PASADENA, Calif. - What a game. What a player. Reggie Bush can have his Heisman Trophy. Vince Young has something better.
A national championship.
There are performances in sport that will be remembered forever. Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points. Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs in a World Series game. Buster Douglas upsetting Mike Tyson.
Young had that kind of night Wednesday in Texas’ thrilling 41-38 victory, a contest, by the way, that actually lived up to its Game of the Century promise.
Young rushed 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
He completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards.
He scored the gamewinning touchdown on an 8-yard scramble with 19 seconds left, and as he stood before the jubilant Texas fans in the south end zone of the Rose Bowl, he cradled the football in his arms, unwilling to let go.
The ball was his.
The game was his.
The night was his.
"Vince Young was extraordinary," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He was clearly the difference in the ballgame. He was off the charts."
Young got a chance to be the hero because Carroll made a questionable call with the Trojans facing a fourth-and-2 at Texas’ 45-yard line with just more than two minutes left.
Punt, and Texas has to go at least 80 yards to score.
Instead, Carroll went for it, and tailback LenDale White, who had brutalized the Longhorns all night, was stopped inches short.
Carroll’s thinking was clear. Get a first down and the game is over. It was also apparent he didn’t trust his defense to stop the Longhorns.
But if that’s the case, doesn’t it make more sense to back Texas up and make it go the length of the field?
"We had seen what they did the series before (going on a 69-yard drive). It didn’t really matter where they would start," Carroll said. "If we get the first down, we win the football game. That was our moment to seal the win."
Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered where Texas got the ball. Young was that good.
The Texas quarterback was upset Bush won the Heisman, and he took out all of his frustrations on the Trojans.
He completed his first nine passes, and while his throwing motion is funky,
the ball kept getting delivered to the right hands.
But it was Young’s legs that lit the night with a burnt orange hue.
Time and time again, USC seemed to have him stymied in the backfield or near the line of scrimmage.
Time and time again, Young would slip a tackle or juke a defender. Simply put, he was what everyone expected Bush would be.
"We probably missed a dozen tackles tonight," Carroll said.
Just before the start of the second half, Young walked into the north end zone, saluted the Texas band and the Longhorn fans, then bent down on one knee to say a prayer.
We don’t know what he was saying. Or thinking. But we know this: Without him, Texas didn’t have a prayer.
As it has all season, USC came out in the second half as if its hair was on fire. It turned a 16-10 halftime deficit into a 38-26 lead by scoring on four of its first five possessions.
But Young was every bit the Trojans’ equal — and more.
On Texas’ 69-yard drive he completed 5 of 6 passes and ran for 31 yards. Then, after USC was stopped short on fourth down, he accounted for every one of Texas’ 46 yards and, for good measure, scored on the 2-point conversion.
Young has yet to say whether he’ll leave Texas — he’s a junior — and enter the NFL draft.
Whatever he does, he has given all of Texas a night it will never forget.
And college football a performance that is now part of the sport’s lore.