Twenty seconds remained in the 2006 Rose Bowl. A fourth-and-5 was all that stood between Texas and a national championship; between Vince Young and college football immortality.
A few seconds later, Keith Jackson said, “He’s going for the corner, he’s got it.”
Vince Young disappeared into an assembly of media and photographers with the same confidence he possessed when he showed up on the Rose Bowl stage 368 days earlier.
Longhorn fans relished a national title celebration. Young relished the knowledge that he would go down as one of the biggest heroes in Rose Bowl history.
Two-time defending national champion USC scrambled to win its third title, but Vince Young’s 9-yard touchdown run and almost unheard-of individual performance had already shattered that dream.
On Saturday, when the oldest member of the Buckeyes, Devin Barclay, kicked OSU into the “Granddaddy of Them All,” it was only a matter of time before someone pointed out this fact: Vince Young played in the Rose Bowl his sophomore season, too.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who has often been compared to Vince Young since the Longhorn’s dominating performances in the Rose Bowl in ‘05 and ‘06, will be a sophomore, as well.
The comparisons have come from everywhere, including Pryor’s former high school coach Ray Reitz and Young’s college coach Mack Brown.
“Before he leaves Ohio State, he’ll lead them to a national championship,” Brown said earlier this season of Pryor. “He’s that kind of player.”
Brown saw Young up close for four seasons at Texas. After redshirting his first year, Young split time as a redshirt freshman before starting as a sophomore and junior.
His blend of size, speed and athleticism had never been seen at the quarterback position. And for the most part, it hasn’t been seen since — until Pryor.
Although both Young and Pryor managed to lead their teams to a Rose Bowl in their sophomore seasons, struggles didn’t go unnoticed.
Against Purdue several weeks ago, Pryor committed a career-high four turnovers in the Buckeyes’ shocking loss. His lackluster effort against USC earlier in the season also gave doubters reason to grumble.
Young faced similar hardships in his sophomore season. Against rival Oklahoma, the quarterback was eight of 23 for 86 yards, and his Longhorns were shut out for the first time since 1980. Young’s critics were in full force after a 12-0 loss.
His season stats, like Pryor’s, weren’t gaudy. Young threw one less interception than touchdowns on the season and also did his fair share of scoring with his legs.
The shutout loss, however, would be the last of Young’s college career, and he would still manage to get his one-loss Texas team into the Rose Bowl against Big Ten champion Michigan.
His first of two Rose Bowl appearances would mark the beginning of the end of one of the most brilliant college football careers in recent history.
On the grandest stage of all, Young did not disappoint. The Wolverines had a star-studded defense, but nothing stopped Young when the bright lights of California shined their brightest.
Young brought his Longhorns back from a 10-point deficit in the second half. He had touchdown runs of 20, 60, 10 and 23 yards and ran for a total of 192 yards total on the day. Young was equally efficient at passing, throwing a touchdown, and completing 16 of 28 for yards.
When the Longhorns won on a last-second field goal, Vince Young had officially broken onto the national scene, making his name known as one of the best quarterbacks in college football.
The following season would be even better for the junior quarterback. Leading his team to an undefeated season and a berth in the Rose Bowl for the national championship, Young’s stats sent him to New York, where he finished runner-up to Reggie Bush for the Heisman Trophy.
In the national championship game against USC and its two Heisman winners, Bush and Matt Leinart, Young again put on a display of how to will his team to victory.
With the world watching, Young ran all over the Rose Bowl, leaving USC defenders with nothing to tackle but air. Running for three touchdowns and 200 yards, Young led Texas back from a 12-point deficit to a 41-38 win.
Young’s arm was also on display, going 30 of 40 for 267 yards. His combined 467 yards of offense is a Rose Bowl performance that might never be matched.
But Pryor will get his chance to live up to the Rose Bowl legend of Vince Young; at least, his legend as a sophomore, when he led his team to a Rose Bowl victory.
As for the legend of Young’s junior season, when he led his team to a national title, Pryor will have to wait to claim it next year.