Young delivers Roses for Texas
PASADENA, Calif. -- In the real world, in the non-PlayStation, X-Box, press-circle-and-a-guy-bounces-off-of-you world, Texas' Vincent Young was stopped.
The arms of Michigan senior defensive tackle Pat Massey were wrapped around the quarterback's feet. Young kicked them off. The arms of another defensive tackle, Gabe Watson, dove from behind. Young sped up. The arms of strong safety Jamar Adams were ready to wrap up. Young made them miss.
It was a scratch your head, hit the TiVo and ask "How did he do that?" moment. Unless you were a Longhorn.
"Honestly man, he does that kinda stuff all the time," running back Cedric Benson said. "He just sorta toys with people."
It looked impossible. Sorta like making the BCS look smart. Like making people forget about computers, formulas or Pac-10 teams from Berkeley and instead think that Michigan vs. Texas in the Rose Bowl is the best idea since Keith Jackson picked up a microphone.
And all it took was two legs. Two tall, chiseled, tattoo-covered legs to make all the athletic directors, school presidents, poll voters and BCS computer nerds look like geniuses. Two stronger-than-oak ankles to get the "can't win the big game" monkey off the back of Texas coach Mack Brown. And two grapefruit-sized calves to leave Rose Bowl CEO Mitch Dorger with a giant smile on his face.
Texas 38, Michigan 37, decided by a 37-yard field goal as time expired.
"One of the most amazing Rose Bowl games I've ever seen," Dorger said.
Thanks Vince Young.
Thanks for taking the game that some didn't want played -- a game some columnists proposed boycotting -- and turning it into water-cooler fodder for a week.
Braylon Edwards (Michigan football past), as well as Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Steve Breaston (Michigan football future) all deserve thanks as well. As do both kickers -- Michigan's Garrett Rivas for his three field goals and Texas' Dusty Mangum for his game-winner.
But the night belonged to Young. Michigan decided all week that it wasn't going to let Benson, who never lost a game in which he rushed for 100 yards, beat them. They were going to live and die with the abilities of Young.
|Watch Vince Young run past Michigan in Rose Bowl.
"All that did was give him the ultimate chance to exploit them," Benson said. "Half the time they had guys standing there looking at me and he was running right by them. They picked their own death."
Young ran on quarterback draws out of the shotgun. On play-action fakes to Benson. On mystifying scrambles after the pocket broke down. Some of it was designed, some pure athletic ability.
It resulted in barely-touched touchdown runs of 20 and 60 yards and now-you-have-me, now-you-don't scores of 10 and 23 yards. He made Michigan defenders look like amateurs and Lloyd Carr scowl more than usual.
"Too many times we had him and didn't get him to the ground," Carr said. "You can look at that one of two ways. You can choose either."
His players leaned toward crediting Young.
"There were a couple times I had him wrapped up in my arms and it didn't happen," said Michigan sophomore LaMarr Woodley, the Rose Bowl's defensive player of the game. "He's a fast, strong guy. You don't realize it until you're out there."
Sitting in the postgame interview tent with a red rose in his hand, Young couldn't stop showering praise on his offensive line. Every time he dropped back, he said, "there were lanes everywhere."
And Young didn't mind taking advantage. When the pocket did collapse, he made something happen. Young's explanation for his amazing 10-yard third-quarter touchdown?
"Squats," he said. "Those are squats that make that happen. I'm leaning like I'm going to go down, but just before my knee hits I keep my balance and make a play. That's what you try to do -- keep those legs moving."
By keeping his legs moving, Young kept his team in the game. In the fourth quarter, which the Longhorns won 17-6, Young accounted for 161 of the team's 166 yards.
"He simply took over the ballgame," Brown said. "I've never seen such an athletic performance -- running, passing, competing -- as I did tonight. Never."
His final statistics were, well, video-game like. As if he were playing against the computer. On beginner. Twenty-one carries, 192 yards, four touchdowns on the ground, 16-of-28, 180 yards and one touchdown in the air.
In a game in which a quarterback threw four touchdown passes (Henne), tying a Rose Bowl record, a receiver caught three touchdown passes (Edwards), setting a Rose Bowl record, and another player racked up 315 all-purpose yards (Breaston), setting another Rose Bowl record, Young was the unquestionable MVP.
And the future of Longhorns football looks like it's in safe hands, despite the graduation of Benson, who finished with 75 yards on 23 carries.
"He's a phenomenal athlete," Edwards said. "You can obviously compare him to Michael Vick."
When it was all said and done, the 82-year-old Rose Bowl stadium saw a sight it probably never imagined. Thousands upon thousands of Texas fans, Hook 'Em Horns raised high above their heads, belting out the words to the "Eyes of Texas" with their larger-than-life heroes standing below them.
The whole scene was surreal.
All because of two talented legs.
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.