Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rose Bowl Running Diary: The Emancipation of MB

We’re coming to you LIVE from the Wilson Ranchero living room, home of our shiny new 57-inch TV and comfy wireless service, allowing me to do research and talk on AIM whilst taking in the beauty of DirecTV. It’s Rose Bowl time, folks, and it’s already time for John Saunders to pile on that extra hype, completely leaving out that last year’s game was just as highly built up, featuring four of the five Heisman finalists.

But whatever, its a new year, a new national championship venue and a new reigning BCS champ. Remember, LSU won the BCS championship back in 2003, not USC, meaning that every time ABC uses the term three-peat, they should have to also apologize for backing the BCS and leaving out teams like Auburn, USC and Utah. We’ll touch on BCS’s brand new, equally retarded plan later, but for now, let’s just sit back and listen to the absolutely idiotic musings of Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts while cracking Holly Rowe sandwich jokes.

8:22: Sandra Day O’ Connor just did the coin flip, and Texas wins, deferring to the second half. If this is any sign, the Longhorns can shine up their crystal football, because in NCAA Football 2006 the team that gets the ball to start the 2nd half generally wins. Also, Skip Bayless said that USC was going to win this going away, and since he’s wrong about everything, I should be picking Texas to win this thing.

But I’m not. It’ll be USC on the shoulders of Reginald Bush by ten points. Here’s hoping this one doesn’t deteriorate quickly.

8:24: Keith Jackson just said, and I quote, “We’re going to play football…YIPPPPPEE!”. If you were wondering, he’s completely senile. Also, the first Song Girl sighting of the night as Bush hesitates on the kick return, brings the ball out and is gang-tackled by the Longhorns at 12.

Texas forces a three and out, stopping Bush on his run and nearly sacking Leinart on both of his dropbacks. But in a play eerily similar from what caused Oklahoma’s meltdown last year, Texas fumbles the punt return and now USC will be starting this position in Lonestar Country.

8:31: Play-action to the fullback Kirkland, and on a beautiful throw by Leinart, the Trojans are down inside the ten. No call on a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit, and you’ve got to wonder if this thing is going to stay classy or get chippy like last night’s Orange Bowl. Here’s hoping for the latter.

8:32: My question is answered as one of the young freshman linebackers, Robert Killebrew, shoves Leinart when he’s clearly out of bounds. Nobody older than a freshman in the Texas linebacking corps, and you’ve got to wonder if that’s going to play a role with veterans like Byrd, White and Bush attacking that area of the field for the Trojans.

8:34: Touchdown Trojans! LenDale White, who is apparently going pro after this season from what the announcers were saying earlier in the week, rumbles in after the penalty. The PAT is good, and now it’s Vince Young time.

8:36: Christina just messaged me that her mom likes Vince Young, but clarifies that “Mrs. Ginardi doesn’t know shit about football.” Over on Fox Sports Pittsburgh, the forgotten Notre Dame team – our men’s hoops squad- is down 53-50 to the Panthers. I wish I could tell you something insightful about our basketball team, but that would have required me watching them play at some juncture this season.

8:40: The most interesting thing about these two teams is how young they are. Obviously, losing Bush and Leinart will hurt USC, and if Vince leaves Texas, Mack Brown will drive them back into obscurity, but overall, not a lot of seniors on this team. After one first down catch by David Thomas, Texas is going to go for it on fourth and two just inside the 50. The game could turn here if USC gets a stop.

8:41: No sir! Selvin Young doesn’t even get back to the line of scrimmage and Leinart and Company are getting the ball back already. Uh oh…

8:45: As USC tries their first trick play of the game – an incomplete pass from Dwayne Jarrett to Steve Smith – Pete calls from somewhere between Miami and here. He says we’re watching Dancing With The Stars tomorrow night, and with Stacy Keibler, Jerry Rice and Kenny Mayne all involved, you bet we’re watching. Pete and Dill are also arguing over whether Warrick Dunn can carry a team like Clinton Portis, and in a rare switch, I’m siding with the Dillski on this one that Dunn could carry a team.

And the game clock isn’t working again. This is about the fifth bowl game I’ve seen where this has happened, and it never ceases to annoy.

8:47: Texas wraps up Reggie Bush a few yards short of the first down, but there’s a flag on the play…and it’s a five-yard facemask on the Horns. It was a good call, as stud safety Michael Huff reached near Bush’s eyes. That penalty is going to haunt Texas, you can write it down as I just did.

8:50: Here’s why USC is going to win: Texas simply doesn’t get turnovers as a defense, and USC doesn’t turn the ball over that much as an offense. They just dropped a sure interception that would have ended the USC drive.

