In-Vince-ible: Young powers UT to first title since '70
PASADENA, Calif. -- Finally, Texas' lone star shined brighter than all the glitter and glamour Southern California could muster.
Vince Young, back in the Rose Bowl and at his best, lifted the Longhorns to a 41-38 Rose Bowl victory over top-ranked Southern California on Wednesday with his 8-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 19 seconds left.
"I went through all my progressions," Young said, "so I just took off with it."
The victory brought the Longhorns their first outright national championship since 1969.
"As a leader, I knew how much hard work we put in to get to this point," Young said. "To see my guys happy, with the coaches and the fans, that's why I love playing football."
Young came to California hoping to prove he was the best player in the country after his bitter disappointment at finishing second to USC running back Reggie Bush for the Heisman Trophy, which Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart won the year before.
By running and passing his way through another spectacular Rose Bowl performance, the Longhorns quarterback finally relegated USC's stars to supporting roles.
This was, without a doubt, Young's show: He ran for 200 yards and passed for another 267 in a game that surpassed his 372-yard, five-touchdown effort against Michigan here last year and became the first player in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,500 in a season.
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"Do whatever it takes," Young said. "It's all about heart, focus and poise."
Before the game, Young went through his usual routine, listening to music on his iPod while tossing passes to his receivers and hamming it up with thousands of Texas fans who came to the game early.
By kickoff, he was reaching for what he calls his "Jordan Mode" -- the zone where he feels he can make any play at any time. It worked to perfection on Texas' first touchdown when Young snuck one past the USC defense and the replay officials.
Young broke through the left side of the line and pitched the ball to tailback Selvin Young, who slipped through three tacklers to get into the end zone. The quarterback was being tackled when he tossed it, and television replays showed his knee was down before the ball left his hands. Game officials did not review the play.
By the second quarter, he was still dancing on the field, pantomiming riding on a horse during a timeout.
On one play, Young slipped through the tackle of blitzing USC safety Brandon Ting for a short pass and then turned and shook Ting's hand as if to say "I'll be here all night."
Young scored his first touchdown when he capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive in the third with a stiff-arm of a Trojan defender before diving for the end zone pylon to give the Longhorns a 23-17 lead. He then flashed a "Hook 'em Horns" sign to the crowd.
His second touchdown, a 17-yard run in the fourth, started when he dropped back to pass and then used a burst of speed to run through the middle of the defense. The score pulled the Longhorns within 38-33 with 4:03 to play.
By then, Young was unstoppable.
When Texas got the ball back for its final drive near midfield, Young completed five passes and covered the final 14 yards on his own. He also pushed his way through the middle of the line for the two-point conversion that made it 41-38.
"We made the stop, Vince drives us down again and scores and the rest is history," said Texas senior defensive tackle Rod Wright. "If he had to throw it or he had to run it, he was going to get it done."
"He's a fantastic player and he made the difference," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "How classic was it that he ran it in on the last play?"
The only question now is whether the junior, who said he plans to return for a final season, leaves school early for the NFL.
If he stays, the Longhorns can expect to enter the 2006 season ranked No. 1.
Young said he'd sit down his family soon to discuss his future. First he was going to enjoy the moment and the emotion of winning Texas' first national title in a generation.
"My tears haven't come yet," he said. "I know they're coming."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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