The 2006 BCS National Championship Game between Texas and USC is one of the best college football games of all time.
As a USC alum born and raised in DFW, I have a lot of Longhorn friends who give me grief about this game but the reality is that I was still a couple years away from going to USC. My friend from childhood, Sam Acho, had committed to Texas so I was rooting for Texas for that reason along with state pride, but I just remember being captivated by the talent between the two teams. I haven’t rewatched the game since watching it live so figured I’d give it a shot. While I bleed USC’s cardinal & gold, it doesn’t really hurt just because of the timing of when my allegiance started, but I guess it would have been cool to have been on the right side of history here.
*This was legendary Keith Jackson’s last game broadcasting. He was on the call with Dan Fouts.
*The three best fight songs are Notre Dame’s, Michigan’s, and USC’s in that order.
*Talk about some great college football uniforms that don’t need unnecessary bells and whistles to look sharp: Texas’s whites and USC’s cardinals. Wow. What a site.
GAME HAS STARTED
*Very few teams could match USC’s speed during the Bush era but Texas, very early on, made it clear they were the exception.
*The USC RB combo of Reggie Bush and Lendale White were fun to watch. Well before food trucks became the craze, USC had one near the football practice field on campus called, “Armando’s.” He’d name certain custom orders after athletes. If you wanted a ton of calories, you could get “The Lendale” either “con jelly” or “sin jelly.” It was two pieces of Texas toast, a big sausage patty, bacon, hash browns, eggs, and cheese put together for one delicious sandwich.
*What a loaded secondary for Texas: Cedric Griffin and Tarell Brown at the corners and Michael Huff and Michael Griffin at the safety spots.
*One thing I love about the USC teams of that era was that they executed a balanced pro-style offense that didn’t seem antiquated. There were no gimmicks, just athletes beating guys across the line with speed and strength. Not many defenses could match up with the speed and strength, but as I mentioned earlier, Texas could.
*I wonder how many non-UT fans thought UT would win after the Aaron Ross fumble on the punt return that turned into a Lendale White TD run? One of those cliche “You can’t give a team like USC extra chances” moments…
*I’d say that Vince Young would have fared better in the NFL today than when he played but he won rookie of the year. I don’t think the era go the better of VY. VY and his immaturity, as he’s even admitted, got the better of VY.
*We’ve now gone through the offensive and defensive starting lineups for both teams and all four units were really, really impressive. Brings back some great memories of some outstanding college players.
*USC had all the momentum early. Forced a turnover and scored the first points/TD and then they stop Texas on a 4th down at around midfield.
*USC’s first play after forcing the TOD was an attempted double pass from Dwayne Jarrett to Steve Smith. Smith had Michael Huff beat for a touchdown easily but Jarrett overthrew him…
*Back in the day when they still had the 5-yard facemask!
*So, adding to the “Texas was trying to lose the game before the end of the 1st quarter” bucket, not only did they fumble a punt (leading to a TD) and then fail on a 4th down conversion, but they also committed a penalty to give USC a first down to nullify a 3rd down stop in Texas territory. Then, two plays later Texas Tarell Brown dropped an INT. Texas escaped still down just 7-0 because…
*…in the first of some interesting 4th down decisions, USC didn’t get it on a 4th and short when Matt Leinart came up short on a QB sneak. While White was their short-yardage guy, typically, I don’t fault them for having Reggie in the game, but they motioned Reggie out of the backfield. Apparently Pete was trying to call a timeout but Leinart snapped the ball and that’s a big “what could have been!?” for USC…
*Jamaal Charles and Ramonce Taylor were the Longhorns responsible for simulating Reggie Bush for the scout team.
*Texas almost turned it over again when Jamaal Charles dropped the ball trying to make a play at midfield but somehow Texas recovered.
*USC was ahead of its time by playing two running backs with one split out as a receiver as they did with Bush (split out) and White (in the backfield).
USC ends the 1Q with a 7-0 lead
*It’s on the second play of the second quarter that Reggie Bush made his unsuccessful lateral. After the most Reggie Bush display of lightning speed and sharp quickness on a middle screen that resulted in big money, Bush was elevating as a part of a juke and caught, deciding to lateral to his right but the lateral was off the mark and a fumble gave it to Texas and ended what appeared to be a points-producing drive.
*Boiling the game down to a play in the second quarter would be unfair but there’s no doubt that Bush’s mistake resuscitated Texas.
