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September 15, 2005

New No. 4 makes the big catch for Texas

AUSTIN, Texas - Limas Sweed leaped high to make the catch, juggled the ball and then came down with the touchdown.

After a year of simply looking like former Texas Longhorns star Roy Williams in his No. 4 uniform, Sweed played like him as well. His first career touchdown propelled the second-ranked Longhorns to a 25-22 road win over then-No. 4 Ohio State.

"The greatest catch of my life," Sweed said this week without a hint of overstatement.

The catch in the final three minutes of the game came in front of more than 100,000 screaming fans and a national television audience watching the most anticipated intersectional matchup of the season.

It was the kind of acrobatic catch Williams made routine while rewriting the Texas record book from 2000-2003. Now coach Mack Brown hopes it will also ignite Sweed's career.

"Hopefully that will be a play-changing experience for him," Brown said. "He is a guy with so much pride, he puts as much pressure on himself as I've ever seen. That's why it was such a great play."

A sophomore, Sweed signed with Texas in 2003 when Brown hauled in a bumper crop of pass catchers to fill the hole that would be left when Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas were gone.

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, "Big Sweed" has the same imposing physical stature that allowed Williams to overpower smaller defensive backs. And judging by his high school career, he was an easy bet to slide right into stardom. Of his 72 catches his last three years at Brenham High School, 31 went for touchdowns.

Yet college was a different story.

By 2004, it was clear Sweed and the other new receivers weren't ready for the big time. Sweed started seven games and caught 23 passes but couldn't find the end zone as Texas' passing game took a huge drop-off from the previous season.

"I always felt I could do it," Sweed said. "It was just a matter of time. It's all starting to fall in place."

Sweed wasn't quarterback Vince Young's first option on the play that started at the Ohio State 24. After checking through his first two reads, Young saw Sweed was a step behind the defender.

"He saw me at the right time and threw the perfect ball," Sweed said. "My eyes were probably the size of oranges, man. I didn't want to lose focus."

Sweed snared the pass and stayed inbounds. After the pass was ruled a touchdown on the field, the play stood up under instant replay review.

"It wasn't no worries," Sweed said. "Once I grabbed it, I pulled it in and wasn't letting it go."

Young expects more plays like that from his big receiver.

"Limas' confidence is up a whole lot," Young said. "That's what needed out of him. With the type of size he has, he can make those plays all the time."

Sweed's breakout moment came in a game when Young answered his critics, too. With 270 yards passing and two touchdowns, he perhaps settled questions about his passing and kept himself in strong contention for the Heisman Trophy.

"Whatever it takes to get a win," Young said. "Whether I have to run it or I have to pass it."

For more coverage of the Texas Longhorns, check out Orangebloods.com.

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