8:52:University of Indiana southpaw pitcher, and new favorite West Shamokin alum over me to Mack and Barcus, Joey Vicini joins me in the living room as USC goes for it on 4th down on a Leinart sneak after emptying the backfield. I don’t think he has it.

8:53: This is sweet justice that Leinart didn’t get the needed yardage on a sneak, and we’ve got our first Notre Dame Game reference of the night. Texas takes over deep in their own territory.

8:57: Vince Young has a great scramble followed by another first down completion, but do you really think a guy that throws it side-arm can make it in the NFL? They flipped out because David Carr’s was a little low. Young is throwing a Frisbee.

8:59: Texas just dodged a massive bullet, as Jamal Charles simply drops the ball in the backfield. On 3rd and ten, Young takes a massive hit, keeps his feet and gets the ball out to Selvin Young, who immediately goes to one knee. Young is perfect so far, but the Trojans are getting the ball back again.

9:03: Back-to-back threes by Colin Falls ties the Irish with Pitt with three seconds left! The last one was NBA range, looking completely awkward as only Falls can make it look. Please note Pitt point guard Carl Krauser is fouled out, but if we can steal a win here, I’ll gladly take it. Ramon misses a shot at the buzzer and we’re going to overtime.

9:06: Back in Pasadena, the first quarter ends as Leinart completes a third down pass to Byrd. Texas almost got to him again, and you’ve got to wonder if they’ll eventually get to the senior quarterback or if these blitzes are just going to leave the secondary on big, scary islands where Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith live.

9:09: Two terrible threes by ND and three lay-ups by Pitt later, the Panthers have started the overtime on a 6-0 run. My mom is wondering why all we do is shoot threes. I laugh, and she doesn’t understand why.

9:11: Reggie Bush ends a run-after-catch with an attempted lateral, and Texas takes over inside their own twenty. Interesting play-calling and decisions so far this game by both teams.

9:15: Young is driving the Longhorns right down the field, as Mack Brown has wisely just put the game into his hands. QB draws, QB sweeps and roll outs where he can find open receivers and Vince is over a hundred yards of total offense by himself, all without an incompletion.

9:18: Another fumble by Texas’ running back, this time by Ramonce Taylor. Dan Fours commends Texas on their ability to fumble the ball, yet recover it. Yeah, that’s a talent I want my team to have. David Pino, following in the steps of Dusty Mangum, drills a 46-yarder to put Texas on the board.

9:21: Russell Carter!!!…excitement!!!!....offensive rebound and lay-up!!!!....Notre Dame still losing by three with Pitt shooting free throws and 36.5 seconds left.

9:24: While they’re reviewing a Steve Smith catch they don’t have enough evidence to overturn on ABC, Pitt misses two free throws and Chris Quinn ties the game with a lay-up. Ramon misses another shot, and it’s double overtime. I wish I cared more, but it’s the freaking national championship contending with this.

9:27: Split-screening the two games until the ND/Pitt clash’s conclusion. USC is driving, turning to their inside running game with LenDale White. He’s Chauncy Billups’ cousin and hails from Detroit, which begs the question of how in the world did a Big Ten school or Notre Dame not get their hands on this guy.

9:30: The Texas cheerleaders are wearing chaps. Joey and I concur that it’s very, very nice. Their insane hotness inspires Texas to intercept Leinart in the endzone. They don’t give him the call initially, but this is going to be overturned in the Longhorns’ favor.

9:35: Matt Leinart just threw his first bowl game interception as Pitt takes the lead on a Ronald Ramon jumper with ten seconds left. Chris Quinn’s lay-up rolls out, he fouls out and this is essentially over.

9:40: As Notre Dame’s three at the buzzer doesn’t fall, Vince Young and David Thomas are running right through the USC defense. Young is going down and pitches it to Selvin Young, who goes in for the score. The officials, for some reason, do not review it!? How do you not review that?! Give the coaches flags or something, because if the Alamo Bowl proved anything, this shouldn’t be left to some anonymous guy in the booth. In some sort of Karmic righteousness, Texas pushes the extra point right and only leads 9-7, although Keith Jackson doesn’t notice that fact. It would make sense that this game comes down to some crappy officiating, as that and poor kicking has been the theme of this bowl season.

9:45: It’s the Trojans who are unraveling, committing an illegal substitution and delay of game. Pete Carroll goes over to talk to John David Booty, which has us excited for the thought of Leinart getting pulled from the game. Texas is going to have it at midfield with nearly four minutes left, and getting the ball back after the half. Time for the Trojan defense to rise up.

9:51: Vince Young nearly has the same amount of total offense as USC, and that is being helped by the fact USC has simply stopped tackling. Ramonce Taylor is hit at the line of scrimmage, then bounces it outside and basically goes untouched into the endzone. 16-7, and while all the momentum is with Texas, Joey is quick to point out that USC has done this all year. While it’s on a bigger scale and you’d like to think they wouldn’t do that, it’s still very possible we could see

9:56: Leinart throws at a completely and totally covered Reggie Bush, and it should have been picked off by linebacker Drew Kelson. It probably was picked off by him, as the ground caused the incompletion, but there’s no review. Terrible decision by Leinart, as there wasn’t even a crack. For the record, Leinart is one for his last five with an interception. Warm up the Booty!

10:02: Leinart is back on track, scrambling around and moving the Trojans right down the field. He took a huge hit earlier in the drive, but managed to avoid the sack until the first down from the 12.

10:05: Leinart stumbles on second down trying to avoid the rush, and Texas’ defensive line is now laying waste to the Trojans’ protectors. The Trojans are frazzled, folks, and they’re now kicking a field goal on 3rd down with all of their timeouts gone. 43-yard field goal – his season long - with two seconds to play by Mario Danelo, and Texas’ lead is cut to 16-10.

10:09: That’ll be your score at the half, and so far Vince Young has been the best player on the field. Granted, USC not tackling is really helping things out, but this is going to be an entertaining second half. I’m taking a halftime of my own for a little Bob’s Subs action, which makes me wonder if I should transfer to Clarion simply for their hoagies and the hills. God, I’m going to miss the hills.

Here’s your halftime entertainment, courtesy of the USC Song Girls and University of Texas White squad:

10:33: Halftime is over, and we’re back. This is what I learned/decided during halftime:

• Aaron Taylor’s suit is freaking sweet.
• I may watch John Stamos’ “new” show, but there’s no way I’m watching Heather Graham’s. Still sure I’m watching Love Monkey
* Another one?!?!?!
Jon Stewart is hosting the Oscars. At least the lame nominees will be cancelled out by his duet with Michael Moore about W.
• KG will only take so much before he snaps. Sadly for the Mavericks, he snapped on them.
* 2006 is going to have some interesting flicks.

10:36: USC gets some pressure with the front four, and then brings a blitz on third down. Young overthrows Sweed, and USC has the ball for the first time in the second half. Time to see if Matt Leinart is concussed or not.

10:40: Remember that pressure Texas was getting the whole first half? Not there so far, as Leinart finds Jarrett deep on a corner route. Bob Leinart, Matt’s dad, is getting the Laura Quinn treatment, as Dan and Keith will not stop talking about him this drive. You’d think ABC could find something to talk about that doesn’t involve a relative in OMG THE MOST HYPED GAME EVER. USC burns its first time out of the half very, very early.

10:45: Two players who have really impressed me tonight: Texas tight end David Thomas and LenDale White, who just stiff-armed Michael Huff into the ground to gain an extra ten yards, then dives between the tackles on the next play to tie the game with his 25th touchdown on the season. An extra point later, and its 17-16, The Champs leading.

10:50: The Texas offense is blowing USC off the line, and it’s not a matter of tackling anymore as they’re not even in position. The only thing stopping Vince Young right now is his own feet, who just lost his balance on a quarterback draw after a big-time gain. The Trojans simply cannot stop Young, whether he be passing or running. He’s averaging seven yards a throw and ten yards a run, and USC is confused by Texas’ choice/option offense.

10:53: USC has Young bottled up around the three, but he powers through and it’s a touchdown for the Horns, taking the lead 23-17. The squad of Texas cheerleaders wearing chaps and vests, who may be rated above the Song Girls at this point, celebrate accordingly.

11:00: Texas isn’t getting any pressure and Leinart is dissecting them. He’s hit four or five different receivers so far on this drive, and Texas needs to throw a blitz in there or face the consequences. To their credit, they’re containing the tailback combination on this drive.

11:03: Sorry for jinxing Texas, but White just turned a third and short into another touchdown, giving the Bush/White combination the most career combined touchdowns with 99. For the record, LenDale and Reggie’s dads are a lot more entertaining than Bob Leinart. Stick with them.

11:08: Fantastic diving catch by David Thomas on 3rd down to keep the drive alive. I know he’s not the athlete that Vernon Davis or Marcedes Lewis are, but I think he could definitely be playing on Sundays next year if given a chance.

11:09: Young is flushed from the pocket and sprints fifty yards downfield before he’s even touched. He’s at 150 yards rushing on the night, and might slowly be convincing me he’s an NFL quarterback. At the very worst, he’ll be a sensational wide receiver.

