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PASADENA, Calif. – Men screamed. Grown men, mind you. Old men, young men, it didn't matter. They all did it.
Men screamed in horror. Not joy, not shock, not excitement. They screamed in pure, unadulterated horror like they were watching a car wreck in progress, like a loved one was drowning, like the most gut-wrenching thing in the world was about to happen and there wasn't a damn thing they could do about it, because there wasn't. Not they, not the Southern California defense.
So they, all those win-fed, overconfident sorts in maroon and gold shirts that came to the Rose Bowl for a romp and found their Trojans on the ropes, screamed because Vince Young had the ball, and even they knew that soon enough his Texas Longhorns would have the national championship.
A single individual can't dominate a football game any more than the great Vince Young, the incredible, impossible Texas quarterback for the ages, did Wednesday to lead the Longhorns to a wild, come-from-behind 41-38 victory for the national championship.
You just can't.
"I think he is one of the great players to ever play college football," Texas coach Mack Brown said. It might actually be an understatement.
Young ran. Young passed. Young demoralized. Young destroyed. Young managed to score 14 points himself in the final, furious four minutes of the game.
Young made grown men scream every time he took a snap and started darting and dashing about until he decided either to flick an easy pass to a wide open receiver or humiliate some Trojan linebackers by scrambling downfield.
Southern California could have put everyone in the team photo out on defense, and Young would have found a way to run right around them. He made stars look like tackling dummies. He made NFL draft picks pick grass from their mouth.
He took nearly every snap from the shotgun and shot the 'Horns to the promised land, setting off a night of partying back home that may seriously threaten the tequila supply in Texas. Ever a bit hokey, Brown spent the postgame talking about how he didn't want this game to be the best thing his players ever do.
"I want [Vince] to be a good father," Brown said. "I want him to be a good husband."
He's going to have to be Cliff Huxtable to be a better father and husband than he was football player Wednesday.
He completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards and rushed 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner on fourth down with 19 seconds remaining, the play that brought out the most screams of all.
"The defensive end went inside a little bit [and] gave me an edge and I had it," shrugged Young about the play of the game, a cool scamper amid all that on-field chaos and in-the-stands screaming.
"I just took it down," he said simply.
And with it Vince Young took down USC's storied run, ending a 34-game winning streak and a bid for consecutive BCS national titles. That he did it without seemingly breaking a sweat just adds to the legend.
None of this came as a surprise to his teammates, who have watched Young do what he does for three years now.
Incredibly it may have shocked USC, though. Despite five weeks to watch tape of Young, the Trojans didn't gimmick up for him, didn't even put a spy on him. "We wanted to play our regular zone defense," USC safety Darnell Bing said.
Young shredded that regular zone so badly that by the fourth quarter USC tried to blitz every snap, but even then they knew there was no containing this guy.
"[He] ran all over the place," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. "It [was] extremely frustrating. We'd look like we were going to sack him and not sack him."
With just more than two minutes left, USC was clinging to a 38-33 lead and had fourth and two at the Texas 44. Carroll didn't even think of punting, the fear of giving the ball back to Young at all vastly outweighing the risk of giving him a shorter field to work with. Everyone on the field, deep down, knew Young couldn't be stopped.
"We told [the defense] that if you stop this fourth down, we're going to win the national championship," Brown said.
The 'Horns did. That Texas was still 56 yards from pay dirt seemed a formality.
"It's 'what you going to do?'" Young said of his thoughts before the big drive.
What he did was run right into a legend, leading Texas for the dramatic final score of a frenzied and fabulous national title game. And he changed the focus of this one right away from the history-making Trojans to a terrific Texas team.
Coming in, the Trojans kept saying this was all about them, that if they played their game they would win, they would be the greatest of all time. And they played like it, fumbling and bumbling through a first half that saw bad penalties, poor decisions and one ill-fated Reggie Bush lateral.
USC played with the gumption that comes from winning 34 in a row.
It burned the Trojans, because in the end it wasn't just about them. It was about Vince Young. USC cranked it up in the second half, scoring four consecutive touchdowns, but it could never figure out how to slow Young. The Trojans never could keep the ball out of his hands. They never could contain or control the best player on the field.
So there was nothing to do but scream. In horror over the pending doom in the SC side of the stands.
And then in joy, deep into the night, on the Texas side.