Classic thriller ends longtime Texas-Texas A&M rivalry
COLLEGE STATION, TX -- This is not the goodbye Texas A&M envisioned.
Justin Tucker kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give the Longhorns a 27-25 victory over Texas A&M on Thursday night in the likely end of a more than century-old rivalry.
"This is by far the most painful loss I've had since I've been here," Texas A&M safety Trent Hunter said. "It's one of those things that we're going to have to live with for a while since Texas and Texas A&M aren't playing again."
Texas A&M's last Big 12 game and the 118th meeting between these bitter rivals before the Aggies depart for the Southeastern Conference next season was a thriller befitting one of college football's oldest and most storied matchups.
The Aggies were down 24-19 before Ryan Tannehill found Jeff Fuller on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining. But the 2-point conversion failed, leaving A&M (6-6, 4-5 Big 12) ahead 25-24.
The Longhorns' winning drive was helped by a 15-yard personal foul penalty and a 25-yard run by quarterback Case McCoy.
McCoy started Thursday after being benched after a loss to Oklahoma in favor of David Ash.
McCoy struggled to move the offense for much of the game, but was able to do just enough to get the Longhorns in position for Tucker's winner.
Texas players spilled onto the field as soon as the kick sailed through the uprights. At the same time, thousands of dejected Aggies fans streamed to the exits in the end of this holiday tradition in this football-crazy state.
Hunter, who had the 15-yard penalty on the Longhorns' winning drive, said players were crying in the locker room after the loss.
"This is a devastating loss for our team," Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. "I felt sorry for them."
The series ends with the Longhorns leading 76-37-5 and Texas coach Mack Brown improved his career record against the Aggies to 10-4 with Thursday's win.
Receiver Jaxon Shipley threw a touchdown pass on a trick play in the first half and the Longhorns took advantage of two interceptions in a 17-point third quarter to send the Aggies off with a loss.
Carrington Byndom's interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter cut Texas A&M's lead to 16-14.
The Longhorns (7-4, 4-4) took a 17-14 lead on a 23-yard field goal later in the third.
Tannehill's third interception led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Cody Johnson to extend the Longhorns' lead to 24-16.
"I just didn't play well," Tannehill said.
At times the end of this rivalry felt like a goodbye between longtime friends.
The Longhorn band spelled out `Thanks A&M' while playing "Thanks for the Memories." Earl Campbell, who won the Heisman Trophy at Texas in 1977, and Texas A&M's John David Crow, winner of the award in 1957, watched the game sitting side by side in golf cart in the corner of the stadium.
Texas A&M's collie mascot, Reveille, didn't share in the goodwill. She showed her dislike for the Longhorns by chewing on a small stuffed version of Bevo, the Texas mascot during the game.
"It was a great atmosphere, Kyle Field was everything that it is," Tannehill said. "You couldn't ask for a better atmosphere, but it's tough when your team doesn't come out with a win."
Texas A&M's official fight song bids adieu to the Longhorns with the line "so long to the orange and white." But the Aggies didn't really want to say goodbye.
They'd hoped to continue the game, which began in 1894 and has been played every year since 1915, but the Longhorns said their schedule is full through 2018.
Countless great players and games have populated this series. Former Texas A&M coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's 1954 team, which survived his grueling camp in Junction, Texas, played the Longhorns.
Crow, A&M's only Heisman winner, was a member of the first Aggie team to beat Texas at Memorial Stadium in 1956. It was against the Aggies in 1998 that the Longhorns' Ricky Williams broke the Division I-A career rushing record in a 26-24 win.
Campbell had the best game of his Texas career against the Aggies when he ran for 222 yards and three touchdowns, and scored on a 60-yard pass in a 57-28 win by the Longhorns in 1977.
Fans were welcomed to the game with a prerecorded message on the Jumbotron by former Texas A&M defensive end/linebacker Von Miller. The crowd roared as Miller, the second overall pick in this year's draft, encouraged the Aggies to win.
On Thursday, Ben Malena caught his first career pass for a 7-yard touchdown on A&M's first drive to make it 7-0. He was filling in for A&M's 1,000-yard rusher Cyrus Gray, who missed the game with a stress fracture in his left shoulder.
Malena ran 25 times for 83 yards.
"The Texas-Texas A&M rivalry speaks for itself," Malena said. "(But) we're going to the SEC next year, so we have bigger and better things to worry about."
Randy Bullock pushed A&M's lead to 10-0 later in the first quarter with a 49-yard field goal.
The Longhorns couldn't get anything going on offense early and didn't get a first down until the last play of the first quarter.
Texas A&M was up 13-0 after another field goal in the second quarter before Texas used a trick play where Shipley threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Blaine Irby to cut the lead to six.
Shipley returned after missing the past three games with a knee injury.
Another field goal by Bullock left A&M up 16-7 at halftime.
Tannehill was 20 of 49 for 224 yards and Fuller had a season-high seven receptions for 107 yards.
The Longhorns' normally potent running game didn't do much with Malcolm Brown leading the group with 17 carries for 39 yards.
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