UT vs. USC: the Rematch


On Jan.4, 2006, Vince Young’s University of Texas and the Reggie Bush-led USC competes in what is regarded as one of the greatest games in college football history: the 2006 Rose Bowl. The result? 41-38, Texas. It was UT’s first-ever win against the program from Southern California, and won them the BSC College Football National Championship. And 11 years on, the Longhorns faced the Trojans in an action-packed revenge game that kept everyone watching glued to their TVs, not unlike the game from 11 years ago.

The game kicked off, and both offenses stagnated. Texas’s defense came out of the tunnel on a mission to shut down Sam Darnold and Co., and stopped USC’s normally potent offense twice in the first half on the 4th down, including a 4th-and-inches on Texas’s 1-yard line, which got broken up by a fired-up Malcolm Roach behind the line of scrimmage. But Sam Darnold could not be stopped, as the threw a 15-yard TD pass to receiver Deontay Burnett early in the second quarter to put USC up, 7-0, and get some points on the board to try to open the game up more. And things were looking up for the Red and Gold when they forced Texas into a 3-and-out on the ensuing drive. But in their next possession, UT cornerback Holton Hill tipped a pass intended for receiver Jalen Greene, and strong safety DeShon Elliot was on hand to snag it out of the air and take it to the house from the 38, making it a tie ballgame with a minute left in the first half. But all of UT’s hard defensive work was undone when a short pass over the middle to USC running back Ronald Jones II turned into a 56-yard touchdown with the clock at zero. 14-7, at the end of the first half. But what comes next will turn this game into an all-time classic.

“Our defense played really good the entire game,” Diego Rodriguez (8) said, who is a member of the football team, and watched the entire game in support of UT. “They dominated for so long, and our pick-6 was super important for us staying in the game. And the 4th down stops were crazy good.”

Late in the fourth quarter of the game, UT had the ball on their own 3-yard line. USC had just punted, downed the ball on the nine-yard line, and then stopped an end-around play by Armanti Foreman for a loss of 1, and one false start later, UT are facing a 3-and-out in clutch time. Then true freshman QB Sam Ehlinger strikes receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey on the sideline for a 17-yard gain and the first down. The next down included a 5-yard run gain, a throw-away on 2nd down, and a rush by Ehlinger that was deemed to be short on review. 4th down and 1, Ehlinger pounds it down the middle for 2. And after a long shot to Lorenzo Joe fell incomplete, receiver Collin Johnson turned his size-mismatch advantage over USC cornerback Jack Jones into a 47-yard gain. Six plays and one first down later, and Ehlinger finds Armanti Foreman for a tiptoe catch in the end zone. Forty-six seconds to go. Touchdown, UT.

“That drive was super nervy,” Reid Saxon (8), a football player and avid UT football fan, said “I had to drink so much water while it was happening. But when it was over and we scored, I was so happy because I was sure that we would win and beat USC, who people say are better than us”.

But just 5 plays later and with the time expiring, USC kicker Chase McGrath scored a 31-yard field goal and put the game into overtime. In the first overtime, USC scored with their 1st play with a throw to Deontay Burnett, and UT responded with a touchdown of their own, putting the game into double overtime. UT started with the ball, but on 2nd down on the 2-yard line, a QB sneak from Sam Ehlinger turned into a strip-fumble by USC defensive tackle Christian Rector, and recovered by cornerback Ajene Harris.

USC had the ball on the 25. 1st play-a handoff to Ronald Jones. Linebacker Malik Jefferson stops him on the line of scrimmage, making his final tackle in what was a huge game for the red-shirt sophomore. 2nd play- Sam Darnold throws out of bounds, under pressure from defensive end Charles Omenihu and Jefferson. 3rd play- a long throw to Deontay Burnett in the endzone is caught, but then ruled incomplete, as he dropped the ball before he had full possession of the football. 4th play- walk-on freshman kicker Chase McGrath steps up from 43 yards, trying to win the game for the Trojans in what could would only be his 2nd career make. He takes his steps, breathes in deep, and gets ready for the snap. He hits the ball well, and it just about sneaks inside the right upright for the game-winning score. Chase McGrath wins USC the football game, 27-24, in 2OT, and earns himself a scholarship.

A fitting way to back up the last time USC and UT played. What a classic from these two powerhouse football programs. And I can’t wait until they meet again, almost exactly 1 year from today, at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin.