We wish we'd had a better plan for January 5th, but honestly, we thought we'd be staring at the vacuum of eight football-free months, hollow-eyed and sleep-deprived, typing away in our office without hope following a dismal thirty point thrashing in the Rose Bowl Game Like Substance Football Match of whomever ended up on the booty end of USC's stick. We really thought that--us, sitting here, wondering if we should pick up a new hobby to fill the time.
What we thought we'd be looking at on January 5th. Needlepoint; Rosey Grier did it, right? Must be manly. Beats arson, which got expensive after a while...
Ohhhh....but we were wrong, wrong, wrong. So wrong. So unbelievably, happily, completely and thoroughly wrong. Instead we got the back and forth of the (gulp)...GREATEST GAME WE CAN REMEMBER OFF THE TOP OF OUR HEADS AT THIS VERY INSTANT!!! It really is; we'll have to revise this statement once we remember a better one. OSU-Miami didn't quite have the fireworks or totall wattage star power-wise, and though it's near and dear to our hearts, the FSU/UF Sugar Bowl in 1996 was a redassed beatdown that no one besides a Gator fan loves to drink a twelver to while watching three times in a row on a Lazy Sunday. (Really, we don't sit there rewinding the Ike Hilliard brake-and-fake over and over again...really...)
But this game exceeded all and any expectations, even those proposed by the theoretical Bruckheimer scale of sports drama. ("Johnny, you've got to make this 45-foot 3-pointer, or the meteor strikes the earth and kills us all. You, the orphans, the disproportionately hot girl you're dating, your fabulous sports car...yes, even the President and his pet monkey Jim-Jim. Do it for us. Do it for your country."Cue asspain inducing Aerosmith theme song in background.)
Unbelievable Bruckheimer elements making up said dramatic resume:
1. Turnovers galore!
Texas was handing it out like first rocks in the first quarter. (The first one's always free, friend.) USC made them, too, just in spectacular, Taiwanese highway traffic accident style: Reggie Bush crashed a plastics waste truck into a fireworks van by running the hook and ladder without notifying the ladder, and Leinart threw a beautiful pass into the still more gorgeous grips of textbook safety support over the top. The Bush TO in particular mattered; he moped and never really regained his mojo, only getting 13 carries and scarcely touching the ball as a receiver. Didn't help him that Texas defenders could keep up with him, either--the shot of a Texas LB running step for step with Bush on a pass route may have been one of the subtle summaries of the game. Gene Chizik erased him from USC's game plan, and deserves immense credit for keeping the 619 in the station.
2. Refereeking officiating! Texas clearly benefitted here, with Young dishing an option td with one knee on the ground and then getting away with a botched XP which, in retrospect, was exchanged for six guaranteed points. One for six--that's turning a grand profit on two plays. There was the phantom fumble, too, where Ramonce Taylor dropped a ball--the announcers on ESPN did a poor job of not showing the replay in full motion, where it really did look like a bang-bang play, instead lingering on the slomo which
ohmigodlookssolikeuscgottheshaftorz. Stranko's 2 Cents: I think the refereeing sucked, but effected both teams equally and hence had no real influence on the game. Sure, they missed Young being down, but did it make a difference? Would they have scored anyway? They also missed a Leinart pickoff as well so all was fair.
3. Unearthly performances from everyone on the entire goddamned field. In a Bruckheimer flick, everyone arrives at Max-Q, apex-reaching performance at the same time, which is precisely what happened for both teams in the third and fourth quarter. Leinart got his brains beat in by the Texas D in the first half and came our ripping in the third quarter. Don't forget that but for that balletic interception in the endzone, Leinart goes for a nearly perfect game, throwing for over 350 with TD and seifu-skills in the accuracy department. LenDale White got the UFIA of fate, but not before riding the Trojan line across the field like Hannibal on his horde of elephants. (Note to Meyer: Polynesian linemen are just badasses. Recruit five immediately.)
