Lone Star in Clutch Was Young

USC scored a touchdown to make it a 31-23 Rose Bowl with 11:19 left, and what was Vince Young doing?

The Texas quarterback was on the sideline, hopping on both feet, like a prizefighter waiting for the 15th round to start.

This heavyweight bout wasn't over -- no way, no how.

All week long, Texas people said "get the game to the fourth quarter" and give Young a chance to win it.

It got to the fourth quarter, and Young won it.

It was as simple and complicated as that.

Young, the most valuable player in last year's Rose Bowl, was the most valuable in this year's too.

Young refused to let his team lose, even when the game seemed lost.

He rallied his team with a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 19 seconds left to give the Longhorns a 41-38 victory at the Rose Bowl.

Texas is the new national champion, and USC is the old one.

Texas has won 20 in a row and USC's remarkable skein of 34 wins is over. And since 1936, no team has won three consecutive Associated Press national titles.

How did Texas do it?

They did it with a lot of Young and a lot of help.

It was a game that unfolded and undulated at an incredible pace.

USC could have stomped Texas early, could have made it a 21-0 game before the Longhorns knew what day it was.

But the Trojans made three critical first-half mistakes:

* Failing on a fourth down at the Texas 16.

* Reggie Bush's fumbling after an ill-advised attempt to lateral the ball after a 37-yard run deep into the heart of Texas territory..

* Matt Leinart not putting enough zip on a pass that seemed a sure touchdown to Steve Smith. Instead, Texas safety Michael Griffin, on a terrific play, raced over to intercept the pass.

USC let Texas stay in the game -- a big mistake.

"That was a huge factor in the game," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. " ... we screwed it up."

The Longhorns eventually got their footing, and their confidence grew.

The Texas defense, as it turned out, was bigger and faster than anything this incarnation of USC football has seen.

On one play in the first half, for example, Texas linebacker Drew Kelson ran stride for stride with Bush down the sideline.

You knew this was going to be a game.

Texas' defensive front put rare pressure on Leinart, who eventually adjusted and finished with a strong second half.

Usually, though, it is USC's team speed that changes the course of a game.

Texas had the players to keep up.

It was Texas, in fact, that revved up the pace by frequently going to the no-huddle offense and putting USC defenders on their heels.

USC trailed at the half, 16-10, caught its breath, and then staged its typical third-quarter burst.

Some may have seen the game slipping away -- not Young.

He didn't flinch when USC pushed to a 31-23 lead, and didn't buckle when USC led by 12 points, 38-26, with 6:42 left.

"Southern Cal has come back time and time and time again to win," Texas Coach Mack Brown said. "The thing I like best about our team tonight: They kept playing, never got discouraged and never gave up."

Young has been in this spot before -- it's what he plays for.

Last year, he led a thrilling comeback victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

On Oct. 15 of this season, at Oklahoma State, Young rallied Texas from a 28-9 deficit. Texas scored 38 unanswered points and ended up winning by 19.

Young amassed 506 total yards in the game.

You'd be hard-pressed to think he could top that effort -- but he did Wednesday night with a performance for the ages.

He became the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season and also pass for more than 2,500.

He finished with 200 rushing yards and 267 passing yards, but it was his fantastic finish.

"He was off the charts," Carroll said of Young.

Carroll was so scared of Young he said it was an easy decision to go for it on fourth and two at the Texas 45 with 2:13 left.

Carroll said a punt would have done his team little good in that situation.

What's the point of pinning Texas inside its 10-yard-line when Young is the other team's quarterback?

Carroll reasoned that the way Young was going, he just would have led his team on a 90-yard drive for the winning score.

Carroll needed two yards on fourth down to keep the ball and probably win the game.

The Texas defense held, though.

"I told the kids, 'You stop this fourth-down play, you're going to win the national championship,' " Brown said.

Texas stopped it, and Texas won it.

"With the defense, all we had to do was make that stop," defensive tackle Rod Wright said.

The Longhorns went down the field and made history.

"I think he's one of the great players to play college football," Brown said of his star.

Was there any argument?

Brown has sort of grown used to this act.

"It was really surreal when you sit there in fourth quarter, and you're down by two scores, and you still think you're going to win," Brown said.

That's the feeling you get when you have Young and the other team doesn't.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

FOURTH QUARTER

RUSHING LEADERS

Texas

V. Young...7 for 50 yards

USC

White...9 for 52 yards

RECEIVING LEADERS

Texas

Pittman...2 for 35 yards

USC

Jarrett...4 for 51 yards

PASSING LEADERS

Texas

V. Young...11 for 17, 110 yards

USC

Leinart...7 for 9, 118 yards

* Big play: Facing a fourth and five at the USC eight-yard line in the final minute, Vince Young looked to his left and then ran to his right for the eight-yard touchdown that ended the Trojans' bid for a third consecutive national title.

* Key statistic: The Longhorns needed only 1:50 to drive 56 yards for the go-ahead touchdown after stopping LenDale White on fourth and two.

* Also: Trojan safety Darnell Bing committed a costly facemask penalty on Texas' final drive that gave the Longhorns a first down.

* Analysis: Things unraveled quickly for USC after receiver Dwayne Jarrett stretched the ball over the goal line to give the Trojans a 38-26 lead with 6:42 left. Young scored on a 17-yard run to cap a 69-yard drive that made it 38-33, then made several more sparkling plays on Texas' game-winning drive.

*

-- Ben Bolch

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THIRD QUARTER

RUSHING LEADERS

Texas

V. Young...6 for 90 yards

USC

White...4 for 31 yards

RECEIVING LEADERS

Texas

Sweed...4 for 37 yards

USC

Jarrett...4 for 53 yards

PASSING LEADERS

Texas

V. Young...6 for 8, 44 yards

USC

Leinart...8 for 10, 100 yards

* Big play: LenDale White burst up the middle on fourth and one for a 12-yard touchdown run to give the Trojans a 24-23 lead.

* Key statistic: Vince Young became only the fifth rusher to gain 100 yards against USC in the Trojans' last 46 games.

* Also: White set up his three-yard touchdown run with a nasty stiff-arm on Texas cornerback Michael Huff on the previous play, a 14-yard gain.

* Analysis: Both quarterbacks settled into a nice rhythm, Young on the ground and USC's Matt Leinart through the air. Leinart completed six of seven passes for 62 yards on the Trojans' second possession of the quarter as they drove 74 yards for a touchdown. Young scrambled for big chunks of yardage, including a 45-yard gain and a 14-yard scoring run. The teams weren't making the mistakes they made in the first half.

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Ben Bolch

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