A Rose By Any Other Game


Jan. 6, 2006

By Brian Curtis

Senior Editor, CSTV


Brian CurtisBrian Curtis
Brian Curtis serves as an analyst and insider in all of CSTV's football programming. E-mail at bcurtis@cstv.com.

I am flying at 35,000 feet, or so the American Airlines pilot tells me -- a far cry from being firmly on the ground in the middle of the Rose Bowl last night.  I've had the opportunity to watch the end of the national championship game from the sidelines for the last three years, and neither of the previous two could match what happened in Pasadena Wednesday night.


Some random thoughts ...


1.       Before the game on CSTV's Crystal Ball special, I pointed out that officiating could play a role in this game as would instant replay. The lead official was Jeff Carr and his crew from the Big Ten was widely respected.  And keep in mind that the Big Ten is the only conference to have had instant replay in use for the past two seasons.  About 40% of official calls that were reviewed were overturned during the Big Ten season, so it would seem likely that replay would be a factor in the Rose Bowl.  It was. The technical replay officials got it right on some calls, like the interception of Leinart near the Texas goal-line, and they got it wrong on others, like Vince Young's knee being down before his touchdown lateral  (And don't buy the monitor malfunction excuse). In the end, the calls washed out and the officials let them play.


2.       Punting on 4th and 2 with two minutes remaining is the right thing to do.  I know that it isn't what Pete Carroll likes to do but it's what you have to do.  "Live by the sword, die by the sword" is the axiom.  But analysts who are defending Carroll because he has been successful in fourth and shorts are missing a big point.  USC was ahead when it went for it, and we're not talking 4th and a foot, we're talking 4th and two yards!  We will never know what could have been ...


3.       I think Mack Brown and Texas made a mistake late in the third quarter when they lined up to kick a field goal but elected to let the time run out on the quarter.  Now, UT would be kicking into a hostile USC endzone with the `SC band, a far greater challenge that the sympathetic Longhorn fans would have faced had they kicked before 0:00.  Yes, I know they had already missed one kick at that same end but why tempt fate?

4.       The way I saw it ... the keys to Texas winning were:

a.       Vince Young's ability to get outside and beat the speedy USC linebackers to the corners

b.       The Longhorns stopping USC on multiple fourth down attempts

c.       The remarkable play of Dave Thomas, who finished the game with 10 catches


On the flip side, USC did some great things to be in a position to win the game:

a.       LenDale White rushing for over 120 yards and three touchdowns in a breakout game

b.       USC doing a much better job covering punts and kickoffs than it had been doing

c.       Matt Leinart chewed up yards through the air, throwing downfield


5.       The field after the final whistle was chaos, as it always is.  I'm a veteran by now.  I know how to scramble, know how to box out and understand that a jab to my throat or stomach by some photographer is expected.  Last night, here's a how a frantic three minutes went.  First, we wanted Vince Young, but lost him in a sea of humanity.  Just then, I ran into Texas coach Mack Brown surrounded by cameras looking for Pete Carroll to shake hands.  While he searched, I stuck the microphone right in there and asked a question, to which the well-mannered coach replied, "I'd like to find Pete, first."  I then come across Matt Leinart, a guy I have known for a long time and grabbed him.  Leinart was matter-of-fact about the loss and while praising Texas, noted that USC lost the game.  He also said he had no regrets about coming back and looked forward to the NFL.  Next?  Spotted Young at this point surrounded by six huge security men.  He made his way down to the Texas band for the fight song and then all the way back across the field to the award stage.  All this time, I kept asking and repeating questions to Young, right to his face.  He said nothing.  As I took blows from cameramen and from Young's sudden Secret Service detail, I kept at it but to no avail.  Young had a 10-minute self-imposed media blackout.  In the next 90 seconds, I did land Cedric Griffin and Jamaal Charles for interviews and then sprinted, with tape in hand, to our production truck to feed the interviews and the chase back to New York.


6.       Some final observations after listening and watching the players and coaches' postgame remarks?  Bush and Leinart handled the loss with class, even going to the Texas locker room to show their respect.  They are already professionals.  Carroll was gracious in defeat and waited a long time on the field just to shake the hand of Mack Brown.  Brown himself was all class in the way he talked about the win and how good USC is.  Young, on the other hand, just seemed to be a little over-the-top angry/selfish/arrogant.  Maybe he was just letting out steam from being disrespected?  Maybe it was his way to tell the world who he was?  Maybe that's just Vince.  On any other night, I'd be critical, but last night was his night.


Brian Curtis serves as an analyst and insider in all of CSTV's football programming and is CSTV's Senior Editor. To ask Brian a question or comment on his column, e-mail him at bcurtis@cstv.com.






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