Big 12: Justin Blaylock

Young's title-game dramatics are Big 12's No. 1 memory

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
8:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Title-game clash of the titans remains the Big 12's game for the ages 

Date: Jan. 4, 2006
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Score: Texas 41, USC 38

After sorting through the moments that have made the Big 12's history so rich, the most memorable one was easy for me to pick.

 
  Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
  Vince Young threw for 267 yards and ran for 200 more.

All I had to do was think back to the greatest championship game in any sport that I've ever seen.

Admittedly, those are some strong words. But anybody who witnessed Vince Young's game-winning performance that night at the Rose Bowl against No. 1 USC would have to agree.

Young accounted for a Rose Bowl-record 467 yards, running for 200 yards and passing for 267 more. His 8-yard touchdown run with only 19 seconds left brought home the first undisputed national championship to Texas in 36 years, capping a wild 41-38 victory.

And making it even sweeter for the Longhorns, the victory  snapped the 34-game winning streak of a team that was judged as the greatest modern dynasty in recent college football history. USC had two Heisman Trophy winners in its starting backfield in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush and scads of NFL-quality talent.

The game that preceded Young's late heroics only made the ending that much more unforgettable.

The Trojans and Longhorns combined for 60 first downs, 1,130 yards of total offense and only four punts. But in the end, a defensive play was the most pivotal in the game. 

USC was poised to wrap up the game, nursing a 38-33 lead. On a fourth-and-2 from his own 45-yard line, USC coach Pete Carroll gambled and tried to deliver a kill shot by calling a dive play by LenDale White.

But White was turned away inches short of the first down when he was met by Texas safety Michael Huff and defensive tackle Rod Wright among others.

That provided the opening for Texas' game-winning drive that started with 2:09 left. The Longhorns received a big break when USC defensive back Darnell Bing was flagged for a face-mask penalty after tackling Quan Cosby five yards short of a first down on third-and-12, giving Texas a first down.

Young then accounted for the next 33 yards on runs and passes to give the Longhorns a first down at the USC 13 with 50 seconds left. But after a 5-yard run sandwiched around two incomplete passes intended for Limas Sweed, the Longhorns were looking at a fourth-and-5 from the Trojan 8.

The Trojans gambled with a determined blitz, but Young scooted past them. And thanks to a crunching block from Texas right tackle Justin Blaylock, Young sped toward the right end zone in a serpentine path to the game-winning touchdown.

After Young converted a two-point play, USC had one more chance. Leinart and Bush hooked up on a 27-yard pass that pushed the ball to the Texas 42 for the final play. But Leinart's pass intended for Dwayne Jarrett sailed over his head at the Texas 25 to preserve the wild victory.

USC seemingly moved the ball at will early in the game, piling up a Rose Bowl-record 574 yards in the game. The Trojans struck first barely 2 minutes into the game on a 4-yard touchdown run by White to cap a 46-yard drive.

They were poised to score again when Bush snagged a 37-yard screen pass from Leinart on the second play of the second quarter. But the Heisman Trophy winner inexplicably attempted a sideways pitch to unprepared teammate Brad Walker. Huff fell on the loose ball and the Longhorns took control for the rest of the half.

Texas erupted for 16 straight points, scoring on its next three drives.

The binge started with a 46-yard field goal by David Pino, followed by a 10-yard option touchdown keeper by Young on a disputed play where his knee appeared to hit the ground. And Ramonce Taylor's 30-yard touchdown run extended the lead to 16-7 with 2:34 left in the half.

USC pulled within 16-10 on Mario Danelo's 43-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half. It was the fourth time during the season the Trojans trailed at the break.

A 3-yard scoring run by White enabled USC to reclaim the lead, capping a 62-yard scoring drive after Texas had been forced to punt to start the fourth quarter. But Young responded with a 14-yard touchdown run barely two minutes later to boost Texas back ahead at 23-17.

White's 12-yard scoring run boosted the Trojans back into a 24-23 lead after three quarters.

The Trojans' star power then took over. Bush raced on a spectacular 26-yard touchdown run, punctuated by a somersault in the end zone to boost the Trojans lead to eight with 11:19 left.

