Almost 12 years after winning a national title, Texas still searching for lost magic

Trenton Daeschner

 It’s been nearly 12 years since arguably the greatest college football game ever was played.

On a January 2006 night in Pasadena, California, then-No. 2 Texas shocked the country and dethroned No. 1 USC, 41-38, in front of a packed house at the Rose Bowl. Texas quarterback Vince Young put on a performance for the ages, racking up 467 yards of offense and three rushing touchdowns in an epic showdown against USC quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush, who had won back-to-back Heisman trophies.

On Tuesday afternoon inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Young and other stars on that 2005 Texas team were back together once again, telling old stories and reliving that unforgettable game nearly 12 years ago.

 “It goes by fast,” former defensive end Tim Crowder said. “I look at Vince Young over there — he’s got gray hair in his beard now.”

That championship game, along with Young’s iconic nine-yard, game-winning touchdown run on fourth-and-five with 19 seconds left, has been immortalized in Texas history.

 “I could watch that last play ad nauseam,” former right tackle Justin Blalock said.

These days, the Longhorns are a shell of what they were on Jan. 4, 2006. Three-straight losing seasons and another coaching change have put Texas back at square one, searching for any resemblance of the magic that was produced during that 2005 national championship season.

Texas hasn’t even been to a bowl game since 2014, and only a handful of players from that team are on the current one.

“None of them have gone to bowl games … that sucks,” former left guard Kasey Studdard said. “I never thought of never going to a bowl game. It never was an option.”

 But that’s been the only option for Texas the past two seasons after back-to-back 5–7 finishes. And just in the last seven years alone, Texas has had four losing seasons. It’s been a steep fall off ever since quarterback Colt McCoy left Texas after 2009.

“Everybody’s gonna go through it,” Young said. “USC went through it as well. Every college goes through it. Right now, I feel like Tom (Herman) is the guy now. He gets the opportunity to try to change it.”

If the Longhorns are going to finally turn the program around, they could start by taking a lesson from some of the players who helped lead Texas to the mountaintop. Former safety Michael Huff was a key part of the Longhorns’ defense on the 2005 national title team.

Today, Huff is a defensive backs coach on Tom Herman’s staff. Over a decade later, curiosity among current Texas players about the title game against USC still lingers.

“They ask me all the time,” Huff said. “Obviously they were all kids. A lot of them didn’t even watch the game. It makes me feel old.”

Many of Texas’ current players may never get the chance to feel what it’s like to play for a national championship, but they’ll get a chance to play No. 4 USC on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

But perhaps down the road, eventually, some will get to feel what Huff, Young and so many other Longhorns felt on that January 2006 night in Pasadena. Almost 12 years after he dashed into the corner of the end zone at the Rose Bowl, Young wants today’s players to write their own legacy.

“When I go talk to the guys, I’m like, ‘Guys, this is you, man — you guys are playing football, you guys are playing this game, you have to change this,’” Young said. “It ain’t about the coaching staff, it ain’t about none of that. Go out there and show the world we’re Texas football. You got to go earn that type of stuff.”