January 4, 2006: It was arguably the greatest college game ever played and arguably the greatest individual performance in a championship game on this day, 9 years ago. Vince Young willed the Texas Longhorns to defeat the favored two-time national champion USC Trojans, 41-38.
With two undefeated teams playing, and USC riding a 34-game winning streak and Texas a 19-game winning streak, the game was billed as the greatest matchup ever. The game is the highest-rated BCS game in TV history with 21.7% of households watching it. And boy, did it live up to the hype.
It was also the first ever college football game to feature two Heisman Trophy winners on the same team. Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush hoisted the honors in consecutive years. Many thought, however, that Young was worthy that season. USC was coming off a drubbing of Oklahoma the previous year in the BCS title game, and Vegas saw them as about a touchdown favorite.
In the end, it would be Vince Young and Texas who proved to be best on this day. With USC leading 38-26 late in the fourth quarter, the Trojan defense couldn't stop Young. With just 6:42 to play, Young accounted for all 69 yards of a Longhorns' scoring drive that took just 2:39 to complete, rushing for a 17-yard touchdown. The following USC drive will be remembered for head coach Pete Carroll's decision to go for it on fourth down near midfield in hopes to run out the clock. Heisman winner Reggie Bush mysteriously watched the play from the sidelines while USC tried to pound LenDale White on fourth-down-and-2. Texas blitzed its safety and stuffed White short of the first down. Vince Young then got the ball back and once again took over the game. Facing a fourth-and-5 with the game on the line, Young scrambled right past USC defenders for the touchdown with just 19 seconds left. A two-point conversion made it 41-38, in what would be the final score.
Vince Young was named the game's MVP, and set championship records with his performance: 467 total yards (267 pass, 200 rush). He also gave Texas its fourth national championship, while USC fell just short of winning a record third consecutive title (the team would later forfeit the season due to the NCAA punishment stemming from Reggie Bush receiving improper benefits).
It was just the second loss in Leinart's career at USC, and the first time USC had lost the Rose Bowl since 1989. Young, Leinart, and Reggie Bush would all be drafted to the NFL that year (along with several other players from each team).
Here's to you Vince Young and Texas, and your amazing championship performance: