Young at Heart of Texas' Triumph

Vince Young didn't just stop a three-year championship quest, he undid 45 years of USC tradition.

By the second half of Wednesday night's Rose Bowl game, every time the Trojans scored, the question wasn't "Where's Traveler?" It was "OK, now how are they going to stop Vince?"

The answer? They couldn't. Not by air, not by land. If they had played the game during last weekend's rainstorms, Young probably would have beat them in a canoe.

The Texas quarterback completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards and rushed 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, including the eight-yard run in the final 30 seconds that delivered the victory and the national championship to the Longhorns.

How do you stop this guy?

"That's one of the hardest things out there to do," USC safety Darnell Bing said.

He's too strong to tackle individually, too fast to contain easily.

What is it about Young that makes defenders just vanish? He takes off, then he's as free as a colt trotting through the fields.

The football term is "running in space." Wednesday night, Young spent more time in space than Neil Armstrong.

Even after the game Young still stood alone.

He was atop the Texas bench, a solitary figure being showered with confetti and the adulation of the Texas fans.

Somehow his teammates had not swarmed him to lift him on their shoulders. Maybe they knew all too well that he's impossible to contain. Better to just wait until he came to them.

"I think he's one of the great players to ever play college football," Texas Coach Mack Brown said. "If he comes back next year, which we think he will, we think he has a great chance to win the Heisman."

You think?

And speaking of Heisman ... Young raised two more questions in this game: Did he deserve the Heisman instead of Reggie Bush? And will he make a better pro quarterback than Matt Leinart?

He certainly had a bigger impact on this game than Bush. Bush carried 13 times for 82 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 95 yards. Tack on his 102 return yards and it still doesn't add up to Young's 467 yards of total offense.

Bush wasn't even the impact player on his own team. That distinction belonged to LenDale White, who rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns.

At the time the votes were tallied, Bush had had a better season for the nation's No. 1-ranked team. So no, he shouldn't have to return the trophy. But this is a good argument for waiting until after the postseason to hand out awards. Alex Rodriguez, anyone?

It wasn't like Bush didn't show up to the Rose Bowl. But he tried too hard to make plays, starting with the opening kickoff. He had it in the end zone and decided to take it out, gaining only 12 yards ... in other words, costing his team eight.

He also tried to turn a big play into a highlight-for-the-ages, when he attempted a lateral after a 37-yard gain in the second quarter. Texas recovered the fumble and converted it into a field goal.

"I was trying to do too much," Bush said. "I was trying to make a play for my team. I was trying to be a playmaker, but it was at the wrong time. It kind of lost the momentum for us. We had the momentum, but you get caught up sometimes trying to make a big play."

Young just kept making big plays. Again and again.

Can he make them in the NFL? Well, I'm not going to doubt him. Yes, there are questions about his funky, sidearm delivery. But he got the ball to his receivers accurately.

Young didn't make any spectacular passes. We haven't seen him zip a pass through two defenders. I'm not sure he could make the throw that Leinart made to Dwayne Jarrett for USC's final touchdown.

But Young didn't make many bad passes either. He didn't throw to blanketed receivers. He always gave his guys a shot at the ball. His worst throw was late in the fourth quarter, across the field into double coverage. But all USC safety Ryan Ting could do was bat it down.

And Young's versatility just makes him so hard to defend. He certainly can do more things than Leinart, posing a bigger threat than him. He actually averaged more yards per rushing attempt than passing attempt.

Pete Carroll paid Young the ultimate compliment. On fourth and two from the Texas 45, with the Trojans leading by five and less than 2 1/2 minutes remaining, Carroll went for the first down on a running play by White. It meant Carroll didn't think his defense could keep Young from going 80 yards. Well, White was stopped and it meant Young only had to go 56 yards.

As Darth Vader would say, all too easy. Young completed passes for 40 yards and ran for 13 more, including the unforgettable run for the last touchdown.

Don't doubt people who keep proving everyone wrong. Remember, there were questions about whether Young could even get it done on this level.

"A year and a half ago some people questioned whether Vince could be a major college quarterback or not," Brown said. "And now he's got two ... Rose Bowl most valuable player trophies."

It might be the biggest hindrance for him in the pros is that the NFL doesn't have a team in Los Angeles. If I'm Young, I'm lobbying hard for a team. In the Rose Bowl.

Going back to last year's equally thrilling Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, Young has amassed 447 passing yards and 392 rushing yards in his two trips here.

"We wanted to get him to hand the ball off or throw the ball," Bing said. "Vince Young, he takes the game in his own hands sometimes. That's exactly what he did. He came up with a victory for his team."

And so it was a strange scene for USC's fans. The Trojans left the field in defeat, something that hadn't happened in 34 previous games.

But Vince Young taking over games at the Rose Bowl ... that's certainly becoming a familiar sight.

J.A. Adande can be reached at j.a.adande@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Adande, go to latimes.com/adande.

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Young's numbers

Comparing Texas quarterback Vince Young's statistics in the last two Rose Bowls. Texas scored 17 fourth-quarter points to beat Michigan, 38-37, last year:

*--* 2005 CATEGORY 2006 28 Pass attempts 40 16 Pass completions 30 180 Passing yards 267 1 TD passes 0 1 Interceptions 0 21 Rushes 19 192 Yards 200 4 Rushing TDs 3 9.1 Yards per carry 10.5 60 Longest run 45

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