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Shock 'Em, 'horns

After USC held the spotlight for most of the season with its rally over Notre Dame and Reggie Bush's Heisman highlight film, Young and Texas finished with a flourish

January 05, 2006|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

Trying to choose the top moments of the 2005 college season is like trying to pick your favorite Steve Spurrier visor toss.

Trying to narrow the list to 10 is tougher than Bevo's backside.

How could you leave out UC Davis upsetting Stanford?

How could you not remember the Alamo (Bowl), when Michigan nearly reprised the ending of Cal-Stanford in 1982?

What about New Mexico State going 0-12?

Or Gary Barnett getting the ax at Colorado after winning the Big 12 North championship?

Or UCLA's Karl Dorrell going 10-2 but having to explain the two?

What about any (pick one) moment from one of 28 champions crowned in 28 bowl games?

Or Rutgers finally getting out of that rut?

Or Central Florida's amazing turnaround under George O'Leary?

You could go on and on, but you could also start bumping into the start of next season.

So here's the list:

1. What Brown Did

The eyes of the college football world are again upon Texas, which lassoed its first national title since 1970 with a 41-38 upset over USC in the Rose Bowl.

It was a crowning achievement for the Longhorns and eighth-year Coach Mack Brown, who takes his place next to Darrell Royal as one of Texas' all-time great coaches.

The knock on Brown before last year was he had never led a team to a BCS bowl, never won a conference title as a coach, couldn't beat Oklahoma when it mattered and failed to lead Texas to the promised land.

As Royal asked rhetorically a few weeks before the Rose Bowl, "If we win, what is it he [Brown] hasn't done?"

The answer now, as we know, is "nothing."

2. Katrina

Not since Sept. 11 has an event outside the lines had such an impact on the sport. When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast and flooded New Orleans in late August, it altered the course of a season. Katrina uprooted families, lives, schedules and Tulane's athletic department, forcing the football team to relocate to Louisiana Tech and play 11 games in 11 cities.

"All we have now is football," Tulane Coach Chris Scelfo said after the team, which finished 2-9, decided to play the season.

Katrina also caused severe damage to the Louisiana Superdome, flooded the Sugar Bowl offices and forced this year's game to be moved to Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

3. Reggie Bush

He is being hailed by some as the greatest college player ever and compared as a running back to the likes of Gale Sayers, Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders.

Yeah, it was a pretty good year for Bush, who led USC to a 12-0 regular season and won the Heisman Trophy in a runaway vote, earning a record 784 first-place votes to out-distance Texas quarterback Vince Young and Matt Leinart.

Bush probably clinched the Heisman Trophy with an astonishing late-night performance against Fresno State on Nov. 19 when he amassed 513 total yards, the second most in NCAA history, in a 50-42 win at the Coliseum. His side-to-side 50-yard scoring run in the third quarter may become the Doug Flutie pass of this generation's highlight reel.

Now, he belongs to the ages ... and soon to the Houston Texans.

4. USC 34, Notre Dame 31

It's not hyperbole to suggest the Oct. 15 game in South Bend will be talked about for years. First-year Irish Coach Charlie Weis matched wits with Trojan Coach Pete Carroll and just fell short in a game that ended spectacularly (for USC) with Leinart's controversial one-yard run with three seconds left. The last drive provided two of the top plays ever in college football: Leinart's 61-yard pass to Dwayne Jarrett on fourth and nine from the Trojan 26 and "Leinart's Leap" on the Trojans' final play, aided by an illegal nudge, to be forever known as "The Bush Push."

5. JoePa

In restoring respect to the Penn State program and proving you're never too old to learn, the turned-79-in-December Joe Paterno led his Nittany Lions to the Big Ten title and shut down several websites that had called for his ouster.

One was, which became a search engine touting low costs for vacation packages.

Paterno rebounded from a stretch in which Penn State endured four losing seasons in a five-year span to earn 2005 coach-of-the-year honors from the Associated Press. Paterno can be cantankerous, suspicious of the print media and sometimes overprotective of his players, but he is still outworking coaches half his age and recently signed a contract extension through 2008.

Don't bet against him fulfilling it.

6. BCS (Gulp) Worked

What, no controversy? After years of confusion and ridicule, the oft-times uproarious bowl championship series got it right in 2005. The top two teams in the first BCS standings, USC and Texas, ended up as the only undefeated major colleges and met for the undisputed national title. There was one minor complaint as Oregon, at 10-1 in the regular season, thought it deserved an at-large BCS bid, but it was locked out of a major bowl by finishing fifth in the final standings.

The BCS also got lucky, as only Michigan's last-second win over Penn State on Oct. 15 in Ann Arbor prevented Penn State from becoming this season's third undefeated team.

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