BCBEST

By Ian Gold

Vince Young will forever be known for his Rose Bowl heroics. Young showed his big-game ability in first trip to Pasadena last year when he blazed by Michigan. After vowing to return the following year for the championship, he was determined to make good on his promise.

Young led his Longhorns undefeated through the regular season and then proceded to dance and throw around Trojan defenders for a 41-38 win. Blah Blah Blah.

I’m not trying to hate on the Longhorns’ accomplishments – three seasons worth of teams have tried to knock off the Trojans and failed. Ending a 34-game winning streak alone is worth applause. But I didn’t see a win that shocked the world, I saw the disappointing effort and pompous play USC “survived” with all year finally catch up to them.

If USC had played straight up, used sense instead of believing its own invincibility and stepped away from the mirror for just one game, it would have had its third consecutive championship and 35th straight win.

The opera singer play of the game was Reggie Bush’s me-me-me attempted toss to another Trojan to get in the end-zone. A play that would have put USC up 14-0. A lead that would have put all the momentum on the Trojan’s sideline.

True, Vince Young would never have given up, but games like this are closer to a boxing match then anything else. The heavyweight favorite, boasting as many Heisman winners as National Championship’s, could throw the haymaker early. If you don’t think that one mistake changed the complexion of the entire game – with the potential blowout avoided by Bush’s costly turnover – contact me, and with minor compensation, I’ll teach you college football.

Bush’s mistake was only somewhat overshadowed by another one of his highlight-reel runs to put the Trojans ahead late in the game.

At the time of Bush’s fumble, a touchdown would have put USC up 14, however they should have already been up by two scores. The failed quarterback sneak by Matt Leinart on a controversial fourth down call by USC also cost them bigtime. It was early in the game, USC already up seven, and Pete Carroll instructed Leinart and the offense to try and draw the over-excited Texas D-line off-sides. Instead, the D-line stayed patient and Leinart was not as fortunate as he was against the unlucky Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Instead of taking the easy points, Texas was given the ball back. Carroll understood the importance of a two possession lead; Leinart looked around the huddle and assumed it wouldn’t matter anyway.

This was all before halftime. USC was talented enough to play the same way at Notre Dame and squeak by, talented enough to play the same way against Arizona State and squeak by and talented enough play the same way against Fresno State and squeak by; and after I’ve pointed fingers at two Heisman winners, it’s the coaching staffs turn.

How could you not get your team respectfully ready to play a team as good as Texas? USC – despite not turning up its game to a championship level, as they had done in the past two bowl games, still had a two possession lead late in the game.

With the lead, USC’s defensive intensity plummeted and forgot how to manage the clock on offense.

I have two questions: could the Trojans have made the BCS Championship with a defense that could allow a team to get 15 yards a clip and stop the clock on the last two drives of the game? And more importantly, knowing that Texas failed to stop the run all game, why didn’t Pete Carroll run the ball, and the clock as much as he could?

Congratulations Texas, you left us with a Rose Bowl not to be soon forgotten. Congratulations USC, you provided us with a model for football narcissism.

When Irish eyes are …

If I close my eyes tight enough, I can still hear the Notre Dame Fight song reverberating through my head. You know the feeling you get when you wake up after leaving a DVD menu screen up during your beauty rest? That theme song will haunt you for days.

I had the pleasure of watching the Fiesta Bowl from South Bend’s east campus. Before soaking in the Notre Dame/Ohio State matchup, I literally followed shamrocks all the way to my destination. Dillon’s Bar, a little peace of heaven less then 15 miles west of New York has green shamrocks lining the cement path to the inside. Ohio State faithful huddled in Columbus, Notre Dame Faithful in their neighborhood establishments. Hordes of friends, none of which are called by their real names, have made a tradition of meeting during the Fall to cheer on the Irish.

As I pushed the heavy wooden door open, my eyes were treated to the site of kelly green and the sound of fiddles and bagpipes. My friends had shared in this experience throughout the season and had a glimmer in their eyes as they anxiously awaited my reactions. I am not a Notre Dame fan; but having great respect for the history and pageantry of college sports, how could you avoid smiling? Notre Dame football is special – my first time to South Bend was a religious experience. And while taking my spot atop the worn bar stool, I realized that Dillon’s Bar had surgically removed a little part of that and transported it all the way to West Orange, N.J. It didn’t matter that nobody in the bar had attended the University – their blood ran green.

The dark wooden walls are decorated with flags of the bar’s favorite local sports teams, Notre Dame banners and largest of all – the flag of Ireland. A closer look will reveal newspaper clippings from the bar’s family and friends, athletic accomplishments dating back to the 1960’s. It’s an amazing aura; just walking through the front door means you’ve pledged allegiance to the history of the bar.

As the game approaches, I notice a plaque above the cash register which reads, “There are no strangers here, only friends you have not met.” Just about the same time, a regular walks in sporting a Buckeye jersey. I quickly amend the plaque, “There is one stranger here.” Quickly, the Buckeye fan pulls up his pant leg to reveal a tattoo of the leprechaun -ÿhis Irish heritage saved him from almost immediate deportation.

During the coin toss, all the ethnic music stops short, and the Notre Dame Fight song starts up. The crowd as one stands up and finds a spot at the bar; rhythmically they pound a hand on the bar and sing the lyrics. Even though I held my Big Ten bias, hey – when in Rome?

“Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame, wake up the echoes cheering her name.

Send the volley cheer on high, Shake down the thunder from the sky, what though the odds be great or small Old Notre Dame will win over all, while her loyal sons are marching onward to victory.”

Notre Dame came out of the gates strong and easily moved down the field for its first touchdown; once again, fight song. But this time the fight song was accompanied by a man putting on a golden helmet and slamming through the bathroom door head first. I’m sure the anxious glimmer in my friends eyes had something to do with him. Following the touchdown, I was serenaded with outrageous claims.

“Ohio State has never faced an offense this good.”

“Brady Quinn will go down as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time”

And my personal favorite, “Notre Dame could beat any NFL team.”

But the marching on to victory was short lived. Ohio State proved to be the superior team. But the loyal Irish fans never lost heart. Rounds of beer were passed around as a celebration to a great year, shots were passed around because of the stellar recruiting class and sandwiches were brought out to celebrate hiring one of the best coaches around for the next decade.

The crowd disbanded after the loss. The large wooden door was propped open for the mass excites of ND faithful and the sounds of the Notre Dame Fight song escaped into the West Orange night.

Ian Gold is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]