11:12: Beautiful read by Darnel Bing on a throwback screen to Thomas, and the third quarter ends with David Pino lining up for the go-ahead field goal. After a slow start, this third quarter has helped this game live up to the hype.

11:15: Pino pulls the 31-yarder wide right as Joey and I bust out the Cheez-Its and pop for the long haul. Texas has blinked twice in this second half, and if their defense doesn’t get a stop right now, it’s going to cost them.

11:20: With over fourteen minutes left in the fourth quarter, USC is down to it’s final time out, facing a 3rd down. Leinart and Young have both been exceptional since the half, although you can credit the former’s success to the fact that he doesn’t have to scramble around and worry about large men hitting him.

11:23: Dwayne Jarrett makes the first down grab, his seventh catch of the second half. Leinart is now 12 of 13 since the intermission.

11:27: The story of the second half: USC has a 3rd and two, the offensive line blows a hole wide enough for me to get through and White gets ten more than he needed.

11:29: Just as you’d think the LenDale White Train was getting on it’s roll, Reggie Bush takes a pitch off the left side, sprints past every Longhorn and does a flip over the pylon – leaping from the four and landing four yards in the endzone. The extra point is good and USC now leads 31-23. Vince Young, you’re up.

11:34: For the record, Keith Jackson never knows what is going on. Jamal Charles nearly has his second fumble of the night, but he gets bailed out by the incompletion call. They’re reviewing it, but I don’t think they have enough to overturn that.

11:37: They keep the ruling on the field, and Young has just enough time as Leinart to throw. He has two consecutive completions for first downs, and the Longhorns have quickly moved down to the thirty-five.

11:41: Another Texas fumble, this time by Young, but his offensive lineman recovers it. Another field goal attempt, and this time Pino makes it, cutting the lead to 31-26. For the record, USC is yet to do any sort of kicking in this second half that didn’t involve kicking off, while Texas has two punts and a field goal.

11:43: I forgot that Stacy Keibler’s legs were God’s gift to man until that last commercial. Here’s hoping the final three on Dancing with the Stars is her, Jerry Rice and Kenny Mayne. On an unrelated note, does an accident really happen every five seconds?

11:46: Texas finally get to Leinart on a screen to the fullback Kirkland, but it’s Robert Killebrew’s second personal foul of the game as he roughs Leinart and moves USC deep into Texas territory. At this point, the Trojans have 36 run plays and 36 passes. We’ll call that balance.

11:48: TOUCHDOWN TROJANS! Jarrett catches a Leinart bullet at the two, gets pounded by two members of the Texas secondary, leaves them in his wake and breaks the plane of the endzone. To be fair, it wasn’t Jarrett that laid out his opponents, but the impact of them slamming into each other in an attempt to knock the ball away.

11:52: USC is up twelve with 6:42 to go after the extra point. Cornerback Terell Brown apparently broke his arm during the play, with the lesson as always, don’t mess with Tex…err, Southern California.

11:55: Vince is going to need two touchdowns pretty quick, meaning he’s going to have to either score quickly and pray his defense gets a stop, or drag this out long enough that they have to go for the onside kick. At the rate he’s going, they’re going to have time to hope for a stop, as USC’s soft zone is getting picked apart right now.

11:57: Young made a terrible throw back across the field and it should have been intercepted, but it was dropped. 3rd and two from inside the thirty.

11:58: First down catch by, who else, David Thomas? 4:54 to go. USC needs to blitz and take their chances with a long run, because Young is slowly picking them apart.

11:59: They blitz, Vince stumbles, catches his feet and sprints back to the right and scores easily from seventeen yards. If Texas goes down in this game, it will be of no fault of Vince Young’s. If he comes back next year, after the show he’s putting on tonight, Brady’s not going to have a shot at the Heisman.

I might need a new shirt...

12:02: LenDale White is shaken up on his first down run, but he channels the power of his tinted visor and is fine. On second down, Leinart play-fakes, rolls right, nearly is sacked before finding Dwayne Jarrett on the sideline. Leinart is 14 for 15 for 182 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He’s certainly stepped it up.

12:04: 3rd and seven with 2:22 left, and if Texas gets a stop here, Vince will have more than enough time to make the magic happen. Huge, huge play.

12:06: LenDale powers off right tackle, coming up a few yards short of the first down around the forty-four yard line. Is Carroll going to go for this? I feel like they could get it running behind Lutui with White, which is what they’re doing….

….BUT THEY DIDN’T GET IT!!!! What a play by Texas’ defensive line, completely stuffing the left side of the line and giving up nothing to the Trojans. Texas is going to have it at the forty-four.

