Days after the game and I'm still staggered, stunned and stupefied over the Rose Bowl. With all due respect to Vince Carter, he may have to give up the "VinSanity" nickname to Vince Young after the way the University of Texas quarterback almost single-handedly defeated USC in the national championship game.
At this point, it's Vince's world and we're just breathing his oxygen. So much of what we thought we knew was obliterated in Pasadena on Wednesday night.
Not to get overly dramatic in post-game hype, but the Longhorns' victory will turn out to be life altering for many of the principles involved.
Let's start with Young. Heading into this game, the prevailing sentiment amongst NFL personnel men was that Young would most benefit from following in Matt Leinart's footsteps – returning to play his senior season in college. It would give Young another year to refine his game, especially his throwing motion and better prepare him for a transition to the NFL. Now, you can blow that theory to smithereens.
For a guy with a supposedly erratic arm, Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards against USC. More importantly, Young showed the kind of poise you'd expect from Tom Brady. No panic with his team down by 12 in the 4th quarter, Young sliced and diced USC's soft prevent defense, coolly and calmly marching Texas down the field twice to victory.
Some scouts will still question Young's funky throwing motion, but let's face it – if entry into the Hall of Fame was based on pretty spirals and velocity, Jeff George would have had a bust in Canton a long time ago. Young can get the ball down the field – it's a non-issue.
What is an issue is the cash Young will leave on the table if he goes back to school. Alex Smith got a $49 million deal from the 49ers as the top pick in last year's draft. Based on his rookie season, Smith looks like he's qualified to be Vince's caddie.
As much as it might kill Longhorn fans, Young has to go pro now.
And suddenly, the Houston Texans, who lost to the Niners in the so-called Reggie Bush Bowl, almost have to take Vince with the top pick. Young is from Houston and nothing sells season tickets like a hometown hero. The Texans can ship David Carr off for draft picks.
Bush will certainly forego his senior season, but the Rose Bowl raised more questions than answers about the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner. Bush does something that makes your jaw drop in every game and he had two of those moments against Texas. The "oh no, are you insane lateral" that cost USC a scoring opportunity in the first half and the patented Superman flight into the end zone on a 26-yard dash down the sidelines.
The speed of the Texas defense prevented Bush from dominating the game, which makes you wonder how he'll do against a whole group of big angry fast men, like the Chicago Bears.
You had the sense that Bush was bottled up most of the night. But the stats show Bush had 19 touches on offense (13 rushing, 6 receiving) for a total of 177 yards. That's 9.3 yards per attempt. Bottom line – I still love Reggie, but don't ever think of pitching the ball again.
Compared to Young, Leinart seemed merely mortal. In terms of speed and power. It was like a Clydesdale versus a Ferrari. Leinart passed for 365 yards and a touchdown, but when Texas brought the heat, Leinart couldn't make plays with his feet – the ballroom dancing did not pay off. At times, Leinart had that Kerry Collins, lumbering-in-quicksand-look to him. Scary for a team with a bad offensive line – like everybody at the top of the draft.
LenDale White, whose claim to fame in the regular season was pretending to take a dive off a building in a Halloween stunt, looked like the second-best player on the field behind Young. White ran for 124 yards and three TDs. And at 6-2, 235, White might be the better long term pro prospect than Bush. I can't even believe I'm writing that, but LenDale looks like a top-10 pick if he enters the draft.
As for the coaches, Mack Brown has had to endure years of talk from fans and the media that he just couldn't win the big game. Spanking Baylor and Iowa State every year only to be tormented by archrival Oklahoma was getting old fast.
But this year, Brown slayed all the dragons. First, Ohio State on the road, then Bob Stoops and his Sooners and finally, the "might have been the greatest of all-time" Trojans. Using the no-huddle offense was brilliant.
Just for the record, the USC greatest ever talk was nothing more than a media creation. Great program? Absolutely. Great three-year run? Certainly. But when you give up 42 points to Fresno State and have to hold on for dear life to win, you can't claim world domination.
Finally, there's Pete Carroll. He laughs, he smiles, he has fun. In other words, he's totally different than your average up-tight paranoid football coach. I love Carroll's shoot from the hip style, but the Trojan coaches pretty much shot themselves in the foot in this game.
From not calling a timeout to force a booth review on Vince Young's TD pitch to Selvin Young, to wasting a needed timeout in the closing seconds on the Longhorns' two-point play. There was the screen pass on second down that fell incomplete with two minutes left when the Trojans HAD to run the ball to kill the clock. And Bush wasn't even on the field as a decoy when White got stopped on fourth-and-two. So many game management mistakes that set up VinSanity's heroics.
The task for Carroll now is to re-load. Now, Brown has to defend. I just wish we could schedule a rematch – like, next week.
- Vince Young
- Vince Carter
- Matt Leinart
- Reggie Bush