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Texas QB feels he has more to prove
Only beating USC for the national title will pacify Vince Young and the Longhorns.
By BOB HARIG
Published January 2, 2006
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Just being there was not enough, as it will not be here in Southern California. If you are not going to win the whole thing, then simply being in the same room or on the same field is not going to make it seem any better.
That is how Vince Young felt about the Heisman Trophy presentation last month in New York. And that is how the Texas quarterback feels about the national championship game against USC in the Rose Bowl.
Happy to be here? Sure, but only because you have to be in the Los Angeles suburbs to win the Rose Bowl game, a victory he prefers not to leave without.
While at the Heisman ceremony, observers were surprised to see Young take his runnerup finish to USC's Reggie Bush so hard. He talked about being "disappointed" and that he let down his teammates, his family, his hometown of Houston, his college town of Austin.
Never mind the fact that Bush was one of the most electrifying players in the country, and that it was no shame to finish second.
"We are playing for the national championship, I am a competitor," said Young, who will lead the second-ranked Longhorns against the Bruins on Wednesday night. "It wasn't that I was mad. I was disappointed that I didn't win. I was disappointed that I didn't bring the Heisman Trophy home to my teammates, to my fans. ... I wasn't disappointed for him winning it. I was happy for him. He's a great athlete, and he won it. You have to give him respect."
If Young was lacking for any respect, it certainly started coming his way after his performance in last year's Rose Bowl against Michigan. The Longhorns and coach Mack Brown had been criticized for lobbying for a spot in the game, an effort that bumped California of the Pac-10..
But Young left jaws agape after rushing for 192 yards and four touchdowns and passing for 180 yards and another score. He rallied Texas from a 31-21 deficit in the final 10 minutes to win 38-37.
Afterward, amid the postgame celebration, Young turned to Brown and said, "We'll be back." The BCS title game, Young knew, was scheduled for the same venue.
And he helped make good on the promise.
"Ever since last year, we knew we had everybody coming back," Young said. "We were basically veterans and we know what it takes to win."
Young averaged 276 passing yards this season and 71 rushing to help the Longhorns finally defeat Oklahoma, win the Big 12 South and Big 12 Championship Game and finish 12-0.
Only one opponent, Ohio State, managed to come within 10 points of the Longhorns, who averaged 50.9 points to lead the nation. Young rallied Texas at Ohio State after trailing late 22-16. And the Longhorns were down 28-12 at halftime at Oklahoma State before pulling out the victory.
That's why USC and its 34-game winning streak don't bother Young.
"Intimidating? I don't even know what that word means," Young said. "If we can go to Ohio State at night in that type of environment and pull it off, we're not worried about anything. We know what they have on their team, and they know what we have on our team. We're going to go out and play, and may the best man win. Hopefully, we'll be ahead when the fourth quarter's over with."
"Our guys know," Brown said, "that when Vince plays well, like he did at Oklahoma State, like he did at Kansas, like he did at the Rose Bowl last year, Oklahoma, we've got a chance to win any game. That's why I think he's our most valuable player. That's not just saying that. We've got a good team, and we could win without him, but it wouldn't be the same."
Young, 22, a redshirt junior, was a star coming out of high school and had narrowed his choices to Texas and Miami. He chose the Longhorns and did not mind sitting out as a redshirt in 2002 while current Bucs quarterback Chris Simms directed the Longhorns offense.
Regarded as mostly a running threat, Young, who has bulked up to 230 pounds, has added the ability to pinpoint passes. Although Young's delivery can make purists wince, Brown discovered last year it was better to allow Young to do things his way than tinker with his mechanics.
"I basically taught myself to throw," Young said. "I'm just trying to get the ball to the receiver."
Something is working. Since taking over the starting job as a redshirt freshman, Young and the Longhorns are 29-2.
And while his arm appears to be working as well as his legs, it is another part of his anatomy - his shoulder - where a big chip seems to reside. Perhaps Young will turn that into an advantage against the Trojans.
"We've worked hard to get here," Young said. "Anything could happen that would've kept us home. It takes hard work to get you the places that you want to go, the destination that you want to get to."