Texas Wins National Championship, 41-38

The Texas Longhorns have won the (mythical) college football national championship by beating the Southern California Trojans 41-38 at the Rose Bowl. They did it almost entirely on the back of junior quarterback Vince Young.

The win will be tainted by some bad officiating, especially a phantom touchdown pass by Young in the first half when his knee was clearly down. Still, considering that USC had two Heisman Trophy winners in the backfield, had won 34 straight games, and was playing the game on their home field, this was an impressive victory by UT.

Young has said he is returning for his senior season. The Longhorns would no doubt love to have him back. But he’s certainly ready for the NFL. He demonstrated terrific scrambling ability, yes, but also amazing coolness under pressure and solid passing skills.

Update: A commenter correctly points out that the Rose Bowl is not USC’s “home field.” Still, their own website contains this AP story:

Close To Home, USC Goes For Third Straight National Championship

Southern California traveled nearly 3,000 miles to win the national championship last season. Now, the top-ranked Trojans are just a short bus ride away. They’re working out on their normal practice field. They can order their regular room service meal. And then they’ll follow a familiar freeway 15 miles to Pasadena for the big game. At this rate, perhaps they should play the Rose Bowl right inside the Coliseum, too.

“It’s an advantage for us. It’s like a home game for us,” Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush said. “We don’t have to travel, we don’t have to do any of that stuff, we don’t have to worry about distractions.”

ESPN, of course, has lots of coverage on the game.

Longhorns, Brown finally knock down title door (Pat Forde)

Moments before kickoff in the Rose Bowl, the referee’s microphone inadvertently picked up five salty words (from somebody) for all of America to hear. They aptly foretold the entire night: “Do you believe that [expletive]?”

Do you believe the Texas Longhorns, those can’t-win-the-big-one kids, won the big one? Do you believe the Longhorns won their first national title in 35 years against a bulletproof team that, until Wednesday night, couldn’t lose the big one? Do you believe they did it when all hope appeared lost, trailing by 12 points with six minutes to play? Do you believe they scored 15 points in less than four minutes? With the quarterback once panned for his throwing motion completing nine pressurized passes in the final two drives — then finally sealing the deal with the most incredible legs since Marilyn Monroe’s? Do you believe their routed defense rose up and stopped the unstoppable USC offense when it absolutely, positively had to? Do you believe Mack Friggin’ Brown, once the scourge of Texas fans for his team’s pratfall performances in games like this, outflanked coaching golden boy Pete Carroll?

Believe it. Believe it all. Believe Texas 41, USC 38. And believe that this stunning reversal of form and fortune happened because of the gutsiest and most glorious six minutes in the gilded history of Texas football.

That, to me, is the story of the game: Vince Young’s amazing play. Others are focusing on USC’s collapse.

Trojans drop-kicked their chance at history (Gene Wojciechowski)

This is what I get for chugging the USC Three-Pete Kool-Aid, for predicting the Trojans would lead a Rose Bowl cattle drive to an unprecedented third consecutive national championship — this time with Texas as the drivees. Git along you little Bevos, right?

Problem is, Vince Young and the Longhorns didn’t cooperate. And neither did USC, which only has itself — and the breathtakingly athletic Young — to blame for failing to give college football immortality a sloppy wet kiss Wednesday evening.


Texas deserves its championship, Brown deserves his defining moment, and Young deserves to be called the best player on a Rose Bowl field full of future NFL draft picks. But USC will forever drop-kick itself for botching its chance at history.


It could have been, had the Trojans not given up 18 fourth-quarter points, including two VY touchdown runs that featured more missed tackles than you can shake a Song Girl pompom at.

It could have been, had the Trojans converted a fourth-and-2 at the Texas 45 with only 2:13 remaining on the clock.

It could have been, had the Trojans not given up 289 rushing yards (200 by Young) and 267 passing yards (Young was 30-of-40).

It could have been, had the Trojans not used all their timeouts, leaving none available for their final, desperate drive.

It could have been, had Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush not suffered a blood-flow problem to his brain during a second-quarter pass play where he attempted to lateral — repeat, lateral — as Longhorn defenders were attached to his uni. Hello, fumble.

It could have been, had the Trojans converted a fourth-and-1 at the Texas 17 midway through the first quarter.

It could have been, had the Trojans not belly flopped on three consecutive first-half possessions inside the Texas 26 that resulted in zero points.

“I guess the margin of error with a team like [Texas] is very small,” said Byrd.

The Longhorns won fair and square, but the Trojans helped. A lot. And so did a Big Ten officiating crew that apparently received pregame instructions from Sun Belt refs. And the crack instant-replay crew must have been watching The Cartoon Channel on their monitors when Young’s left knee hit the turf moments before he pitched to Selvin Young for a second-quarter touchdown. And yet, no review. Amazing.

There were many questionable calls in the game, although that one stood out. The officiating was the worst I’ve seen in a championship game. Still, Texas won the game; USC didn’t lose it.

