Cowboys Spoil Vince Young’s NFL Debut With 45-14 Trouncing Of Titans
Few rookies ever graced the NFL stage with as much fanfare as Vince Young. After leading the University of Texas to a thrilling national championship victory over Southern Cal to end the 2005 season, the electrifying Young was selected by Tennessee in the following April’s college draft, and was duly christened as the eventual replacement to veteran Kerry Collins.
That eventuality came much sooner than anyone initially expected, as Young was inserted into the starting lineup for an 0-3 Titans squad on a sun-drenched afternoon in Nashville against the Dallas Cowboys. And though the spotlight shining down on him was just as big, if not bigger, as when he was playing in Austin, Young quickly learned that the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense was nothing like the softies of the Big 12 he was accustomed to. Young managed a few nice plays early, but took a beating down the stretch as the Cowboys won pulling away 45-14.
Coming off a bye week, the Cowboys played a tough, smashmouth brand of football that made head coach Bill Parcells proud, piling up 217 total yards on the ground between a running back trio of Julius Jones, Marion Barber III, and Tyson Thompson. As a consequence, quarterback Drew Bledsoe attempted the fewest number of passes (20) in his nineteen starts in a Dallas uniform.
Bledsoe’s day didn’t start so well, as he was intercepted by Tennessee safety Chris Hope on the game’s third play at the Titans 45-yard line, which led to a 33-yard Rob Bironas field goal. Bledsoe was quick to redeem himself, leading the Cowboys on a 12-play 80-yard drive capped off by his 13-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Terry Glenn. Another 13-yard scoring hookup to Glenn in the second quarter gave Dallas a 14-3 lead.
A strange sequence of events late in the first half looked, at the time, to be a shift in momentum favoring the home team. It all started when Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens dropped a third-down pass from Bledsoe in the back of the end zone. Forced to settle for a field goal, the Cowboys sent out veteran place-kicker Mike Vanderjagt to attempt a shoo-in 26-yarder. Vanderjagt bounced it off the right upright, prompting a not-so-friendly reaction from Parcells on the sideline.
Young, in turn, led the Titans on a long drive which resulted in another Bironas field goal to bring the Titans within shouting distance on the scoreboard. But Dallas cornerback Aaron Glenn snuffed out Tennessee’s opening drive of the second half when he intercepted a Young pass and returned it to the Dallas 44. Four plays later, Jones’ five-yard run up the middle gave the Cowboys a two touchdown advantage and provided the perfect environment for the game’s next drama to unfold.
Weary of watching early-season opportunities fall by the wayside, Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth took out his frustrations on his opponent and subsequently stomped on the unprotected head of Cowboys center Andre Gurode at the bottom of the pile, which resulted in an immediate ejection. The first time Haynesworth tried to stomp Gurode’s face, he missed. So the 6-6 320-pounder took a closer look and drove his cleats into Gurode’s face. When Gurode joined his teammates on the sideline in the fourth quarter, he had seven cuts on his face that required 30 stitches.
As for Haynesworth, he received a five-game suspension from the NFL, which was the harshest punishment for an on-the-field incident in league history. The previous record was held by Green Bay defensive lineman Charles Martin, who sat out two games in 1986 after body-slamming Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon.
“I’ve never seen nothing like this,” Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Ferguson said after the game. “Everyone who’s seen it was shocked. He intentionally tried to hurt him. That’s hard to believe…
“There’s just a hidden rule that when a helmet falls off you just don’t go for [the head]. You’re not trying to kill nobody out there. Even though we say that all the time, you’re just trying to get a good lick and get the guy down.”
Following a Titans punt, Barber got in on the scoring act, reaching paydirt from a yard out to make the score 28-6. Young then finally got the Titans offense out of the ditch, orchestrating a quick 67-yard march that culminated in his 17-yard strike to tight end Ben Troupe and short scamper for the two-point conversion.
But any hopes of a young-led comeback were thoroughly extinguished on Tennessee’s next possession when he was picked off by Cowboys fourth-year linebacker Bradie James. James’ juggling interception was the first of his career, as was his return for a touchdown. “I had to catch it three times,” James said of his bobbling. “But once I caught it, there was no way I was going down.”
Young coughed the ball up yet again a few minutes later, this time on a fumble, and Dallas safety Patrick Watkins returned it 53 yards to set up the final Cowboys score of the afternoon, a 7-yard run by Thompson.
Dallas’ 31 second-half points were the second highest total in club history, just five points shy of the mark the Jason Garrett-led Cowboys put up against Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day of 1994. And while Young would go on to have a Pro Bowl rookie season, this game proved to be Bledsoe’s last road victory as an NFL quarterback, as he was benched three weeks later, and retired after the season.