USC receivers always seemed a little contact-shy, but they took elbows to the head and fists to the nuts from Chizik's pain-friendly defense all night.
Vince Young: could totally bust out of Con-Air and save the planet from a meteor.
Texas, too, hit optimum performance. Young...well, this sentence just broke down. In fact, the whole hyperbole machine just gave up. If you saw it, the numbers don't cover it, and if you didn't, you wouldn't believe it if we told you. You probably did see it, though: the improbable sight of a six and a half foot tall man running 4.4 like a hyperspeed giraffe through windmill-armed defenders who should have been weeping openly in the fourth quarter when the ball stayed in his hands. Young passed just to tease, which worked well enough since he went 30 for 40 with 267 yards and didn't hesitate on a ball all night. Young threw one bad pass, which USC courteously dropped rather than intercepting. One single pass--that was all the chance they had, and after that Young was for all intents and purposes perfect. He didn't get tackled, he didn't get hemmed in, he didn't miss the endzone when he headed for the line...less man and more of a robot god bent on USC's destruction. He could have run qb draws the whole second half and still won the game; as it is, Texas ran the fanciest single-wing you've ever seen into the guts of USC's blitzing defense without penalty. Dibs on him for next year's NCAA 2006 if he doesn't go pro.
David Thomas caught hot dog wrappers for first downs. Limas Sweed didn't miss a ball. The backs deserve the stankeye for fumbles, but Ramonce Taylor and Selvin Young made big runs when they had to for first downs. A lumbering heavyweight first half gave way to a frenzied flyweight storm of fists and mouthpieces in the second half. We'd trade sleep for this any night of our lives.
4. Gambles. Both teams went for fourth and short...in the first quarter. Fourth and short came up big again at the end, when Carroll made a sure bet and ran LenDale White on fourth and two to seal the game. He gets second guessed, but it was USC's money play all night and took serious balls to do--and with the hyperspeed giraffe running hell and brimstone all over USC's defense, it wasn't the right call, but it was the call we'd make, too. If you're a mad bastard team, stay mad bastard when it counts--precisely what Carroll did. Young, in case you forgot, also faced a 4th and 5, but the minute USC's defenders launched ineffectively in on the blitz you knew a Young TD was a fait accompli. It was the fourth down that felt more like second and 2 thanks to the glowing aura surrounding Young last night.
5. A sprinkle of the surreal. Will Ferrell doing a pregame bit with Matthew McConoughey; Keith Jackson muttering along like your Grandad after a pair of generous glasses of scotch; Dan Fouts making a Quidditch reference when Reggie Bush momentarily emerged from his funk and scored a levitating rushing TD; the phantom calls, the magnet lock Leinart and Young had on their receivers all night, Young's movement on the field, which seemed to be a full film frame faster than everyone else, Mack Brown and Pete Carroll facing off for a national title (think about typing that five years ago--see, there's hope for all of us yet!)...it was all, for lack of a better or more adequate word...surreal.
This overall miasma of the strange and wonderful was only accented when Young, scoring on the fourth and 5 to put Texas up by one, ran completely untouched by USC's defense and into the loving arms of...Hook 'Em.
Just happened to be in the neighborhood, Vince. Nice work you're doing out there. Pic c/o Deadspin.
Vince didn't seem to mind, embracing Hook 'Em like they were going to have a few beers after the game together. In fact, running a TD into the arms of a mascot is right in key with Young's demeanor: dancing on the sideline in between possessions, handling the biggest game of his life like it was a scrimmage, asking the Rose Bowl crowd "Look at it. Isn't that crystal just beautiful everybody?" A columnist would end a piece something like this now:
Yes it is, Vince. Yes, it is.
But fuck that. Vince Young Vince Young Vince Young. Rocks your ass. All night long. The paragon of how to play a football game and we'll never see better. Until next year. Or maybe sooner. Incroyable.
Now we've got some knitting to do...knitting for men, that is.