And after Pino added 34-yard field goal with 8:46 on the ensuing possession, USC's big-play offense struck again. Leinart whistled a 22-yard touchdown strike to Jarrett with 6:42 left to boost the Trojans' lead to 38-26, capping a four-play, 80-yard drive.

But Young was only getting started. He completed 5 of 6 passes and rushed twice for 25 yards on the next drive, capping the possession with a 17-yard scoring scamper that pulled Texas within 38-33 with 4:26 left.

And after his game-winning drive, the excitement from that ending still resonates to that day.

They said it, part I: "We never, ever, really thought we'd lose the ballgame," Texas coach Mack Brown, after his team's dramatic comeback.

They said it, part II: "You couldn't ask for anything better. This was a great football game. We gave our hearts, they gave their hearts and they came out on top." USC quarterback Matt Leinart on the disappointment of losing his final college game.

They said it, part III: "We couldn't stop them when we had to. Their quarterback ran all over the place. This is their night. It was wonderful doing what we've been doing. But we just didn't get it done tonight," USC coach Pete Carroll, on the end of the Trojans' 34-game winning streak.

They said it, part IV: "I still think we're a better football team. They just made the plays in the end." Leinart on Texas' late comeback.

They said it, part V: "The quarterback just ran all over the place. He's a fantastic player. He was the difference. And how classic was it that he ran it in on the last play?" Carroll on Vince Young's late heroics.

They said it, part VI: "Everybody showed so much heart on both sides of the ball. I said all week that it would come down to the last play of the game and it did," Texas quarterback Vince Young on his late-game heroics.

They said it, part VII: "We have Vince Young on the show tonight. We were able to do something USC couldn't do, we grabbed him," Tonight Show host Jay Leno, in his monologue  when Young appeared on his show several days after the game.

Factoids: Texas' conquest marked the second Rose Bowl comeback in as many years by Young, who orchestrated a 38-37 triumph over Michigan to account for Texas' first BCS bowl victory the previous season ... Bush accounted for 82 rushing yards and grabbed six passes for 95 yards ... Leinart completed 29 of 40 passes for 365 yards with one interception and was sacked three times ... Young was
30-of-40 passing for 267 yards ... Michael Huff earned game defensive MVP honors with 12 tackles, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss ... On Young's controversial touchdown run in the second quarter, the play could not be renewed because of a malfunction for the monitor needed to supply different angles to the replay crew .... Both teams finished with 30 first downs, but USC had a 574-556 edge in total yardage. ... USC's 34-game winning streak that ended with the loss was tied for the sixth-longest in FBS history.  The Texas victory was the 800th in school history ... It was the first time that Texas had beaten a No. 1 ranked team since defeating Oklahoma on Oct. 12, 1963.

The upshot: Young's heroics helped boost his record as a starting quarterback to 30-2, finishing with a national championship. He decided to turn pro, informing Brown of his decision four days later.

Texas finished the season No. 1 with a 20-game winning streak. It was the Longhorns' first outright national championship since 1969. And it marked a share of their fourth national championship after claiming titles in 1963, 1969, and a shared one in 1970 with Nebraska.

The Longhorns would stretch their winning streak to 21 games before losing at home to Ohio State in the second game of the 2006 season. That represents Texas' second-longest winning streak in school history, behind only a 30-game streak from 1968-70.

USC has won 34 of their next 39 games since the Texas loss, including Rose Bowl victories to finish each season since then. The Rose Bowl loss to Texas is the only time Carroll has lost a bowl game from 2002 to the present. USC has gone 6-1 in bowl games during that period.

The countdown:

2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas
3. Superman's leap. Roy Williams' tipped pass punctuates titantic defensive battle.
4. Davison's dramatic grab keeps Cornhuskers' national title hopes alive.
5. Bamboozled again and again and again. Boise State's gadget plays doom OU.
6. Yes, Sirr. Parker's dramatic catches lead A&M to first Big 12 title
7. Crouch's TD catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma
8. Sproles and Roberson stun top-ranked OU, leading KSU to its first Big 12 title.
9. Emotional A&M victory brings closure after Bonfire tragedy.
10. Roll left: James Brown guarantees victory and then backs it up.
11. When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms" in Colorado's first Big 12 title.
12. A Buffalo stampede: Six Chris Brown TDs lead CU to first Big 12 title game.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks NCAA career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.

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