My resentment towards the Texas Longhorns didn’t begin in Texas when I lived there. It wasn’t like that. To be honest, before I moved to Los Angeles in 7th grade, I hadn’t even heard of USC or Southern Cal. In fact, as recently as the USC vs Northwestern Rose Bowl, I even rooted against USC. It takes a lot to admit that, but it is true.
My resentment of the Texas Longhorns didn’t begin when the Vince Young led squad tore out my Trojan heart at the end of our 2005 clash at the National Championship. No, my resentment began one year earlier and USC was not even involved.
In 2004-05, Texas beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl while USC went on to smack around the Adrian Peterson-powered Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl to win the BCS Championship. Michigan got to the Rose Bowl by winning the Big Ten. Texas got there because Mack Brown cried to the media. Mack Brown’s actions were the spark in my loathing. And it had nothing to do with USC.
It’s hard to compare matchups in football and how performances against one team can translate to performances against another team. Oregon murdered USC this year. USC beat Ohio State in Columbus. Ohio State beat Oregon on a neutral field. There is no transitive theory in football. That said, let’s look at what was going on in late 2004…
With USC and Oklahoma set to due battle in the Orange Bowl and Michigan already in the Rose Bowl, there was an open spot in Pasadena. Prior to the final BCS standings, Cal looked poised to secure the Rose Bowl bid. After all, their one loss was a nail-biter to USC, the unanimous #1. Texas had lost to Oklahoma, the unanimous #2.
Cal had a chance to run up the score in it’s final game against Southern Miss. Despite a less-than-stellar performance, Cal had a chance to run the score up in the end, but did not. This was in the era of Bob Stoops (even moreso than Mack Brown) running up ridiculous 70 point games to look good on paper (they sure didn’t look very good on the field in Miami). Jeff Tedford told then-Cal QB Aaron Rodgers to take a knee.
Mack Brown saw the Rose Bowl bid leaning to Cal and he took it to the airwaves. He took interviews. He took television appearances. He lobbied east coast voters who had never seen Cal or Texas play (but heard Austin has a lovely music scene). He was what high school football coaches refer to as a “whiny bitch”.
Texas did not leap Cal in the human polls, but they closed the gap. Brown swung votes. He swung enough votes to snub Cal from the Rose Bowl by a narrow margin. I remember this being hard to watch. Don’t get me wrong. I really do not like Cal. I don’t like Jeff Tedford. I think Cal is consistently overrated, but make no mistake that in 2004, they were not. That was a good football team who did everything, but going undefeated. If USC was the clear number one, and there was little doubt after they completely massacred Oklahoma, Cal’s one loss had to be a better loss than Texas’ to Oklahoma. Right?
Cal had statistically dominated the Trojans all day and fell short on a 1st and goal series, culminating in a missed pass attempt on 4th and 9. It was one of those great games.
Do I mean to say Texas didn’t deserve a bid to that Rose Bowl? Not at all. That Rose Bowl was a gem and it was Vince Young’s arrival on the big stage. You see, my loathing of the Longhorns had nothing to do with the team, their really bad ass logo, their cool school colors, or their giant walking steak of a mascot.
My loathing of Texas is all about Mack Brown and him whining like a school girl that skinned her knees.
As much as I was sad to see USC lose to Texas the following year by squandering a 12 point lead late in the game, Texas earned it. As much as it ticked me off to hear the NCAA admit the referees blew some important red zone calls in a game that was close enough that they mattered, I took nothing away from Texas. Both teams were tremendous that night. USC was a part of Texas’ greatness. Without a worthy adversary, that win is just a championship. That game was Clash of the Titans.
I remember sitting in the Rose Bowl with that 12 point lead thinking we were due for a slap in the face. Something was going to go wrong. I knew because just three months earlier I was in a Notre Dame section in South Bend watching the infamous “Bush Push” game. To be there, to see it, you’d have understood. We cheated death. I snuck back to my car and drove a silent, shocked and stupefied late-night run back to Chicago staring at the other USC fans on the road giving each other “no way that just happened” looks.
After stealing a win in front of Touchdown Jesus, you just kind of knew you’d have to lose a heartbreaker.
I have been waiting for Texas’ heartbreaker since Mack Brown begged his way into that Rose Bowl. I finally saw it last night.
I felt terrible for Colt McCoy, even though I have never really liked the guy. He is the all-time winningest college quarterback and deserved a chance to go for a title. I think they probably win that game if he is not hurt. But he was. It was austere.
I found myself pulling for the rookie Gilbert. I couldn’t believe I was rooting for Texas, especially with Bama’s QB being a diehard Dodger fan, but I was…
…Until I saw the look on Mack Brown’s face. That was all I needed. I was seeing the cosmos return to normality. The football gods evened things out. How fitting that Pete Carroll was there as an analyst to see it. I hoped somewhere Jeff Tedford was watching.
Colt McCoy will be fine. He will heal and make millions in the NFL. He’ll even get over that game. It wasn’t his fault. It was just a surreal cosmic shuffle.
Mack had violated the adage of “letting your play on the field do the talking for you”. Sure, that year Texas said a lot with their performance on the field. It’s just that Mack knew it wasn’t enough. He knew it and so he lobbied. And then got his way.
Some six years later, he got what he had coming.