As Charlie Strong tries to change the recent culture of the Texas Longhorns, a familiar face has been brought back into the fold. On Thursday it was announced that former star quarterback Vince Young was hired by Texas as a “development officer for program alumni relations.” This got me thinking about Young’s college career and perhaps the greatest game ever played….
The year was 2005 and USC Trojans were coming off of a national championship. The Trojans were the pre-season No. 1 team and returned defending Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett.
The Trojans had built up a 22-game winning streak heading into the season. By the time the regular season was over, the Trojans were on a 34 game winning streak and were looking for back-to-back national championships.
The Texas Longhorns had to survive an early-season heavyweight slugfest in the Horseshoe as they came from behind and edged Ohio State by three points. After that it was off to the races as the Longhorns destroyed practically everyone on their schedule and routed Colorado by a record score of 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship Game.
The result was one of the most anticipated games in recent memory as the two teams who had been heading on a collision course during the season managed to live up to the hype and face off for all the marbles. USC brought Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and a 34-game win streak into the Rose Bowl to take on the Longhorns, who had amassed a 19-game win streak of their own.
The players lived up to the hype….
Matt Leinart went 29 of 40 for 365 yards and 1 TD
Lendale White ran the ball 20 times for 124 yards and 3 TD
Reggie Bush ran the ball 13 times for 82 yards and 1 TD and caught 6 passes for 95 yards
Dwayne Jarrett caught 10 passes for 121 yards and 1 TD
Vince Young went 30 of 40 for 267 yards passing and ran the ball 19 times for 200 yards with 3 rushing touchdowns.
Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles added 79 yards rushing and 1 TD on just 12 carries
David Thomas caught 10 passes for 88 yards and Limas Sweed had 8 receptions for 65 yards.
At the end of three quarters, the game was just about deadlocked as USC held a one-point lead. That’s when it got really fun. USC flexed its muscles with a 26-yard Bush touchdown run and a 22-yard touchdown pass from Leinart to Jarrett in which Jarrett stretched the ball over the plane of the goal line. Sandwiched in between was a Texas field goal as the Trojans’ lead grew to 12 points, 38-26, with time winding down.
On the next drive, Young drove the Horns down the field with three consecutive completions before getting a bit lucky when he heaved one up on the sidelines under pressure, but a possible interception was dropped by a USC defender. Young came back with a run and then another completion for a first down to extend the drive. With just over four minutes left, Young took off to his left and had to change directions while almost falling down… it seemed nothing was available, but he pump faked at the line of scrimmage and glided his way through USC defenders for a 17-yard touchdown run. This put Texas down five with four minutes left in the game.
Bush brought the kickoff out past the 30, and with the offensive talent USC had, it was probable that Texas and Young would not see the football again. The Texas defense bowed up and after giving up a first down it stopped White a yard short on a 3rd and 7 and then stuffed the Trojans when they went for it on fourth down and two near midfield. The Longhorns took over with 2:09 remaining, needing a touchdown to win.
Almost immediately, Texas found itself with a 3rd and 12 with 1:35 left in the game in its own territory. Young hit a receiver on the sidelines short of the first down, but the Horns were aided by a face mask that gave them a five-yard penalty which resulted in a first down. A completion and a short run by Young gave Texas another first down at the USC 30 with just 53 seconds left in the game. Young hit a receiver streaking over the middle and Texas entered the red zone. Three plays later it was fourth and five with just 26 seconds left, and the national championship had come down to one play….
With the ball on the USC 9-yard line, Young took the ball from the shotgun and dropped back. The protection quickly broke down and Young ran up field to his right and simply out-ran the defense to the corner of the end zone. With just 19 seconds left in the game, Young had done the unthinkable by taking the Horns all the way down the field (twice) and scrambling for a game-winning touchdown on fourth down.
USC’s legacy would go on to be tarnished (Bush’s 2005 Heisman would be stripped from him a few years later), and many of the stars of this game didn’t pan out at the next level, but the build to this game throughout the season and the performance of Vince Young on the biggest stage in college football created one of the biggest moments and best games we will see in our lifetime.