Archive for Friday, January 6, 2006

USC has Heismans; Texas owns title

January 6, 2006

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— The Trojans had the horses and the Heismans.

But Texas had the ball. And The Man.

And on a dizzying night, where defenses and one winning streak vanished in breathless fashion, a night that lived up to its Hollywood hype, Texas quarterback Vince Young made certain that that was enough.

He may have missed out on one trophy, but the crystal bauble that Young earned Wednesday night for the Longhorns is prettier and more precious.

It was Young's fourth-down, 8-yard touchdown dash with 19 seconds to play that humbled the mighty Southern Cal Trojans 41-38 and won the Rose Bowl. The Longhorns are the national champions, and they won the crown on what should be ordained the signature play of this college football season: Vince Young, tucking the ball under his arm and running like nobody else.

As the clock ticked down, the question didn't seem to be whether Young could get the football to the end zone. But rather, would the Texas defense allow him the chance?

At the end of the night, Young had rushed for 200 yards and passed for 267 - a performance for the ages. In the final two minutes and nine seconds, he marched the Longhorns 56 yards to the championship-deciding touchdown.

Too short?

The second-guessing should fall on the shoulders of USC coach Pete Carroll. With the Trojans, heretofore winners of 34 straight, facing a fourth-and-two at the Texas 45, Carroll disdained a punt in favor of sending his best weapon of the night, LenDale White, off left guard.

For once in the second half, the Trojans' Ryan Kalil and 365-pound Taitusi Lutui didn't get the surge. On the ensuing measurement, White was inches short.

Had the Trojans punted, Texas likely would have had to drive 80 or more yards, instead of 56.

Carroll, however, didn't see much to debate.

"We wanted to win the game right there," the USC coach said. "We've gone for that all year. You've seen us do that.

"You're going to have to stop them anyway. The decision is not even close. In our way of thinking, we should go for it all the time."

I would have punted it. Just guessing, but Texas' Mack Brown probably would have punted it, too.

But the decision to go for it was classic Carroll-era Southern Cal football. The Trojans have all the confidence in the world in their high-throttle offense. The defense seems almost an afterthought.

"The difference is," Carroll explained, "if you make it, you're running and squatting on the ball to win the game."

In one respect, it was hard to fault Carroll. Nobody's defense, USC's or Texas', seemed to be capable of stopping the other team in the second half.

The final numbers made a mockery of the Rose Bowl record book. The Trojans and Longhorns combined for 60 first downs and 1,130 total yards. The average snap in this championship game produced a play of more than 7 yards.

Rumor has it that each team punted twice.

For the fifth time this season, Southern Cal went to the locker room trailing at halftime.

All season long, especially since the victory at Ohio State, Texas felt that this was its destiny. The Longhorns are the champions of college football.

Southern Cal had the streak, the Heismans and the horses.

Texas had The Man.

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