Young, Brown Get Instant Redemption

Jan. 5, 2006

By Eric Sorenson

PASADENA, Calif. - Let's give it to the man with the "S" on his chest.

However he felt after being snubbed for the Heisman a few weeks ago, Vince Young did indeed use it as motivation to will his team to a scintillating 41-38 victory over USC Wednesday night. In spades. Double that. No, times 10!

It was billed as the complete team vs. the one-man show. Well I'm not sure anyone could've imagined how well that one-man show would play out. But right now, we're all giving him a standing ovation, and the fans in burnt orange are looking for an encore.

In a nutshell, Vince Young made his fourth-down play, and none of the Heisman winners wearing cardinal and gold, did. Even USC coach Pete Carroll conceded, "Vince Young is an extraordinary football player. No doubt about it."
Young was all over the Rose Bowl floor, accurately hitching up with all his receivers to the tune of 30-for-40 for 267 yards and scrambling all through the sinking Trojan defense for 200 yards on the ground.

Every time the `Horns needed a big play during their fourth quarter comeback, Young delivered. Whether it was with his arm or his phenomenal legs. Two minutes, 54 yards to go, 2:09 left. No problem. You could see in the USC bench's eyes; this is not how they would've scripted the last two minutes.

Young was surgeon-like and slippery the rest of the way, almost easily maneuvering through the defense. Okay, so there was that fourth-down nail-biter of an ending. But you still had to like Young's chances when he had the ball in his hands. To put it bluntly, he's a freakish, freakish player.

The one thing that might get lost in all the hoopla of Young and Company's performance was that they took care of the ball. Young threw no picks and there was only one lost fumble, on the game's fifth play.

But all players aside, this game was really about redemption for one man, Mack Brown.

It's not just that the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. It's more that they've aligned perfectly for Brown for the last 368 days, formed single file and fallen right into his pocket.

Wednesday night's stunning 41-38 win over previously-thought-to-be invincible USC realized a crazy dream that Mr. Brown himself hopes he never wakes up from.

"It was really surreal to be sitting there in the fourth quarter and you're down by two scores and you still think you're going to win." Brown said in the post-game, hair still wet from the Gatorade bath. "Despite all that, we never, ever thought we were going to lose the ballgame."

In one crazy calendar year, the Longhorns have overcome all the hitches and bugaboos that have hounded Brown's 22-year coaching career. Couldn't win the big one? Didn't have a conference title? Would never win a national title? We've heard it all before time and time again in the media, haven't we?

Well, guess what? Tonight's win has changed all that.

But just think how close it came to not happening? The attempted lateral by Bush as `SC was headed for a possible 14-0 lead. Vince's knee hitting terra firma on that touchdown/kneedown lateral? The non-reversal of a possible fumble that could've given the Trojans the ball at midfield with an eight-point lead and 11 minutes left. The fumble by Young one drive later, recovered by O-Guard Kasey Studdard. And of course, the fourth down run by LenDale White with two minutes left that ended up two inches short.

But it really just follows a fortuitous pattern for the Longhorn fortunes over the past 368 days. Consider that before tonight:

- The Horns beat Michigan on this same field last January with the help of a field goal that got "blocked" by Michigan, yet still made it through the uprights for the deciding points.

- All-American stud D-Tackle Rod Wright, a key player in UT's Top 10 defense, announced in January he was staying in burnt orange for his senior year.

- Got to play Ohio State while the Bucks were still playing an uneven scheme from having star QB Troy Smith suspended for the first game. Strangely, Jim Tressel decides to play switch-in, switch-out with his two quarterbacks, destroying continuity and actually having Justin Zwick in at crunch-time. Advantage Texas.

- Faced Oklahoma, not only in an off-year, but without the Sooners' best player, Adrian Peterson, at full speed.

- Faced off with inspired rival Texas A&M without having to play against the Ags' best player, Reggie McNeal. The Horns struggled, but still won 40-29.

- Got to play an incredibly confidence-depleted Colorado team in the Big 12 "championship" game, thus giving Brownie that elusive first league title. 
And tonight, it was more of the same. The `Horns got the breaks it needed at just the right time.

The fourth down carry by USC's White was the biggest play of all. Coach Brown told his team during the timeout before that play, "If you stop this fourth-down play, you'll win the national championship."

He was right. `SC never had an answer defensively in the fourth quarter. Even `SC D-End Frostee Rucker admitted that the Trojan D didn't anticipate the no-huddle offense. And that was the offense that let Vince Young dictate the pace of the game. When it turned into a replay of last year's manic game against Michigan, it played perfectly into VY's hands.

From that point on, all you have to say is "ballgame." Texas goes 56 yards through the `SC defense slicker than a mayonnaise sandwich.

Yep, that capped a very fortuitous year for the Longhorns. It was Mack-daddy-full, proving maybe just this once that nice guys do, indeed, finish first.

Long has Brown glad-handed his opponents, win or lose, seemingly knowing his day would come. Of course, considering his success in Austin, I think most of us never imagined it would be so long in getting here.

"We're a long way from Dallas." He said with his deep Tennessee drawl, referring to his yearly struggles with Oklahoma recently. Then, holding his hands two inches apart he blurted, "But we're still talking about this much difference between winning the national championship and `SC winning number 35 in a row."

But without a doubt, the one person Brown has to thank is the one he was caressing on the Rose Bowl podium, Vince Young. "As efficient as Vince is running and passing, people wear down when he's out there with the ability to do both."

"I think he's one of the great players to ever play college football."

Now Mack may get the best news to start another special 365 days. Because if Mr. Young gets a Leinart-type feeling about things, he could be back, and of course, so could Texas.

Nevertheless, welcome to the championship circle Mack. It's been a long time coming. Now do whatever you want with those stars in your pocket.



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