- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Texas ended top-ranked Southern Cal’s budding dynasty in last night’s 92nd Rose Bowl with a heroic 41-38 comeback victory, giving the Longhorns their first consensus national title since 1969.

USC’s Reggie Bush might have won the Heisman, but Texas quarterback Vince Young won the game. Trailing top-ranked USC 38-26 with just 6:46 remaining in one of the most anticipated national title games in history, Young rallied the Longhorns (13-0) to one of the most stunning bowl comebacks the college game has seen.w

Few in the massive crowd gave the Longhorns a chance when USC quarterback Matt Leinart found wideout Dwayne Jarrett for a 22-yard touchdown strike to put the Trojans ahead by 12. The Longhorns had done nothing to stop the USC offense in the second half; the Trojans (12-1) had scored four touchdowns in as many possessions behind their outrageously talented quartet of Leinart, Jarrett and tailbacks Bush and LenDale White.

But Young, who finished the game with an astounding 200 yards rushing on 19 carries and 267 more through the air on 30 of 40 passing, simply refused to let the Longhorns wilt.

The 6-foot-5, 233-pound junior from Houston responded to the Jarrett touchdown catch with a solo-show drive that ended with Young scrambling into the end zone from 17 yards out to pull the Longhorns within 38-33 with 4:04 remaining.

Then it was time for the Texas defense to make a stand. The Longhorns had little success to that point stopping the vaunted Southern Cal defense. But when the Trojans elected to try to ice the game by going for it on fourth-and-2 from the Texas 45-yard line with 2:22 remaining, the Longhorns stuffed White in the hole — and perhaps the most important measurement in the game’s history found him several links wanting.

Young again took the field for his finest moment. Physically dominating defenders with his speed and quickness in the pocket, just as he did in last year’s Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, Young escorted the Longhorns down the field, where the game hinged on one last fourth-down play.

On fourth-and-5 from the 8-yard line, with 22 seconds remaining and the national title in the balance, Young dropped back, USC defensive end Frostee Rucker got caught inside and lost containment and Young sprinted to the right corner of the end zone to send the Texas faithful into a catharsis of euphoria that had been bottled up for 35 years.

“We couldn’t stop them when we had to,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “The quarterback ran all over the place.”

The Trojans certainly didn’t play like a team that had won 34 straight games in an error-riddled first half in which Texas crept to a 16-10 lead. USC cracked the Texas 25-yard line on five of its seven first-half possessions.

But two turnovers (a fumble by Bush and an interception by Leinart), an bad fourth-down call from the Trojans’ staff (a quarterback sneak when the Trojans have Bush and White in the backfield) and horrendous clock management on the final drive before intermission yielded just 10 points.

Texas was sluggish as well until the waning minutes of the half, when Heisman runner-up Vince Young carried the Longhorns to two touchdowns in a 2:17 span to take a 16-7 lead with 2:34 remaining in the half. Young finished the half 13 of 15 passing for 113 yards and added 60 more yards on 10 rushes.

After Texas cornerback Aaron Ross fumbled the game’s opening punt, the Trojans took advantage, coasting 46 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead when White crashed over left tackle from 4 yards out.

Minutes later, the Trojans were back on the threshold following a dubious decision by Texas to test fate on fourth-and-1 near midfield. After Texas tailback Selvin Young was tossed for a one-yard loss on the play, the Rose Bowl crowd sensed a potential blowout as Southern Cal breezed to the Texas 17-yard line. But just as they would throughout the first half, the Trojans self-destructed, committing a series of both execution and coaching snafus.

The first miscue was a suspect call by the USC coaching staff. Facing a fourth-and-1 from the Texas 17, USC coordinators Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian passed over perhaps the two best running backs in the land in Bush and White and instead called a sneak by Leinart. Few in attendance were surprised when Texas snuffed the play and took control.

The second foible came on the Trojans’ next possession and belonged entirely to Bush. At the end of a brilliant open-field catch and run, the Heisman Trophy winner decided he would get ultra-creative and flick a lateral to an unsuspecting teammate, reserve fullback Sean Kelly. The pitch sailed past Kelly and was recovered by Texas at its own 19-yard line.

And the Trojans had one more chance to do damage before the Texas offense got warmed up. But on the team’s next possession, Michael Griffin intercepted Leinart’s second-down pass from the Texas 25-yard-line in the end zone with 6:50 remaining in the half.

Texas’ first touchdown came on an option pitch from Vince Young to roommate Selvin Young. The play covered 22 yards, and the quarterback should have been ruled down when his knee touched before the pitch at the USC 11-yard line. Replays showed him down.

But the Longhorns wisely rushed the extra point to avoid a replay. And though Pino missed the point after, the score put the Longhorns ahead 9-7. After a three-and-out possession from the stunned Trojans, the Longhorns added another score just moments later when tailback Ramonce Taylor bounced outside and sprinted 30 yards. The Trojans, who had trailed at the half seven other times during the streak, closed the half with a 43-yard field goal from Mario Danelo to close within 16-10.

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