UT-USC re­match stirs sweet mem­o­ries

TEXAS (1-1) AT NO. 4 SOUTH­ERN CAL (2-0) | 7:30 P.M. SATUR­DAY (CH. 4)

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - Twit­ter: @Chuck­Carl­tonDMN

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.”

File Photo/The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

Ccarl­ton@dal­las­news.com

CHUCK CARL­TON

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