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Rose Bowl aftermath

 

By Adam Hoff

 

The 2006 Rose Bowl will go down as one of the greatest college football games of all time.  79 points, 1,178 total yards, six lead changes, and about a dozen unforgettable plays.  Throw in Vince Youngís performance for the ages and you had all the makings of a classic.  As with any great game, there are a host of things to discuss the day after. 

 

The Vince Young Bandwagon.  After last nightís game, the population of Youngís fan club increased by about 7,000 percent.  You would have thought he reversed the orbit of the planet or cloned himself given the hype swirling around him today.  Donít get me wrong, he was absolutely incredible.  His 267 yards passing and 200 yards rushing were extremely pleasing to a stat geek like myself.  His poise and dominance on the biggest stage in the game were mind-blowing.  To call his Rose Bowl performance one of the best of all time is probably accurate.  It was certainly one of the greatest individual performances Iíve ever seen.  Of course, nobody is content to just call it one of the greatest performances of all time.  Now they have to run around touting him as the new top pick in next yearís draft. 

 

But hereís the thing.  He could have run for 600 yards and it wouldnít change his pro prospects one bit.  The day before the game, he was being projected as a top five draft pick, with most people slotting him fourth.  Now there is widespread talk of him going #1.  Overall.  As in, ahead of Matt Leinart.  As in, ahead of Reggie Bush.  You know, the guy that is so good that they actually named the Texansí final game ďThe Reggie Bush Bowl.Ē  What happened here?  He obviously played out of his mind, but did Vince Young do something new that caused this meteoric ascension? 

 

According to most scouts, the problem with Young is and has always been his throwing mechanics and lack of arm strength.  And unless I was watching the wrong game last night, nothing has changed.  All of the big runs, all of the soft flings to wide open receivers Ö none of that changed the issue with his throwing arm.  Does it no longer matter?  Itís hard to see how that is possible.  The most important attribute for an NFL quarterback is the ability to make the necessary throws.  Seriously.  Obviously heart, intelligence, durability, speed, leadership, and instincts are all important attributes, but it all starts with the throwing arm.  If you canít throw a 15-yard out, you are in trouble.  If you canít throw the ball downfield, you are in big trouble.  That is why Alex Smith had one TD and 11 interceptions this year.  He can run and heís athletic and a great leader, but he doesnít have an NFL arm.  Itís harsh but itís true.  I have yet to see Young throw a perfect strike on an NFL pattern.  This is a problem.

 

Furthermore, there is a reason why scouts look at 40 times and bench press reps and combine results.  It is because you canít simply base player evaluations based on what they do against college players.  One only needs to look at guys like Curtis Enis and Tony Mandarich to know that collegiate performance doesnít tell the whole story.  This is simply because the level of competition is much lower.  There is absolutely no chance that Vince Young will ever face an NFL defense that tackles and covers (although I suppose I should say ďthat doesnít tackle and doesnít coverĒ) like USC.  The Trojansí tackling was abysmal and there was never anyone within five yards of an intended receiver.  Iím not saying that Young canít evolve, but he didnít do anything last night to prove he can make NFL throws. 

 

Again, Iím not trying to take anything away from Young.  I am simply trying to keep things in perspective.  A few years ago, Michael Vick absolutely lit up a very good Florida State defense in the Sugar Bowl and was deemed to be the greatest player on earth.  Well, all he really does is get hurt, throw interceptions, and garner venereal diseases that he treats under the alias Ron Mexico.  And while Young seems to be more durable and to make better decisions than Vick, heís not nearly as fast and he doesnít have even half of Vickís arm strength.  Another player that Young played like last night was Marques Tuiasosopo, the former University of Washington QB that once passed and ran for over 500 total yards in a game, and destroyed defenses while leading the Huskies to an 11-1 record and, yes, a big Rose Bowl win.  He seemed invincible at the time, but has been a backup QB for his entire NFL career.  Obviously, Young is better than Tui (heís bigger and faster), but is he that much better?

 

One thing for sure: no matter how good he was last night, heís not good enough to select over Reggie Bush.  (And I donít think Iíd take him over Matt Leinart either.  I mean, would you rather have Michael Vick or LaDainian Tomlinson?  Michael Vick or Carson Palmer?  Thatís what I thought.)

 

Speaking of Reggie.  The Rose Bowl had to be the most bizarre game of Bushís career.  He had the boneheaded lateral play.  He had two receptions that were breathtaking to watch.  He had that ridiculous 26-yard touchdown where he flew about eight yards through the air.  And he sat the bench nearly the entire second half.  Seriously, what in the world was Pete Carroll thinking?  Youíve got the Heisman Trophy winner, the ultimate game changer, and the best college running back since Barry Sanders Ö and you sit him nearly the entire fourth quarter?  I know they scored 28 points over the final 30 minutes and that LenDale Wight was a beast, but you canít put the gameís best player on the sidelines.  Ultimately, it came back to haunt them when they failed on the crucial fourth-and-two play.

