Their faces and their words mostly revealed acceptance.
They had been beaten, their winning streak and their quest to make history over, courtesy of a now-legendary Texas quarterback who refused to let the second-ranked Longhorns lose.
For the second year in a row, Vince Young made the Rose Bowl his personal stage, the dynamic junior leading Texas to a stunning 41-38 comeback victory over the top-ranked Trojans in the bowl championship series title game before 93,986.
Capping a game that lived up to its billing, Young's eight-yard scramble into the end zone on a fourth-and-five play with 19 seconds left gave Texas its fourth national championship, the Longhorns' first since 1970.
Young, who finished second to USC running back Reggie Bush in Heisman Trophy balloting, rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 267 yards to give Coach Mack Brown his first national title and extend Texas' winning streak to 20 games.
Young, who is draft eligible, sounded as if he wanted a shot at another title next year.
"We'll be back," said Young, who led Texas to its first unbeaten season since 1969.
USC, seeking an unprecedented third consecutive Associated Press national title, saw its 34-game winning streak come to an end in a game that featured four lead changes in the second half.
"It's too bad it had to end," Coach Pete Carroll said. "We just couldn't get it done."
USC players said the streak was eventually going to end.
"We've been winning for so long, somebody had to lose this game," said tailback LenDale White, who rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns. "It's unfortunate we had to.... We know we came out to play and we left everything on the field."
On a cool and breezy night, USC overcame a 16-10 halftime deficit to take a 38-26 lead with 6:42 left on a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett.
But that turned out to be too much time for Young.
In last year's Rose Bowl against Michigan, Young passed for 180 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns as the Longhorns won on a last-second field goal.
Against USC, Young scored on a 17-yard scramble with just over four minutes left to pull the Longhorns to within five points.
On the ensuing possession, USC drove to the Texas 45-yard line and was faced with a fourth and two.
Carroll decided to go for it rather than punt, but Texas stopped White short of the first-down marker with 2:09 left, giving Young one more chance.
"You're going to have to stop them anyway, no matter how far you kick it," Carroll said. "In my way of thinking, you go for it all the time."
Said Brown: "We told the team, you stop him, you win the national championship."
Starting at his own 44, Young completed four passes and scrambled seven yards, moving the Longhorns to the 13. Young threw incomplete on first down, ran for five yards and then threw incomplete into the end zone.
With 26 seconds remaining, he took a snap out of the usual shotgun formation and ran into the end zone for a 39-38 lead. He added the two-point conversion on a run up the middle.
USC had only 19 seconds to move into field-goal range. Leinart threw a shovel pass to Bush for a 27-yard gain that moved the ball to the Texas 42.
But Leinart, seeking a miracle along the lines of USC's victory over Notre Dame, threw incomplete as time ran out.
USC lost for the first time since a 34-31 triple-overtime defeat at Cal on Sept. 27, 2003.
"It's tough but we'll move on," said Leinart, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner who passed up a chance to turn pro last year for a shot at winning a third title. "We still think we are the better football team, we just couldn't make the plays."
Leinart completed 29 of 40 passes for 365 yards and a touchdown with one interception as the Trojans finished with 574 yards, six below their nation-leading average.
Texas held Bush largely in check, limiting the junior to 82 rushing yards, 95 receiving yards and one touchdown.
"We tried to do too much," said Bush, who ill-advisedly fumbled in the first half when he tried to lateral to walk-on receiver Brad Walker after a 37-yard pass reception.
Young's lateral in the first half worked out better, as he pitched to Selvin Young, who went the final 12 yards to give the Longhorns a 9-7 lead. TV replays showed Vince Young's knee was down, but the play was not reviewed.
USC, which scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half, went ahead, 17-16, on White's three-yard run that capped a 62-yard drive.
Vince Young brought the Longhorns back, moving them 80 yards and scoring on a 14-yard touchdown run for a 23-17 lead.
Leinart answered by completing six passes during a 74-yard scoring drive that White finished with a 12-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-one. With 4:12 left in the third quarter, the Trojans were ahead, 24-23.
Young came right back, his 45-yard scramble setting up a 31-yard field-goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter. But David Pino's kick missed wide right, preserving the Trojans' one point lead.
USC appeared to take control when Bush took a handoff at the Texas 26 and jetted around right end. He somersaulted for a touchdown that put USC ahead, 31-23, with 11:19 left.
After a pooch kickoff by USC, Young drove the Longhorns to the USC 17, where he was stopped on third and five. Pino's 34-yard field goal pulled Texas to within 31-26 with 8:46 left.
Leinart's 33-yard pass to fullback David Kirtman and a roughing-the-passer penalty on the same play moved USC from its 21 to the Texas 31. Two plays later, Leinart faked a handoff then passed to Jarrett, who caught the ball at the two and wriggled out of the grasp of two defenders for a touchdown.
USC tight end Dominique Byrd said the Trojans fell victim to Young.
"It came down to the last minute," Byrd said. "The MVP took the game into his hands."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
No. 1 vs. No. 2
Bowl meetings between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the Associated Press college football poll (the No. 1 team is 9-7):
DATE; RESULT, Bowl; BOWL
Jan. 4, 2006 ; No. 2 Texas 41, No. 1 USC 38 ; Rose Bowl
Jan. 4, 2005 ; No. 1 USC 55, No. 2 Oklahoma 19 ; Orange Bowl
Jan. 3, 2003 ; No. 2 Ohio State 31, No. 1 Miami 24, 2 OT ; Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 4, 2000 ; No. 1 Florida State 46, No. 2 Virginia Tech 29 ; Sugar Bowl
Jan. 4, 1999 ; No. 1 Tennessee 23, Florida State 16 ; Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 2, 1996 ; No. 1 Nebraska 62, No. 2 Florida 24 ; Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 1, 1994 ; No. 1 Florida State 18, No. 2 Nebraska 16 ; Orange Bowl
Jan. 1, 1993 ; No. 2 Alabama 34, No. 1 Miami 13 ; Sugar Bowl
Jan. 1, 1988 ; No. 2 Miami 20, No. 1 Oklahoma 14 ; Orange Bowl
Jan. 2, 1987 ; No. 2 Penn State 14, No. 1 Miami 10 ; Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 1, 1983 ; No. 2 Penn State 27, No. 1 Georgia 23 ; Sugar Bowl
Jan. 1, 1979 ; No. 2 Alabama 14, No. 1 Penn State 7 ; Sugar Bowl
Jan. 1, 1972 ; No. 1 Nebraska 38, No. 2 Alabama 6 ; Orange Bowl
Jan. 1, 1969 ; No. 1 Ohio State 27, No. 2 USC 16 ; Rose Bowl
Jan. 1, 1964 ; No. 1 Texas 28, No. 2 Navy 6 ; Cotton Bowl
Jan. 1, 1963 ; No. 1 USC 42, No. 2 Wisconsin 37 ; Rose Bowl