Jan. 5, 2006
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - An 81-year-old football lifer who thought he'd seen it all stood outside the Rose Bowl, slowly running his hand through a full head of gray hair and staring into the night sky.
"Amazing," Darrell Royal said quietly. "There's just no other word for it. Amazing."
None of the kids who turned college football's grandest stage upside down Wednesday night had been born when Royal coached the last Texas national championship team in 1969.
But they knew enough about Longhorns' football to know the old man was right.
"Texas 41, USC 38" will be remembered for all kinds of things:
Two unbeaten, unrivaled teams on dizzying winning streaks, finally arriving at a collision that seemed ordained from the opening game of the regular season.
Two Heisman Trophy winning stars on the Trojans' sideline - boyish-looking, but lethal quarterback Matt Leinart and electrifying tailback Reggie Bush - looking on as Vince Young, the Longhorns' one-man band, called the tune when it mattered most.
Southern California coach Pete Carroll, considered the coolest, most unflappable member of the fraternity, making desperate choices and worse gambles when the outcome hung in the balance.
"We gave our hearts, they gave their hearts and they came out on top," said Leinart, who passed up a chance to become the NFL's top pick last season for a shot at an unprecedented third straight national championship at Southern California. "It's disappointing. We missed some stuff in the first half, but that's the way these things go.
"No regrets," he added. "This is what I came back to school to do."