Texas gets on the board with a FG and it is 7-3 USC.
*So far, there have been more sloppy moments—turnovers, almost-turnovers, odd decision-making—and missed opportunities than “wow” moments or even just solid execution.
*Steve Smith—not the NFL Network Steve Smith—was really, really good. He had a great 2009 with the Giants with over 1200 receiving yards but couldn’t really stay healthy after that. Had he stayed healthy I think he’d have been a multi-time Pro Bowler. His skillset demonstrated in this game with route-running and making tough catches was impressive.
*Michael Huff did a great job early on for Texas keeping Bush at bay charging in from his safety spot.
*According to Keith Jackson, USC TE Fred Davis was the guy who imitated Vince Young for USC during their practices.
*USC had the ability to beat you by doing a lot of different and special things offensively but we’re midway through the second and their best play is giving it to Lendale White up the middle and letting him and his O-line go to work.
*USC had another drive that seemed poised to produce points but Michael Griffin’s leaping interception was outstanding. That secondary was so big in the first half (and all game) for UT. From Huff helping to contain Bush to Griffin’s pick to the corners helping to contain by getting physical, it was a pretty impressive display.
*There were sooooo many talented skill position players in this game but other than Jamaal Charles, who was a freshman and not the main starter, and Reggie Bush, who was really good for a stretch, none of the guys who got playing time really materialized in a big way in the NFL.
*I forgot that Texas scored its first TD on a downfield lateral from Vince Young to Selvin Young similar to what Bush attempted unsuccessfully…I also forgot that that touchdown should not have been. Young’s knee was clearly down yet they did not review it. Surprisingly, USC didn’t call a timeout to try and aid in the review decision but even more surprisingly the upstairs refs didn’t signal down for a review with how obvious it was.
Texas misses the PAT and leads 9-7 with around 5 to go in the 2nd quarter
*USC was so used to their whole playbook working that when it wasn’t, it didn’t seem like they were totally prepared to just keep it super simple.
*As well as Texas as tackling, USC did not follow suit. They were having a tough time taking advantage of opportunities to prevent big gains, including on Ramonce Taylor’s TD late in the 2Q.
Texas leads 16-7
*USC starts to look a bit like the dynamic offense the next drive, but a couple of sacks led them to only 3.
Texas leads 16-10 at halftime.
Texas starts with the ball in the 2nd half
*USC got pressure on Vince on the second play of the drive and it is notable because they really weren’t making things tough for Young physically. On the flip side, Matt Leinart was hit hard in the first half.
*USC gets a 3-and-out to start the half.
*As USC gets ready for their first possession of the second half, it’s worth noting that their super dynamic offense was anything but in the opening half. Lendale White was really good but none of their other playmakers were really making a big impact. That never happened to them.
*Darnell Bing’s red-tinted visor was pretty sweet.
*Leinart made a pick throw off of a play action to Dwayne Jarrett and it was a reminder that Leinart had the toolset be a good NFL QB but, like Young, admitted he wasn’t mature enough early in his career. I don’t think Leinart had a “star” potential but I definitely think he could had been a decade-long starter.
*Lendale White scores a TD on USC’s opening possession of the second half. Prior to his TD run, he had a really impressive run featuring a stiff arm of Michael Huff. Tough to think of a better college backfield than those two…
USC leads 17-16 with 10:36 to go in 3Q
*USC did a poor job of containing the edge with Young or the Texas RBs. Not only that, but, as I mentioned earlier, Young didn’t really get banged around at all, which is a good way to help slow down a mobile QB.
*There’s no way USC was this bad of a tackling team at any other point during the season. They had a really tough time getting tackles on first contact.
*Young combines both of USC’s issues with his TD run to retake the lead: He got to the edge with ease and shed some really weak tackle attempts from USC.
Texas leads 23-17 with 8:34 3Q
*USC did a great job of working their way up the field without a big play and then found themselves with a 4th and 1…what did they do? Gave it to Lendale White who not only got the first down but hit pay dirt. Texas really didn’t have an answer for White who logged his third TD.
USC leads 24-23 with 4:08 3Q
USC leads 24-23 after 3Q.
*Texas is fueled by a big Vince Young run but they stall out and are forced to attempt a field goal. David Pino misses a 31-yarder on the first play of the 4th quarter so USC maintains the lead.
