," McGee said. "That's my job as a quarterback."