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ROUT 66: A DECADE AGO

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Witness a rout, and you will never forget it. It sears itself into the memory like walking in on your parents having sex, or seeing your dog hit by a car, or walking in on your parents having sex with your dog before all three are crushed by an 18-wheeler careening through the wall of the bedroom. (The last in that series only comes close to describing the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.)

Burnt Orange Nation reminds us to never forget these moments by commemorating the anniversary of "Rout 66," the 66-3 taxidermy of the Mackovic-era Texas Longhorns by the UCLA Bruins in Austin. Texas committed eight turnovers that day in losing what might be the greatest beatdown ever between two major, respectable D-1 programs ever. It also induced instant allergic reactions to Skip Hicks' name from Texas fans, showing that one man's laughable NFL flop is another's anthrax.

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The game also should mark the hazard of prognostication from a single data point.

Defeat can be a deceptive thing for all concerned: Mackovic left in a maelstrom of flames, his career trajectory stunted for good by the 4-7 season. He yielded the field to Mack Brown, whose departure from the UNC program put the still-sleeping giant of the ACC in a trough of much mediocrity and few peaks from that point to the present. Brown built a corporation in the wake of the loss: Longhorns, Inc., eventually shedding the reputation as a big game choke artist on the legs of Vince "Football Jesus" Young and cementing his place in the coaching firmament on the way.

Success deceives, too: UCLA would win the Pac-10 title in '98, but UCLA peaked on the national scene with the game. Bob Toledo would ride four straight mediocre seasons to his resignation in 2002, eventually ending up at Tulane and handing the program over to Karl Dorrell, who has spent his entire coaching career in the shadow of the Golden Unicycle-riding Humanitarian, Pete Carroll and the official team of ESPN, the USC Trojans.

Beware false narratives is the point: what should have been a landmark game turned out to have effects far less predictable than one might think. In the end, it gave Texas a national championship and left UCLA in much the same spot they were in before, program-wise. Texas did do UCLA one favor in return, of course---they beat USC in the process of winning the title.