 

By the way, while weíre on the subject, I canít figure out why everyone is saying Bush had such a bad game.  Granted, he had the weird lateral, but what else did he do wrong?  He averaged more yards per carry than White, more yards per catch than Dwayne Jarrett, and had the single most exciting play of the game on his touchdown scamper.  He had 177 yards from scrimmage (on a mere 18 touches) and 279 total yards.  Yeah, horrible game. 

 

While weíre on the topic of Reggie Bush Ö

 

The Next Reggie Bush.  Reggie is unlike anything Iíve ever seen.  He can block.  He can catch.  He has blinding speed, underrated power, and instincts and vision that rival any running back in recent history.  When he stops, lets guys run past him, and then continues at full speed, he resembles a video game character more than a human being.  All of that to say: there isnít going to be another Reggie Bush for quite some time.  However, the one player I saw this year that has the best chance to do a good impersonation is Ramonce Taylor of Texas.  He didnít play much in the Rose Bowl, but that 30-yard touchdown run was insane.  He has the speed, the explosiveness, and the receiving ability to do some of the same things Bush has been doing in Southern California for the past three years.  Plus, he shares carries with Selvin Young and Lamont Charles, so he can also sit on the sidelines for no reason, just like Reggie. 

 

Rough day for Pete Carroll.  Let me start by saying that the decision to go for it on fourth and two was totally fine.  Everything else?  Not so good.  The mistakes were many and they were brutal.  The decision to go for it on fourth down at the Texas 19 up seven points in the first quarter was strange, to say the least.  The failure to call a timeout when Youngís knee was down was awful, because it would have given the officials time to fix their brutal screw up.  The timeout on the two-point conversion was one of the worst blunders Iíve ever seen.  And the fact that the best running back since Barry Sanders was standing on the sideline for the most important play of the season was inexcusable.  Pete Carroll appears to be a great guy, people like playing for him, he was involved in a tremendous practical joke (when LenDale White pretended to jump off of the roof of a building), and heís obviously a terrific recruiter, but he really didnít look too good as a game manager.  I donít know if this was an aberration or if USC has simply been so good recently that Carrollís coaching deficiencies were being masked, but he was probably the biggest loser on Wednesday night.

 

(More on the fourth and two play.  Again, I think it was the right call to go for it there, because even if you punt, Texas was probably going to score.  Perhaps had the momentum been different, Texas would have stalled out, but I donít think so.  The bottom line though is that the play calling was brutal.  LenDale had been crushing people in the second half, but he had been held to less than three yards on two of his previous three runs and it was obvious that Texas was stacking the line.  If you arenít going to run a toss play for Bush Ė Iíd like to see anybody keep that guy from sprinting for two yards Ė than let Leinart take a three-step drop and fire a slant to Jarrett.  How could Texas stop that play?  Itís not like the clock is a factor, because it stops with change of possession anyway.  You have to use your head there.  Terrible call.)

 

Underrated USC stars.  Iíve always felt that USC was more than just Bush and Leinart.  LenDale White is getting a ton of pub after his 124 yards and 3 TDís, but heís been this good for a long time.  He set the tone in the title game versus Oklahoma last year with his power running (despite an injury) and he led the nation in touchdowns this year on his way to setting the USC career record.  Iíve been touting him as a top 15 pick all year and Iím glad to see him get his due, even if it came at Reggieís expense. 

 

Next on the list is receiver Dwayne Jarrett.  Forget Mike Williams, this guy is going to be the best receiver to come out of this dynasty.  His touchdown catch, when he took out two Texas defensive backs (yet another reason USC should have thrown the ball on that fourth down play), was jaw dropping.  Heís big, strong, fast, and has great hands.  Plus, he seems to have a much better attitude than Williams and a better work ethic.  With John David Booty throwing the ball next year, one can imagine Jarrett eclipsing 20 touchdowns.

 

Finally, how about some love for Dominque Byrd.  He made the huge one-handed catch against Oklahoma last year and he had some very impressive plays in this one as well.  He regularly drags defenders for extra yards, he blocks, and he has great size and speed to go with terrific hands.  He should be a fantastic NFL tight end. 

 

(Even though he plays for Texas, throw tight end David Thomas into this mix.  He was outstanding.)

 

Adam Hoff is a columnist for the Webby-winning WhatifSports.com.

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