12:08: First down, the Trojans blow up a screen to Ramonce Taylor. We’re under two minutes.

12:09: Second down, the pressure gets to Young again and he throws incomplete to the left side of the field. Perhaps Carroll’s been saving these formations when they actually needed a stop.

12:09: On third down, Texas was short of the third, but a late hit on Southern Cal is going to give Texas the first down. Not a late hit, but a facemask. Regardless, it’s going to give Texas a first down. 1:27 remaining with the ball on the 46 going in….

12:11: The Trojans are bringing the house on every play, and Young flares it out to the thirty seven for a 2nd and one. Bing strips it, but the receiver is obviously down. They’ve reviewed every single play this game except for the Texas touchdown where Young’s knee was obviously down. This hasn’t been a fantastically called game, but it hasn’t been absolutely terrible other than that one glaring exception.

Young steps through a tackle on 2nd down, and gets out of bounds. Right now, he’s well over 400 yards of offense….by himself.

12:14: Vince finds another receiver underneath, and they’re down to the fifteen with 45 seconds left. How do you even imagine stopping Vince this close to the goalline? Good lord, I wouldn’t want to be on the Trojan defense.

12:15: Limas Sweed juggles a jump ball in the corner of the endzone. on first down and it’s incomplete. Almost an Ohio State game flashback there.

12:16: Nobody on USC can tackle Vince Young. He powers through a couple of tackles to the nine, and there’s a Texas timeout with thirty seconds left. For some reason, they’re showing the kicker, who can have no effect on this 38-33 game. Texas can still get a first down if they get to the four yard line.

12:17: Incomplete across the middle to Sweed, and it’s fourth and five. In the words of Dick Enberg: “Oh my.”

12:19: TOUCHDOWN VINCE YOUNG!!!!!!!!!! Looks for about half a second, then sprints to the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. Nineteen seconds left, two-point conversion pending. Sweet sassy molassy, what a game this has been. Imagine the disappointment of last year’s national champion, take the opposite of that and that is what this Rose Bowl has been. USC has taken their final timeout to set up their defense. Might need one of those, Pete.

12:20: Who else? Vince Young, quarterback draw, 41-38 Texas. My goodness.

12:22: After a squib, USC is going to have it with sixteen seconds left on the clock from their own thirty. If ever it was time for Reggie Bush to break one.

12:23: Shovel pass to Bush, he slips into Texas territory. Eight seconds….

12:24: LEINART THROWS IT HIGH AND THE GAME IS OVER!!!! MY GOODNESS. I don’t know what Leinart was doing there, but it doesn’t matter, as this thing is over. Just as good as Miami/Ohio State, with Vince Young turning in an all-time performance. Heavenly goodness.

The final score.

So after sitting back and reflecting, not just on this bowl in particular, but on the entire bowl season, I realize how blessed we were. In the BCS, we had one classic (The Rose), one great underdog lighting up the scoreboard (The Sugar), one shittily played game that had just enough outside intrigue and overtime to make it interesting (The Orange) and one game that probably should have been a blowout, but stayed entertaining until the final minutes (The Fiesta).

You got see one of the all-time great performances by Vince Young (although please remember how not-so-hot USC’s defense was all year, but that was still fantastic), and you got to see so much more. Iowa’s shoulda-been onside against Florida, the duck-hook field goal to win it for Alabama, Barry Alvarez going out on top over an Auburn team we were all sure would roll, an electric Dolphins Stadium with two old men battling for the history books, Ted Ginn showing why he had so much preseason hype, Central Florida and Nevada bridging Christmas Eve into Christmas Morning with overtime in Hawaii and an ending to the Alamo Bowl that will be forever remembered for the “What if?” factor of Eckert pitching it to Breaston.

What a bowl season. Even the bad games were close (Colorado/Clemson) and even the blowouts had the right teams doing the blowing out (Utah and Navy lighting up Georgia Tech and Colorado State). You got to see the emergence of one brilliant quarterback (Pat White), the redemption of a few more (Troy Smith, Chris Leak and Marcus Vick) and the culmination of a third’s journey (Vince Young). Twelve months of hype actually paid off, as the game everyone wanted to see got to be seen, and it was better than anyone could have imagined.

So here’s to Texas and Southern Cal for putting on quite a show, and as Rob put it, it seems fair Pete Carroll would lose a game where a call didn’t get reviewed (the first Texas touchdown). It was early enough that it didn’t matter in the scheme of things, because neither hell, Mack Brown’s coaching or high water was keeping Vince Young from winning this thing. What a game, what a bowl season, and we can only hope next year is as good as this one was.

Hook ‘em.

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