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Last-second drive goes Horns' way

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- More than two months ago, Texas had its heart ripped out when Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree scored on a winning 28-yard touchdown catch with one second to play in the Red Raiders' 39-33 victory.

"That was one of the worst feelings ever," Longhorns receiver Quan Cosby said.

The Longhorns' only loss of the season knocked them from No. 1 in the rankings, and that defeat ultimately cost them a chance of playing for a Big 12 Conference title and likely the BCS National Championship.

So there No. 3 Texas was against No. 10 Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Monday night, desperately trying to persuade voters across the country that it was worthy of winning at least a share of college football's national championship.

Instead, the Longhorns were staring at another gut-wrenching defeat in the final seconds. A loss to the Buckeyes, who had been the SEC's punching bag in each of the past two BCS Championship Games, surely would have sullied Texas' remarkable and unexpected season.

"It wouldn't have been the way to go out," said senior defensive end Brian Orakpo.

The Longhorns instead turned the tables on the Buckeyes. Cosby caught a short pass from quarterback Colt McCoy and turned it into a 26-yard touchdown with only 16 seconds to go in the Longhorns' 24-21 victory.

"With the heart and character of this team, I don't think there's anybody in the country who can beat us," said McCoy, who completed 41 of 59 passes for 414 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Texas' victory certainly won't be enough to earn it a share of a national championship. In fact, undefeated Utah and Southern California were more impressive than the Longhorns during the postseason. The Utes beat Alabama 31-17 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and the Trojans defeated Penn State 38-24 in The Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

And honestly, regardless of what the Longhorns did against Ohio State, they weren't going to finish No. 1 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Texas can only hope it was good enough Monday night to finish No. 2 behind the winner of Thursday night's BCS National Championship Game between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Florida.

"We knew with the pride they've got and the tough games they've had in the BCS, they'd come in here and play tough and play great," Texas coach Mack Brown said of the Buckeyes.

Brown said he'll still vote his team No. 1 in his final ballot for the coaches' Top 25 poll. He might have an argument if the Sooners beat the Gators. Texas defeated Oklahoma 45-35 in the Red River Rivalry during the regular season.

I thought tonight, under a tremendous amount of pressure, he played as well as any quarterback can possibly play, especially on that last drive. I mean, to me, that's a Heisman-type drive.

-- Texas coach Mack Brown

But the Longhorns didn't look like a No. 1 team against Ohio State -- at least not until the final seconds.

"I can't think of a better place to be at that point," McCoy said. "That's where I want to be -- on that field and driving down the field for a championship."

After taking an 11-point lead over Ohio State late in the third quarter, the Longhorns allowed touchdowns on consecutive possessions in the fourth. Freshman running back Dan Herron's 15-yard touchdown run put the Buckeyes ahead 21-17 with 2:05 left to go.

The Ohio State defense had been surprisingly effective shutting down Texas' high-powered offense, more than any Big 12 defense the Longhorns faced this season. Texas was shut out in the first quarter for only the second time this season, and trailed the Buckeyes 6-3 at the half.

"Ohio State is the best defense we've played all year," Cosby said. "They've got a ton of guys who are going to have great careers in the NFL."

Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor has a great career ahead of him at Ohio State, too. Pryor brought Ohio State back from its big deficit, running 15 times for 78 yards and passing for another 66 yards.

Pryor even played wide receiver, catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior Todd Boeckman in the fourth quarter, which cut Texas' lead to 17-15.

"There's no doubt in my mind that at some point, he's going to lead Ohio State to a national championship," Brown said. "In my mind, he'll be in the Heisman Trophy race, and it might be sooner than we think."

But Texas won the game because McCoy is already that good.

"There were two minutes and five seconds left and we had two timeouts," Brown said. "For our offense, that's a lot of time."

When Texas' offense took the field for what turned out to be its game-winning drive, Cosby said he smiled at McCoy in the huddle.

"We all had a smile, but not a smirk," said Cosby, who caught 14 passes for 171 yards with two touchdowns. "We were like, 'Hey, this is why we play the game. Let's go.'"

As McCoy and Cosby ran to the line with less than 30 seconds to go, McCoy told his receiver the football was probably coming to him one more time. The Buckeyes had been blitzing McCoy relentlessly, and the Heisman Trophy runner-up had spent much of the night staring up at the steel rafters in the dome.

"I know he is a go-to guy," McCoy said. "On that last play, when they brought everybody, I kind of said over and over, 'If I catch the same look, give me a slant, give me a slant! Give me a slant behind that linebacker! If he comes, you just make him miss and we'll score.' We have confidence in each other."

Cosby, a senior from Mart, Texas, said he knew McCoy would find him.

"I told him, 'Let's try it and see what happens,'" Cosby said. "He's the best in the country. To have a guy like that, I feel like the luckiest guy in the country."

Brown said McCoy's heroics were about more than luck.

"He never thinks he is going to lose, and very few times in his life has he lost," Brown said. "I thought tonight, under a tremendous amount of pressure, he played as well as any quarterback can possibly play, especially on that last drive. I mean, to me, that's a Heisman-type drive."

Just like the Longhorns' national championship, McCoy will have to wait for his Heisman Trophy until next season.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.