“4th and 5, the national championship on the line right here” is a call Texas fans will remember for the rest of time. Quarterback Vince Young led the Longhorns into Pasadena to take down the USC Trojans in what many consider the greatest college football game of all time. People in Austin are still buzzing from the moment, wanting another one in the near future.
Steve Sarkisian is attempting to become the head coach to do that. But the only issue? He was on the opposing sideline, serving as the USC offensive coordinator. While Texas fans are likely quick to bring up the 2005 game, Sarkisian was on the losing end.
When recently reflecting on the game, Sarkisian remembers there was some confidence in the USC locker room. They were two-time defending national championship games and were in the midst of one of the greatest runs the sport has seen.
While USC might have thought another celebration was going to occur in their home season, they found out quickly the Texas team was not slouches. Sarkisian recalled on two particular plays where he did not understand how the Longhorns were able to keep up.
“When we went into that Rose Bowl, we had won 33 straight games,” Sarkisian said. “And we’re trying to win our third straight national championship. Even in pregame, you could kind of look. Like, ‘wait a minute, they look like us.’ They look like we looked. As the game got going, I remember we called a wheel route to Reggie (Bush) early in the game and the linebacker was in his hip pocket and the ball fell incomplete.
“I remember we threw a double move and Michael Griffin comes out the roof and intercepts the ball right on the goal line. And then, all of a sudden, Superman starts taking over and Vince Young started being Vince Young.”
In what’s now an infamous play in Los Angeles, then-head coach Pete Carroll decided to go for it on a 4th and 2 situation. Nobody questioned the decision as USC would have won the game had there been a conversion. People ask why Lendale White got the carry instead of Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.
Sarkisian explained and also revealed the sole reason the Trojans decided to go was because of the threat Young possessed.
“Even when we got in the locker room I remember sitting there thinking ‘I might have been part of the greatest college football game ever,'” Sarkisian said. “With the amount of talent and the way the game went… In the end, it came down to 4th and 2, and at that time, Reggie had just won the Heisman but Lendale (White) was the hot hand that night.
“Lendale was running the ball and he was physical and he was tough. Coach Carroll was like ‘you got to go for it because we aren’t going to stop them anyway. So, we got to try to win the game right here. Michael Huff tackles Lendale White, short, and there goes Vince Young on 4th and 5.”
Following the final play, confetti began to rain down from the sky, where the ABC broadcast was able to pick up an image of Young celebrating. You most likely know the one, as it captures the emotions every Texas fan experienced in early 2006. Even Sarkisian understands the significance of that photo despite having his heart ripped out.
“It’s one of the most legendary pictures in college football history,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian may have tough memories of Young running into the corner of the end zone at the Rose Bowl, winning Texas a title. He can wash all of it away by grabbing one of his own and earning the same legendary status Young has on the 40 Acres.