- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Should we go ahead and call this the "Top 10 BCS bowl performances, brought to you by Vince Young"? It sort of feels like the celestial bowl efforts of the former Texas run-and-gunner lead most discussions of memorable performances. But he's far from alone. And there may be a few you've forgotten -- hello, Ron Dayne in the 1999 Rose Bowl and Rohan Davey in the 2002 Sugar Bowl.
This was no easy exercise. How the heck could we leave out Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey in the 2002 Rose Bowl, Utah quarterback Alex Smith in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl or Tennessee receiver Peerless Price in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl?
Here's a look at the 10 best performances in a BCS bowl during the BCS decade:
1. Texas QB Vince Young vs. USC in 2006 Rose Bowl
You remember this one right? It was only one of the greatest individual performances in U.S. sports history. Start with the biggest number, which is mind-blowing: a BCS bowl record 467 total yards in Texas' 41-38 victory. Young rushed 19 times for 200 yards, scoring touchdowns of 14, 17 and eight yards, the final tally providing the game winner on fourth down. That's still the best rushing total in a BCS title game. Oh, and Young didn't lose a single yard against a fast Trojans defense. Nor did he throw an interception while completing 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards. That's the second-highest completion percentage in any BCS bowl game. But it wasn't just the "no-way-he-just-did-that" athleticism. It was his rising to the moment and almost single-handedly ending USC's 34-game winning streak by leading a comeback from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to give Texas its first national title since 1970. It was Young, weeks after failing to hide his disappointment over losing the Heisman Trophy to USC's Reggie Bush, proving to the world that he was college football's biggest star.
2. Oklahoma defense vs. Florida State in 2001 Orange Bowl
Florida State was a 12-point favorite for one reason: Its offense, led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Chris Weinke, was unstoppable. The Seminoles entered the contest averaging 42 points and 549 yards per game, which ranked No. 1 in the nation. Yet when the final bell tolled, Oklahoma's defense didn't yield a point in a 13-2 victory -- only a late safety saved FSU from its first shutout loss since 1988. The telling stat? The Seminoles were 1-of-15 on third down. Ouch. Sooners linebacker Torrance Marshall, a Miami native, earned game MVP honors after recording six tackles and an interception, but this was really about a brilliant scheme enacted flawlessly by an entire unit. This defeat prevented the Seminoles from repeating as national champions and marked the final chapter of their dynastic run of 14 consecutive finishes in the AP top-five.
3. Texas QB Vince Young vs. Michigan in 2005 Rose Bowl
Perhaps we should have seen Young's 2006 Rose Bowl performance coming, considering he'd made a similarly stunning star turn in the same storied venue almost exactly a year before. In Texas' 38-37 victory over the Wolverines, he rushed for 192 yards with touchdown jaunts of 20, 60, 10 and 23 yards. He also passed for 180 yards and a touchdown, and drove the Longhorns for the game-winning kick. And, while not a championship game, there was some unique pressure on Young and his Longhorns teammates. After a controversial lobbying effort by coach Mack Brown, Texas had leapfrogged California in the national polls and received a guaranteed BCS berth, thereby preventing the traditional Pac-10-Big Ten matchup, which didn't make the Longhorns terribly popular in Pasadena. A side note: Young's performance unfortunately marginalized Michigan receiver/return man Steve Breaston's Rose Bowl record of 315 all-purpose yards.
4. Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne vs. UCLA in 1999 Rose Bowl
While "The Great Dayne's" NFL career has mostly sputtered, he was one of college football's all-time greats -- his 6,397 career rushing yards is an NCAA Division I-A record. His performance against UCLA -- 27 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-31 victory -- set the stage for his winning the 1999 Heisman Trophy. His rushing total remains the most accumulated in a BCS bowl game. The following season, he rushed for 200 yards in another Rose Bowl victory over Stanford and won another game MVP award, which means Dayne owns two of the top three rushing totals in BCS bowl games history (the 200 yards being tied for third with Vince Young).
5. West Virginia RB Steven Slaton vs. Georgia in 2006 Sugar Bowl
Slaton made himself at home in what was billed as practically a home game for the Bulldogs because the Sugar Bowl had been moved to Atlanta's Georgia Dome due to damage Hurricane Katrina wrought upon the Superdome. The speedy freshman rushed 26 times for 204 yards and three touchdowns -- including a pair of 52-yard scoring sprints -- in front of a stunned crowd. His rushing total is a Sugar Bowl record and the second most recorded in a BCS bowl game. Moreover, West Virginia, a two-touchdown underdog, earned the Big East some much needed validation with its 38-35 victory.
