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Weekend Watch: Texas vs. USC, 2006 Rose Bowl

Profile Picture: Jeremy Balan

April 3rd, 2020

Our Weekend Watch feature touches on some of the most significant moments in sports history, and luckily for us in this modern age, many of them are viewable online, in their entirety.

2006 Rose Bowl: #1 USC vs. #2 Texas

As a born-and-raised Southern Californian, I've been to a bunch of Rose Bowls, and at one point covered three or four in a row as a member of the media, but I would trade all of them to go back in time and see this one in person.

The BCS got it right more often than we'd like to admit, and this national title game featured not only the two best teams in the country, but some of the best players in college football history. Rewatching it 14 years later, the intro from Keith Jackson is enough to give me goosebumps, but I suppose that's because I know what is coming.

But it's funny about how we remember these games — or more to the point, what we forget.

The main aspect I forgot was how sloppy the first half was. All the teams in the Rose Bowl looked a bit unprepared for the spotlight, including the team of referees and the replay review booth, which did not buzz down to overturn a touchdown-scoring play for Texas, where Vince Young's knee was clearly down.

On the USC side, I forgot about the good and the bad (not including Lane Kiffin's goatee).

Everyone remembers Young's heroics, but I don't think many appreciate how well Matt Leinart played. After a crushing interception in the end zone and brutal hit that appeared to shake him to the core in the first half, Leinart was efficient and accurate in the second, and led four straight touchdown drives to give the Trojans a 38-26 lead with 6:42 left. And as Texas largely shut down Reggie Bush, LenDale White powered his way to 124 yards and three touchdowns.

It was also striking how many opportunities USC squandered. Along with Leinart's red-zone interception, Bush inexplicably tried to lateral the ball to a teammate inside the Texas 20-yard line, which resulted in a turnover, and the Trojans failed to capitalized on four Texas fumbles (it felt like more) and only recovered one.

Texas also missed a field goal and an extra point, and USC had a deflating facemask penalty on Texas' final drive that gave the Longhorns a first down, in what would have been a fourth-down situation near midfield. To cap it all off, Leinart took too much time to throw the ball on the final play of the game, and time ran out without any chance for a Hail Mary.

USC left the door open for Young, and he stormed through, even though his first half was solid but not remarkable.

Even Jackson commented at the break, "We haven't seen the best of Vince Young, either."

We did soon enough. 

After watching all of Young's late-game heroics, the most striking thing 14 years later is that he never seemed to take a deep breath. The man ran for 200 yards and threw for 267 more, but you never saw a bead of sweat drip down his face.