UT-USC rematch stirs sweet memories
TEXAS (1-1) AT NO. 4 SOUTHERN CAL (2-0) | 7:30 P.M. SATURDAY (CH. 4)
Former University of Texas players savor the 2006 Rose Bowl win for a national championship over Southern California — this week’s opponent.
Members of Longhorns’ last national title team recall Rose Bowl thriller
AUSTIN — A lot can change in 11 years, as the members of Texas’ last national champion have discovered.
NFL careers have come and gone for many. Texas is no longer a national contender.
“It goes by fast,” said Tim Crowder, a defensive end on that team. “I look at Vince Young over there and he has gray in his beard.”
This week is full of nostalgia. Southern California is Saturday’s opponent in Los Angeles, and the 2006 Rose Bowl meeting for the national title has gained new life. Half-adozen Texas players, including Young, talked Tuesday about that 41-38 Texas victory.
“To have a chance to play a team that everyone considered the best team to play college football,” defensive back Aaron Ross said, “it was a huge, huge, huge statement for us.”
The buildup for the meeting of No. 1 USC and secondranked Texas started long before the teams arrived for the game.
The Trojans were the defending national champions, having obliterated Oklahoma 55-19 at the Orange Bowl the year before. With their starladen lineup, people were reserving a place in history for the Trojans.
Texas kept winning too, beating Ohio State early and then taking care of Oklahoma in Dallas. After an October home win over Texas Tech, players watched USC’s winning touchdown at Notre Dame. When Reggie Bush supplied a push to quarterback Matt Leinart on a sneak, the locker room erupted.
“They said, ‘Coach, we want to beat the best team. We wanted to beat USC. We don’t want it be anyone else,’“coach Mack Brown said.
From that moment, Texas was focused on a meeting with USC for the Bowl Championship Series title. The stakes got raised when Bush won the Heisman Trophy in early December over Young.
“After I lost the Heisman, the first thing I did was call [defensive end] Rod Wright and I said, ‘Man, get the guys together and tell them it’s showtime,’” Young said. “From that point, just the disrespect from the media, from everybody, just [saying] we weren’t supposed to be there ...
“I really felt like as a team that kind of pissed us off a little bit.”
With nearly 50 future pros on the field, the game lived to its billing and more.
USC, with its 34-game win streak, led by 12 with 6:42 to play. But after a Young touchdown run, Texas got a key stop when Brian Robison and Michael Huff stuffed LenDale White on fourth-and-2 with Bush watching from the sideline.
Texas took over. “We knew we had 10 [Young] in our backfield, so we were never scared of any team,” offensive lineman Kasey Studdard said.
On fourth-and-5 at the USC 8, Young found an open lane on a play called Menu 2 and beat USC defenders to the right corner of the end zone.
“We didn’t try to be Superman. We just played our game,” Young said. “We all was heroes.”
While Brown had quickly rebuilt Texas since being hired in 1998, doubts remained that he could deliver the big one.
His recruiting wins had earned him the nickname Coach February, not exactly a compliment. The 2005 season silenced critics. Shortly afterward, Brown asked legendary former UT coach Darrell Royal what it all meant.
“He said, ‘It’s a box that every coach and every player wants to check. And you just checked it,’” Brown said. “He said, ‘You brought pride back to not only the university but to the state of Texas.’”
Since the loss, USC has gone through an NCAA investigation involving Bush, major sanctions and four coaches.
Yet the Trojans are back among the elite, ranked fourth in the Associated Press Top 25 and with the nation’s secondlongest win streak at 11 games.
For Texas, the program has suffered four losing seasons since 2010, including three consecutive seven-loss seasons under Charlie Strong. The Longhorns enter the game as 15-point underdogs.
Asked for his message to the current players, Young said: “Go out there and show the world we’re Texas football. You gotta go earn that type of stuff. You can’t just come to Texas because it’s Texas and think that you’re just going to win ballgames.”
Saturday’s game still carries an edge.
Southern Cal announced a sellout at the 92,348-seat Coliseum, it’s first at home since 2013. A notation in the Trojans’ game notes got attention. Citing the fact that the championship game loss was vacated by the NCAA penalties, USC lists its series record with Texas at 4-0. So 2006 never happened.
“Well, they never lost,” Crowder said, “but I bet you a million people know they did.”
Quarterback Vince Young outraced the Trojans’ defense to the end zone for the winning touchdown as Texas defeated USC 4138 to win the 2006 Rose Bowl and the national championship.