COMMENTARY: There will never be another national championship like Texas-USC

There have been close games played in the national championship before and since the Texas Longhorns met the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl on January 4, 2006.

Miami and Ohio State famously went to overtime in 2003 at the Fiesta Bowl. In 2011, Auburn beat Oregon by kicking a field goal as time expired.

But what makes Texas-USC isn't just the spectacular game itself, it was everything that led up to it.

First of all, all three Heisman finalists played in the game: Matt Leinart (won the previous year), Reggie Bush (won that year), and Vince Young (who came in second that year).

The two teams had won a combined 53 consecutive games. You had a two-time defending national champion in USC and the previous year's Rose Bowl winner in Texas.

After beating Michigan on a last-second field goal the previous year, Vince Young loudly proclaimed "We'll be back!" to the crowd, calling his shot.

The two teams were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 to start the season and neither budged from those spots all year. The only time they technically switched was going into the Longhorns' game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on October 29.

The BCS formula pushed Texas ahead that week by a slim margin.

And that goes back to why the build-up of that game was so good: While Texas and USC were perfect in the regular season, they each had their scares, bringing plenty of drama to the journey.

On September 10, Texas played No. 4 Ohio State in front of more than 100,000 at the Horseshoe in Columbus and needed a late 4th quarter touchdown to win it.

On October 9, USC played at No. 9 Notre Dame. On the same day, Texas hosted No. 24 Colorado and was winning by a large margin. I was at the Texas game but found myself in a club next to the stadium where everyone's eyes were glued on NBC broadcasting the end of the game.

Notre Dame looked like they were going to win despite USC converting a 4th and 9 that landed them in the red zone. Matt Leinart was tackled a few plays later but fumbled out of bounds when he was hit. The clock stopped, as it should have. And referees called for the stoppage as well. But for some reason, the clock started again and ticked down to zero.

The Notre Dame sideline rushed the field, fans rushed the field. Meanwhile, 1,200 miles away, I was in a sea of burnt orange all screaming and chanting "We're No. 1! We're No. 1!"

One play later, the "Bush Push" happened, and the journey continued.

At the time, it felt like an eternity between the fumble out of bounds and the touchdown. But looking back at the video, really, it was less than two minutes.

And that would be a familiar feeling for both teams on this run and in the national championship game, itself.

The next scare came during the aforementioned Oklahoma State game. Texas was behind 28-12 at halftime. The raucous crowd at it up. They were jingling their keys, taunting the Longhorns as if the game was over and everyone should just go home.

But Texas outscored the Cowboys 35-0 in the 2nd half and won the game running away, with Vince Young creating a highlight reel play along the way in which he pump faked a defender out of his shoes before scoring a long touchdown.

The last scare came when No. 16 Fresno State visited USC and the Bulldogs gave the Trojans everything they could handle. Fresno St. took a 21-10 lead early and even led 42-41 early in the 4th quarter before USC closed it out.

It ended up being a legendary Reggie Bush performance that helped him with the Heisman Trophy.

And that was all for the real scares that either team faced before they met at the Rose Bowl in January of 2006 for that game.

Even with social media, exposure to more teams with games streaming online, and players staying for three or four years before jumping to the NFL, it seems highly unlikely that we'll have a journey like that one on the way to a national championship game that many consider the greatest game ever played.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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