Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Eyes of Texas are Upon You

The University of Texas Longhorns are college football's champions due to their thrilling victory over the University of Southern California Trojans in this year's Rose Bowl game. Final score - Texas 41 - USC 38.

What a game.

While Texas' come-from-behind victory is what made the game so thrilling, the game was won (or lost) in the first half last night. Texas led the game at half time 16 to 10. USC moved the ball efficiently throughout the first half but only scored 10 points. USC was in scoring position several times but was thwarted by (1) the failure to convert a short 4th down play, relinquishing possession to Texas deep in Texas territory (2) the ill-advised Reggie Bush lateral that was dropped and recovered by Texas, again deep in Texas territory (3) a Texas interception of a Matt Leinart pass at their own goal line, turning the ball back over to Texas at their 20 yard line.

Had USC been able to hang on to the ball and score some points on all three of these possessions, the outcome last night would have been a USC victory. Those turnovers cost USC anywhere from 9 to 21 points. In the second half, USC outscored Texas 28 to 25. Had they put a few more points on the board in the first half, they would likely have won another championship.

But you still have to tip your hat to Texas. They were down 12 points with about 6 minutes left to play in the game and they were able to score 15 unanswered points to claim the title.

Ironically, in a game that featured so much offense (especially in the 2nd half), it was the Texas defense that gave Texas the chance to win the game.

USC had a 4th down and 2 yards to go for a first down with the ball at the Texas 47 yard line. USC coach Pete Carroll decided to go for the 1st down instead of punting. The Texas defense rose to the occasion and stuffed the LenDale White run just shy of the first down. Texas took over possession of the ball on their own 45, with just over two minutes to play and two time outs in hand.

Texas was able to move the ball down the field, helped by a USC face mask penalty that allowed Texas to avoid a 4th down conversion situation early in the drive. After that, Texas moved down the field and scored the game winner on a 4th down play on a rush by the incomparable Vince Young with 19 seconds left in the game. USC got the ball back and moved it into Texas territory but simply ran out of time.

While I certainly understand the Coach Carroll's decision not to punt, it's not the one I would have made. I would have punted the ball and made Texas march 80+ yards down the field to beat me. Instead, Texas was given a shortened field, only 55 yards away from scoring. The decision to go for the 1st down is one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of situations. If USC gets the first down, it's likely lights out for Texas and an "atta boy" for Coach Carroll. But USC didn't get the first down, and now Coach Carroll will be second guessed on his decision from now until the end of time. Of course, even if USC punted Texas still might have scored anyway, but most won't think of that and will think Coach Carroll blew it.

Finally, what can one say about Texas QB Vince Young's performance in last night's game? Superlative is what it was. The Texas QB rushed for 200 yards on 20 carries and threw for 267 yards, completing 30 of 40 passes. He rushed for three TD's, including the game winner, an 8 yard rush on 4th down and 5 from the USC 8 yard line. USC fielded the last two Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, and both had fine games. But it was Vince Young who showed everybody what a truly unique and gifted athlete he is.

What a game.

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