Texas' Brown sheds critics by winning the big one
Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 1:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 1:01 p.m.
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - For all the critics who poked fun at Mack Brown by calling him "Coach February," it's time to show a bit more respect.
Calling him "National Champion" will do just fine.
After years of frustration and near-misses with teams from Tulane to North Carolina to Texas, the Longhorns coach finally shed the reputation of a coach who can't win the big one.
With a thrilling 41-38 Rose Bowl victory Wednesday night over No. 1 Southern California on the legs and right arm of quarterback Vince Young, the 54-year-old Brown won his first national championship and Texas' first outright title since 1969.
"It's not about me," Brown said. "That's why it didn't bother me then, and that's why I'm not mad at them now. They'll just be quiet for a while. They'll be writing and saying different things."
For years, Brown has played runner-up to the likes of Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. At North Carolina, he built the Tar Heels into an Atlantic Coast Conference power, but couldn't get past FSU.
At Texas, Brown built a reputation as a master recruiter in February but couldn't beat Stoops' Sooners and therefore couldn't win the Big 12. He finally beat Oklahoma this season after five straight losses and won his first career conference championship.
The win even elevated Brown near the status of Texas icon Darrell Royal, the 81-year-old patriarch of the program who won national titles in 1963 and '69 and shared a third in 1970.
One of the first things Brown wanted to do after the game was call Royal, an ardent Brown supporter who watched the game from a stadium luxury box.
"He's wanted us to win for a long time," Brown said.
Brown's national championship game matched him against a Trojans team that drew comparisons with the best in history. He beat Pete Carroll, the USC coach whose hip and freewheeling West Coast style captivated college football and made Brown's folksy approach look dull.
For a month, Brown's second-ranked team heard the praise heaped on USC and quietly notched it away in their memory.
"We didn't get no respect from none of the media," Young said. "We really did work hard for it. We wanted to show the world we did deserve to play in this game and we deserved to go out there and get a victory. That's what we did."
While Young was the Longhorns' dynamic leader on the field all season, Texas won the national title with a team built to repeat in 2006 if the quarterback returns for his senior season. Fourteen starters return next season, including most of an offense that averaged 51 points in 2005.
"I think he's one of the great players ever to play college football," Brown said. "If he comes back next year, which we think he will, he'll have a great shot to win the Heisman."
Brown's leap from Big 12 runner-up to national title hinged on his relationship with Young, who was the top-high school recruit in the country when he signed with Texas in 2002.
Brown and the kid from the tough streets of Houston's Fourth Ward bonded like the coach had rarely done with his players.
The coach was smart enough to resist the urge to bench Young after a shutout loss to Oklahoma in 2004. Instead, he pushed Young to improve as a thrower while also learning to trust his instincts as a runner.
It was the perfect combination against USC when Young ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 267 yards. By the end of the game, the Trojans were helpless to stop Young from scrambling 8 yards for the final touchdown with 19 seconds left.
"Coach Brown is a phenomenal guy," Young said. "To see my guys happy, with the coaches and the fans, that's why I love playing football."
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