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In retrospect

Rose Bowl quick thoughts and why nots a day later

Posted: Thursday January 5, 2006 7:15PM; Updated: Saturday January 7, 2006 2:41PM
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Jeff Lewis/US PRESSWIRE
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It's been 24 hours since the game ended and it's still hard to believe USC gave up a 12-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the biggest game of the season. It shouldn't shock anyone that Texas won, the Longhorns have won 20 in a row now, but even the staunchest UT supporter wouldn't have bet the ranch that Texas would score two touchdowns and stop USC twice in that time span.

• He may say he has no regrets about coming back for a fifth year at USC, but if I'm Matt Leinart it would be hard to say that my return has been a success. Had he come out last season, he would have left after winning the Heisman Trophy and his second straight national championship, and would have been the first pick in the draft, signing with the San Francisco 49ers and staying in California. Now he leaves after losing the national championship in his final game, finishing a distant third in his quest for another Heisman, and will be either the second or third pick in the draft, going to New Orleans or Tennessee.

• While everyone is wondering what was going through the mind of Reggie Bush as he tried to lateral the ball to Brad Walker after a 37-yard run in the first quarter, I'm more curious to know what was going through Walker's mind. First, as a freshman walk-on receiver with no receptions on the season and no bio to speak of, I'm wondering what I'm doing on the field. Secondly, I'm wondering why our Heisman winning tailback is trying to lateral the ball to me with three Longhorns tackling him inside the 20-yard line. Thirdly, I still can't believe I'm actually on the field.

Pete Carroll's first decision to go for it on 4th-and-one at the Texas 16-yard line wasn't necessarily bad, but to call for a quarterback sneak with an empty backfield and Texas' entire defense bunched at the line of scrimmage was ridiculous. If nothing else, keep Bush back there to push Leinart like he did against Notre Dame.

The call that has been second-guessed the most, however, was Carroll's decision to go for it on 4th-and-two at the Texas 45-yard line with two minutes remaining in the game and a  38-33 lead. Maybe you think about going for it if you only need a yard. Needing a full two yards, why not let Tom Malone pin Texas inside its 20 and make the 'Horns go the length of the field to win the game? That call had more to do with Carroll having more faith in his offense gaining two yards than his defense stopping Texas from scoring a touchdown, even if the Longhorns had to go 80 yards in two minutes.

The call to go for it wasn't bad considering the success LenDale White had, as he rushed for 124 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, needing two yards to get a first down and clinch the win, giving the ball to White was the right call. The only problem with the play was not having Bush on the field in some capacity. His presence alone would have drawn some attention.

• Although USC's vaunted offense tallied a Rose Bowl-record 574 yards and 38 points, Texas stopped the Trojans when it needed to most -- early in the game. USC had the ball inside Texas' 25-yard line five times in the first half and came away with only 10 points.

• Carroll's image as a defensive genius took a hit this season, as his unit gave up over 400 yards six times and more than 40 points twice, highlighted, of course, by Texas' 556 yards and 41 points. It was easily the worst defensive team the Trojans have fielded since Carroll took over in 2001. The last time the Trojans gave up more than 40 points before this season was in 1996, when they gave up 48 points twice, against Arizona State and UCLA, both double-overtime losses. The last time they gave up over 40 in regulation was in '91, and the last time they gave up over 40 points twice in regulation, well, that's never happened in the 118-year history of Trojans football.

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