6. Michigan QB Tom Brady vs. Alabama in 2000 Orange Bowl
Watch highlights of this wildly entertaining 35-34 Michigan overtime victory and it becomes baffling why receiver David Terrell never did squat in the NFL. Of course, maybe in this Michigan pass-catch combination some guy named Tom Brady made Terrell, the eighth overall pick in the 2001 draft, look like something special. Brady twice led the Wolverines back from 14-point deficits, throwing for an Orange Bowl record 369 yards with four touchdowns, three of which went to Terrell, the game MVP. Brady completed 34 of 46 passes and his completion percentage (74 percent) and yardage total rank third all time in BCS bowls. He's gone on to be a fairly successful NFL quarterback.
7. LSU QB Rohan Davey vs. Illinois in 2002 Sugar Bowl
The reaction to this pick everywhere outside of Louisiana is likely ... huh? The game wasn't very good -- LSU coasted to a 47-34 victory after jumping to a 34-7 halftime lead. And a BCS bowl pitting No. 7 (Illinois) vs. No. 12 doesn't receive much pregame hype or too many eyeballs on television. But when a quarterback completes 31 of 53 passes for a BCS-record 444 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions -- like Davey did -- it's hard to ignore it. In fact, the numbers were so scintillating that few recall that Josh Reed, winner of the Biletnikoff Award, hauled in 14 receptions for a Sugar Bowl record 239 yards, still the biggest receiving total in a BCS bowl. Or that Tigers running back Domanick Davis, starting in place of injured star LaBrandon Toefield, scored four touchdowns and rushed for 122 yards. Some, however, might remember the game for LSU coach Nick Saban's borrowing the referee's microphone to tell well-lubricated Tigers fans to stop throwing things onto the field.
8. FSU WR Peter Warrick vs. Va. Tech QB Michael Vick in 2000 Sugar Bowl
This one was just pure athletic tit-for-tat. Warrick caught six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and returned a punt 59 yards for a score, while Vick rushed 23 times for 97 yards and a touchdown and passed for 225 yards and a touchdown. Warrick accounted for 20 points -- he also scored on a 2-point conversion -- which is tied with Young for the most in a BCS Championship Game. Vick's performance, however, goes beyond his pure numbers. His offensive line was mostly incapable of pass blocking FSU's dominating defensive front, yet the Seminoles defenders seemed incapable of getting their hands on the scrambling Vick. (Said play-by-play man Brent Musburger: "Have you ever seen anything like this?") Also, the 46-29 final score couldn't be more deceiving. Vick led the Hokies back from a 28-7 deficit to take a 29-28 lead in the third quarter and his offense outgained FSU 503-359.
9. West Virginia QB Pat White vs. Oklahoma in 2008 Fiesta Bowl
White's numbers were better than just good -- 176 yards passing with two touchdowns and 150 yards rushing on 20 carries -- but his place here is about more than numbers. White and his teammates in the weeks preceding the game had: (1) lost a chance to play for the national title after being upset by Pittsburgh to conclude the regular season, (2) watched their coach unceremoniously bolt for Michigan, (3) learned their fans were sending back about 7,500 of the 17,500 tickets they were allotted, (4) were told repeatedly that Oklahoma would tear them up and, finally, (5) saw their star running back, Steve Slaton, go down with a hamstring injury early in the first quarter. Despite all that, the poised White led a dominating offense in a 48-28 victory -- West Virginia's 349 rushing yards were the most ever allowed by Oklahoma in a bowl game -- that probably is the biggest reason "interim" was removed from coach Bill Stewart's title.
10. USC QB Matt Leinart vs. Oklahoma in 2005 Orange Bowl
Sure, this 55-19 butt kicking was over at halftime, when, notably, singer Ashlee Simpson was viciously, hilariously booed. Sure, the game, billed as a match of historically great heavyweights, became the ultimate yawner. And, sure, Leinart, the game MVP and Heisman Trophy winner, was working with an amazing supporting cast. But -- come on -- the guy set a BCS bowl game record with five touchdown passes and threw for 332 yards, the third-most in a BCS Championship Game, behind No. 2 Miami's Ken Dorsey (362 yards in 2002 Rose Bowl) and No. 1, hey, Matt Leinart (365 in 2006 Rose Bowl). And if this performance doesn't knock your socks off -- probably because you fell asleep watching a meandering second half -- just consider that if anyone is second to Vince Young in terms of a BCS bowl games lifetime achievement award, it's Leinart. He went 2-1, throwing for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns, won a national title, split another and finished second his senior year to His Vinceness and the Horns.
Ted Miller is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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