Trojans won’t second guess fourth-down play (Bruce Feldman)

Dumbest question asked in the USC locker room after the game: Did you guys give any thought to punting on that fourth-and-2? After all, the Trojans had the ball at the Texas 45-yard line with 2:13 remaining and were clinging to a 38-33 lead. That’s usually the call, right? Play it smart. Force the other team to make the big plays.

Puh-leese. If you think that way and you figured that’s what the Trojans were planning, then you don’t follow USC football. The program’s motto might as well be “Go for it!” The Trojans approach fourth downs like they’re on a 3-on-1 fast break.

Agreed. Second guessing is what fans of losing teams do. But USC had been aggressive, with fantastic results, for 34 straight games. Their defining play in their defining regular season game this year was Matt Leinart’s going for the win against Notre Dame. This time, they just fell a little short.

Horns of plenty: VY, Texas deny USC three-peat bid

Vince Young bounced on his toes, trying to buy himself some time and searching frantically for a way to win a championship. And then he took off. With the national title down to a final play, fourth down and 5 yards to go, Young scrambled untouched for an 8-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left and the No. 2 Longhorns stunned No. 1 Southern California 41-38 in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday night.

“Do whatever it takes,” Young said. He did it all — and made sure that Texas was second no more to USC and its Heisman Trophy twins, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart.

It was the ultimate revenge for Young, the bitterly disappointed runner-up to Bush for the Heisman Trophy last month. At the Heisman presentation, Young had a blank stare and reluctantly clapped after he lost in a landslide to Bush. After winning the biggest team prize of all, he beamed with a satisfied smile, hugging anyone he could find.

On a night when he ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 more, Young capped a performance that Texas fans will remember forever by scoring his third TD and running for a two-point conversion to end Southern California’s 34-game winning streak and deny the Trojans an unprecedented third straight national championship.

Bush and Leinart both looked good–although Leinart’s performance suffered after some big hits in the first half. But Young clearly stole the show.

Update 2: Bush Calls to Congratulate Longhorns (AP)

President Bush called Texas coach Mack Brown on Thursday morning to congratulate the Longhorns on their dramatic Rose Bowl victory over Southern California. “Congratulations on a wonderful moment,” he said, according to press secretary Scott McClellan. “Tell the team congratulations, we’re proud of them.”

Vince Young scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left and the Longhorns beat the top-ranked Trojans 41-38 on Wednesday night, winning their first outright national championship since 1969.

The president apparently fell asleep during the game but woke up in time for the exciting finish. McClellan said Bush wished Brown and the Longhorns all the best, and said that he looked forward to having them visit the White House soon.

I fell asleep a couple of times in the 3rd quarter, a combination of fighting off a cold and the game being televised so blasted late. The genius who decided to start showing these games in the middle of a workday night (for those in the Eastern Time Zone, anyway) rather than during the afternoon on New Year’s Day didn’t do fans any favors.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. the Pirate says:

    It was USC’s backyard, but a few UCLA fans might take issue with you calling it USC’s home field.

  2. While one can legitimately grouse about various aspects of the BCS system, I don’t think you can say the championship was mythical this year. Texas and USC were pretty clearly the two best teams in the country. So the BCS got it right for once, by accident if not by design.

  3. bruhaha says:

    Much too much has been made of that “phantom touchdown pass”. USC was having no success stopping Texas at the time, so likely the correct call on that play would simply have delayed the score for a couple of plays (which, incidentally, could have cost USC the time it needed to slip in that field goal at the end of the half).

    Also odd is that the commentators kept hightlighting that particular play, while forgetting the failure, just a few minutes later, to credit Texas with an INTERCEPTION –an interception (at USC’s 40, I think? near midfield at least) which would likely have prevented USC from scoring before the half AND might well have padded the Texas lead.

    So, those two mistakes are probably at best a wash for USC, and very likely if EITHER had been correctly called, Texas would have led by more!

    At any rate — that was two VERY impressive offenses… looked like neither could be stopped unless they stopped themselves! Though I would love to have seen my Nittany Lions make the Rose Bowl this year, who could complain about the matchup these most deserving #1 & 2 teams gave us?

  4. Maybe Keith Jackson will finally retire (and mean it) rather than broadcasting some phantom game other than the one we are all watching. I fondly remember Keith Jackson from Saturday afternoons in the 70’s, but his situational awareness leaves a lot to be desired now. And could ABC find a less colorful color man than Dan Fouts?

    While I’m at it, the world would be a better place if we could please get rid of instant replay and the BCS. Was having a “national championship game” worth destroying the College Bowls?

  5. Fred says:

    I agree about Keith Jackson. There were times you wondered if Jackson even knew what was going on by some of his comments.

    However, I thought Fouts did pretty good considering he had to pretty much carry Jackson throughout the game.

  6. C.Wagener says:

    As announced prior to the game, it was Keith Jackson’s last game. I noticed how utterly clueless he was four years ago with the Ohio State/Miami game. I can’t believe he was given last nights game.

    Fouts on the other hand is one of my favorites. He immediately seems to grasp every aspect of a play, much like John Madden.