Longhorn Lookback: The 2006 Rose Bowl

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Brian Ray

Editor’s note: The story originally printed Jan. 17, 2006. It has been condensed for publishing purposes.

As the USC Trojans return to Austin for the first time in nearly 52 years, we’re going to revisit the famed 2006 Rose Bowl through the words of Jake Veyhl, a former Daily Texan sports editor,who covered the game in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 4, 2006.

Here’s Veyhl’s story:

Vince Young made a habit of leading the Longhorns to come-from-behind victories.

He engineered six fourth-quarter comebacks during his career at Texas but saved the best for last. 

Staring at a fourth and five, in Pasadena, California, with Texas down 38-33 and a little more than 20 seconds left in the game, Young dropped back to pass and briefly scanned the field before tucking the ball and scrambling around Justin Blalock’s pancake block on the right edge.

Young found but open field as he ran eight yards into the end zone and sent Texas to a 41-38 victory over Southern California before 93,986 raucous fans at the Rose Bowl.

“We’re a fourth-quarter team,” safety Michael Griffin said. “We’ve been in that situation plenty of games. We know if we gave Vince the ball, they were going to score. So when Vince got the ball in his hands inside the 20, I was like, ‘Guaranteed touchdown.’”

“We’ve been down in the end all year long,” Young said. “It’s all about focus and poise and not to worry because in the end, it’s all about heart.”

The victory completed a perfect 13–0 season for the Longhorns and marked the first time they have won more than 11 games. Head coach Mack Brown earned its first national title and Texas claimed its fourth — the first since 1970.

“This was the best performance I could have imagined, and I’m just so excited to have been a part of it,” tight end David Thomas said. “This is such a special moment, seeing us with that trophy.”

The trophy is a result of a season orchestrated by an easy-going quarterback. From the time he made the declaration a year ago that Texas would return to California, Young pushed himself and his teammates to get better. That work showed in Young’s finale with the Longhorns.

He topped last year’s remarkable Rose Bowl performance of 180 yards, 192 yards rushing and fourth total touchdowns by completing 30 of his 40 passes — including each of his first nine attempts — for 267 yards. Young combined that with 19 rushes for 200 yards and three touchdowns to win his second consecutive Rose Bowl MVP award.

“I think he’s the best player in the country,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said. “I’ve said that since the start of the year. The bigger the arena, the better he plays. Two times out here, he’s played pretty good. This is kind of like a home field for him.”

Faced with a fourth-and-two situation and less than three minutes remaining, Trojans coach Pete Carroll decided to go for it rather than punt. Leinart handed the ball to LenDale White, who rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns on the evening, but was stopped a yard short, turning the ball over to Young and the Longhorns’ offense.

“They hit a surge. They’re the two-time national champions, and they hit the surge. That’s how they are,” defensive tackle Rod Wright said. 

“When they come out in the second half, they’re a whole different team. We had to make some adjustments, but we knew when it counted in the fourth quarter. We had to make a stop.”

USC ran two plays after Young scored the game-winning touchdown but couldn’t stop the confetti from flying for Texas. Linebacker Aaron Harris fought back tears while others paraded around the field with national championship hats and T-shirts.

“I knew we could do it, and I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work,” receiver Quan Cosby said. “That’s exactly what happened. We worked week in and week out and until now, we didn’t get all of the respect we deserved. We had to come out and prove it.”