KEITH JACKSON: Throws it down the sideline...
SPENCER MICHELS: The University of Southern California had its number one ranking and its 34-game winning streak on the line last night in Pasadena.
Texas, with a 20-game win streak of its own and a number two ranking, was the slight underdog in a game where the lead and bragging rights rocked back and forth all evening.
KEITH JACKSON: Touchdown!
SPENCER MICHELS: USC's Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, touted as the nation's top player, was often bottled up by the Texas defense. But he picked up 82 rushing yards and scored one dramatic touchdown.
KEITH JACKSON: To the corner...
SPENCER MICHELS: USC's vaunted quarterback Matt Leinart passed for 365 yards and the Trojans held what appeared to be a comfortable lead into the fourth quarter.
But the USC performances were eclipsed by the Texas Longhorns' quarterback Vince Young, who completed 30 of 40 attempted passes, rushed on his own for 200 yards and went on to score three touchdowns.
KEITH JACKSON: Here it goes...touchdown!
SPENCER MICHELS: With time short, USC failed to convert on a fourth and one play and Texas had its chance at glory.
KEITH JACKSON: He didn't get it!
SPENCER MICHELS: With just 19 seconds left in the game, the Longhorns trailed by five points. The championship was up for grabs.
KEITH JACKSON: He scored from the corner. He's got it!
SPENCER MICHELS: And so Texas went home with the roses and the national title, winning by a final score of 41-38.
JIM LEHRER: And to author and sportswriter John Feinstein.
John, does it really qualify as, to be called as one of the best college football games of all time?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: It does, Jim, because of the stakes. I mean you see football games that go back and forth the way this one did, you see last-second touchdowns and heroics.
But you don't often see them in a national championship game, with one-team going for a third straight national title and a 35-game winning streak, with another team with great football tradition, Texas, which hadn't won a national championship since 1969 coming from 12 points down as we saw in the piece, in the last six minutes and forty-two seconds to pull it out on their last possible try on fourth down in the middle of the night on the East Coast.
JIM LEHRER: Doesn't get much better than that, yeah.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: No, very dramatic.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Just as a practical matter, you are the expert, were those two teams on the field literally number one and number two, the two best teams in college football?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: I think they were. But unfortunately because Division I-A college football is the only sport on earth that does not have either a play-off or a tournament to determine its champion, we can't be sure. Penn State was one-play away from being just as undefeated as Texas and Southern California.
In the NCAA basketball tournament every year you have teams that are ranked one and two going into the tournament, but they have to earn their way to the championship game. Last year was the first time in 30 years that the teams that were one and two going into the tournament played in the final.
So my answer would be a qualified yes, I believe they were the best teams. But this is not the best way to determine who the best teams are.
JIM LEHRER: Vince Young, the Texas quarterback, has he -- does he play like this all the time? Or was this just an extraordinary night he had?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: He always does in that stadium.
JIM LEHRER: Is that right?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: A year ago he had 429 total yards in the Rose Bowl against Michigan. It wasn't a national championship game but he seems to love playing in Pasadena.
Maybe the NFL ought to move a team back to Los Angeles and make him the quarterback. But he has -- what the pro scouts say is that his improvement over the last two years has been remarkable. He's huge for a quarterback, six foot five, 230 pounds, great runner. But his arm seems to be getting better and better.
And he might have played his way into being the number one draft pick because even though everybody thinks Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy winner, will go with the number one pick. The Houston Texans right now have the number one pick. Vince Young is from Houston, Texas.
JIM LEHRER: For those that don't follow football that closely, when you say number one pick, this is among all the NFL teams, the worst record team gets to pick first and you think maybe this guy, Vince Young, if he's in the draft.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right, which is not a certainty.
JIM LEHRER: Because he is a junior.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right and so is Reggie Bush but they are both probably going to come out, give up their last year of eligibility, be in the draft.
The feeling has been Bush was so good this year he'd be number one. But if you are the Houston Texans and you have a hometown kid with this kind of potential, maybe you have to take him.
JIM LEHRER: John, just for those who are not professionals as you are, watching this game last night, it wasn't just Bush and young, it seemed there were some extraordinary performances by an awful lot of these kids on both teams.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Right.
JIM LEHRER: These really were good football.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Oh they were superb football teams. Both Pete Carroll, the Southern Cal coach, and Mack Brown the Texas coach who now does not have to answer questions now about whether he can win a big game, have put together great talent, particularly on offense.
This was an offense-dominated game, thus the 41-38 final score. But these -- there are great athletes on the line. The speed of the linemen now, these guys weigh over 300 pounds Jim, and they can run like deer. And you're right, there was talent all over the field.
JIM LEHRER: The play-by-play announcers gave a lot of credit to the coaches that you just mentioned. Did they deserve it?
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Yes, I think what Pete Carroll has done rebuilding Southern Cal is one of the more remarkable coaching jobs of the last 20 years. This was a great program fallen on hard times when he took over and they'd won 34 straight games before last night.
And Mack Brown, again, Texas hadn't won the national championships since 1969, once one of the great powers in college football. He's now restored that.
JIM LEHRER: So coaches do make a difference.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Oh, they do make a difference because they have to recruit great players.
JIM LEHRER: Not just what they do on the field.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Long before they get on the field.
JIM LEHRER: Got it, John, thanks a lot.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Jim.