*Even though Reggie Bush still really wasn’t making much of an impact, Dwayne Jarrett came alive in the second half. He and Leinart really hit their stride. Jarrett ran some good routes and Leinart was fitting them in some tight windows.
*Texas really just could not stop Lendale. Not to sound like a broken record but with how we all know the game played out with a critical decision by Pete Carroll that didn’t involve Lendale, it just further makes that decision more baffling.
*…And then Reggie happens. After Lendale got over 100 yards on his 14th carry, he passed the baton to Reggie who, ion the fourth quarter, made his first Reggie play. A run that was supposed to go up the middle ended up with Bush bouncing it outside and going from zero-to-60 at the snap of a finger. He went airborne for the TD and USC added to their lead.
USC led 31-23 with 11:19 in 4Q. At this point, it looked like it was USC’s game having scored 24 of the last 31 points.
*Vince Young wasn’t really known for pinpoint accuracy but he made some really nice throws in this game. On USC’s side, not only did they not really contain Vince, but they let UT receivers run free too often. That was undoubtedly because of their focus on Vince, but USC didn’t have a game-changing secondary like UT had.
David Pino makes a 36-yard FG with 8:46 in 4Q to make it 31-26 USC.
*USC had a big play on second down with a roughing the passer tacked on top of it. It put USC in a tremendous position. That play, by the way, got Leinart over 300 yards. After a rough first half, he was really good in the second half in part because he didn’t force what wasn’t there.
*A couple plays later Leinart made a big time throw to Jarrett and USC got what appeared to be a clinching touchdown. Leinart improved to 14/15 for 182 yards and a TD in the second half with that throw.
*Just as Texas had limited USC’s stars in the first half, they came alive in the second half and next thing you know, White, Bush, and Jarrett have all scored, even if Bush didn’t have his typical highlight-reel laden game.
USC leads 38-26 with 6:42 until they won another National Championship…right?
*Haven’t mentioned David Thomas yet. He was a super reliable TE and had a big game for Texas.
*Vince Young made a horrible decision on a throw to the right sideline in which he effectively lobbed it up for David Thomas. It should have been intercepted by Ryan Ting but he for some reason chose to knock it down thinking maybe it was going to be a contested jump ball. An interception ends the game…
*Pretty impressive touchdown for Young. It was a 17-yard run in which he ran about 50 yards going left and then almost slipping then going right and gliding in to keep Texas alive.
USC leads 38-33 with 4:03 in 4Q…and now we have the USC drive that resulted in some second-guessing.
*Critical moment that doesn’t get discussed a ton. On 2-and-7, USC tried one of their trademark flat routes to the fullback—in this case, Brandon Hancock—and the pass fell incomplete. I thought Hancock did a poor job of finding the ball and going to it, but either way, it should have been an easy pass to complete and, at minimum, run the clock. Not only didn’t USC get the first down, but the clock stopped.
*They ran it with Lendale on 3-and-7 and he got 6.5 yards. White fumbled but Steve Smith recovered about a yard back of where White was. It was White’s first fumble of the year and though they didn’t lose it, it cost USC a yard or so. ANYWAY…here is the big decision. Do you go for it? Yeah, you do. I think USC, a team fueled by an amazing offense with a great O-line, made the right decision. Texas just wasn’t stopping Lendale and USC gave it to him and Texas simply stopped him. I’d do it again. He was the guy Texas wasn’t stopping all game…until that play. USC was 0-for-2 on 4th-and-1 after that play.
UT gets the ball back with 2:09 to go trailing 38-33. The ball is on UT’s 44.
*USC brings pressure on the first two plays on the drive and Young looked uncomfortable. It set up a 3rd-and-12. USC brought pressure again and it forced the ball out quickly so even though Young completed the pass they were about 4 yards short EXCEPT USC was flagged for a facemask to give them the first down.
*Vince made a big pass to put UT inside the 20 and USC elected not to bring pressure. Easier to say than to do but seemed like pressure was the key that drive.
There were :26 left and Texas faced a 4th and 5. National title on the line…
*A coach could probably break down the Xs and Os of the play but the reality is, Vince Young just did what he did such a good job go during his college career. The one guy who probably erred for USC was Frostee Rucker, who was playing contain and then took two steps in which was the difference as Vince got to the corner.
Texas wins the National Championship Game 41-38
WHAT. A. GAME.