Thursday, January 05, 2006

From the Once-Again Football Capitol of the World: A Night of Merriment and Magic


Photo of Vince Young courtesy of AP.

A few thoughts after taking and making congratulatory calls from friends near and far, and even from some in the Rose Bowl last night:

First, it was probably the best football game I have ever seen. Hard to think of a better one, especially with more at stake. Vince was just simply masterful, truly a man playing with the boys of Troy.

For his part, Matt Leinart recovered from a difficult first half against a harassing Texas defense to absolutely light up the Longhorns' tremendous defenders in the second half. Reggie Bush was mostly held in check this night, except for one nearly gravity-defying 30-yard touchdown run. His first-half lateral attempt was an ill-advised and uncharacteristic mental error.

For Texas, Super Man was Super Man. But others made huge plays, too. For instance, there was Michael Griffin's incredible end zone interception, the only pick ever thrown by Leinart in a bowl game. Tight end David Thomas was both steady and spectacular, with 10 catches. Ramonce Taylor broke loose for a key touchdown run, and freshman Jamaal Charles finally stopped dropping footballs for a while to flash some brilliance. Michael Huff was everywhere.

USC's Lendale White made all the big runs. Except one. For the first time in the second half, Texas defense rose up to stop the huge bruiser on fourth and two with a little more than two minutes left. He was chatting it up on the sideline a bit too early, it seems.

Then, Vince took the Horns home by scoring on fourth down with 19 seconds left. Bedlam ensued in the Rose Bowl.

And all across Texas living rooms like mine.

The post-game class of Pete Carroll was striking. But Pete is always that way. He is a super coach, a great credit to USC and to college football. Incidentally, Texas has a coach like that, too. And I guess we can now officially put to rest the claims that Coach Brown can't win the big game. As I posted recently, Coach Brown is deserving of this great ride his team has taken him and the rest of us on.

So, no, Mack didn't win the big game. His team just won the biggest ever.

USC QB Matt Leinart was pouty and ungracious in some of his post-game comments (i.e., "the best team did not win tonight"). Vince Young, a similarly fierce competitor, was similarly ungracious after Bush's Heisman win, though. UT fans love Vince, so we can forgive Matt Leinart.

It just doesn't get much better than coming from 12 points behind with 6 minutes left to beat the supposedly unbeatable Trojans, the team for the ages and winners of 34 straight. And to do it in Southern California, in SC's hometown and in the shadow of Disneyland is, well, magical.

I remember the last Texas national championship. It was 1970, when the Longhorns were AP Champions, like USC was two years ago. In those days, the votes were counted before the bowl games, so the devastating Notre Dame defeat in the Cotton Bowl (which stopped a 30-game Texas win streak) did not cost the Longhorns the AP title that year.

The last undisputed Texas football championship, though, was in 1969. I remember that one, too, because the '69 championship really felt like Texas was on top of the college football world. That's because the Longhorns were.

I told my 15-year-old before he went to bed early this morning to enjoy this championship. My son may be 50 when it happens again, and I may be dead.

But for now, Texas football is again king.