- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Maybe it’s time for a Heisman recount.

Most of the college football world tuned in to the 92nd Rose Bowl expecting to witness history in the form of an unprecedented third straight USC national title.

Well, they got history all right.

They watched Vince Young sprint into immortality by authoring arguably one of the game’s greatest performances in Texas’ 41-38 comeback victory over the top-ranked Trojans.

“We just could not stop him,” said USC coach Pete Carroll after Young almost single-handedly broke USC’s 34-game stranglehold on the sport. “Vince Young is just an extraordinary football player.”

Said Texas coach Mack Brown of his junior savior: “I’m not much for hyperbole, but I think we just saw some serious history. I think Vince is among the greatest to have ever played the college game. And I think we all just saw a performance that’s going to be remembered forever, and not just by Texans.”

The final numbers from Young’s opus are staggering. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound junior from Houston accounted for 467 yards of total offense against the Trojans, dragging Texas to its first consensus national title since 1969 by trumping the combined efforts of the Trojans’ talented troika of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

Not that USC’s trio disappointed. Throw in Dwayne Jarrett’s 121 receiving yards, and the Trojans’ star-studded offense was every bit as awesome as advertised, helping the game exceed even its massive hype.

But Young was on such a transcendent plane that his performance swallowed any other pretension of superstardom. He torched the Trojans for 267 passing yards and 200 rushing yards and scrambled for three scores.

Can you name another player who has ever passed and rushed for 200 yards in a bowl game, much less a title game?

Folks gush about Michael Vick’s inspired performance against Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl. That FSU defense was considerably sturdier than the unit USC threw at Young, but Vick garnered only 322 yards of total offense (97 rushing, 225 passing) that night … in a losing effort.

And Vick still hasn’t exhibited the kind of pocket presence Young demonstrated in completing 30 of his 40 passing attempts to seven receivers against USC. Vick still hasn’t truly grasped the pass half of his run-pass dynamic, while Young is well on his way. And if Vick is more dangerous as an open-field runner with his superior speed, he’s also considerably smaller and weaker.

The statistics say nobody has ever done dual-threat better than Young. On Wednesday night, he became the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,050) and pass for more than 2,500 yards (3,036) in the same season. And he did it with style, averaging a hearty 6.8 yards a carry and completing two-thirds of his passes for 26 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

But he never had played a game like the one he dropped on the Trojans. Even last season’s ballyhooed Rose Bowl heroics (372 yards of total offense and three scores in a 38-37 victory over Michigan) pale in comparison to his solo goring of the Trojan dynasty.

That’s why perhaps the Heisman folks might want to consider handing out their little bronze statue after the conclusion of the season’s most important slate of games.

Of course, Young didn’t bring Texas its first title in a generation on his own — he had a lot of help from the Trojans. Despite a solid second half, USC didn’t play like a team that had won 34 straight games for much of the Rose Bowl.

There was Bush’s mystifyingly boneheaded lateral-turned-fumble. There was Carroll’s miserable clock management at the end of both halves. And there was a laughable, empty-backfield 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak call on the Texas 17-yard line when the Trojans were driving for a potential early killshot.

Memo to Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian: When you have a backfield duo that rivals Army’s Blanchard and Davis in the pantheon of all-time greats, you should probably expunge the sneak from the playbook. And it’s almost inexcusable to telegraph the call by removing Bush and White from the backfield. Sirs, Norm Chow you are not.

It seems almost surreal, but once-maligned Texas coach Mack Brown and his staff coached the khakis right off Carroll and Co. on Wednesday night.

Between the coaching bungles, blown first-half scoring opportunities and complete aversion to defense, USC didn’t seem worthy of any “greatest ever” labels even before Young took over with his ‘Horns trailing 38-26 with just 6:42 left.

None who watched will forget that stretch run of two Texas touchdown drives, both pure Young, both consummated by his scrambling scores, book-ended around the Lone Star Stop.

And after a month of borderline bitterness over a Heisman outcome, in which Young finished a distant second to Bush, both Brown and his shooting star were gracious but vindicated Wednesday night.

“Nobody under consideration [for the Heisman] had the ball in his hands this season more than Vince, and that’s why I thought all along he should win it,” Brown said. “If he comes back for his senior season, and we think he will, he should have a pretty good chance to get it next season.”

It’s difficult to imagine Young returning to follow that performance. But if he never plays another snap at any level, his Rose Bowl heroics already have secured him legendary status.

“I finally got the trophy I always wanted the most,” Young said. “Bringing that title back to Texas is all that matters.”

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