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Revisiting the 2006 Rose Bowl: 5 Underrated Plays

I guess I'm like most Texas fans; I can't watch the 2006 National Championship game enough. Maybe in another five years, I will have had enough. But not right now. Plus, does anyone have better things to do with their time in the July sports abyss? I didn't think so.

I wasn't alive to see the other Texas championship teams, so that glorious Wednesday night four and a half years ago goes down as the best sports moment of my life. I've beaten myself up so many times for not going to the game. (I did go to this year's National Championship, and it was a fantastic experience despite the events that transpired, of which I will not speak here.)

I've enjoyed revisiting and reliving the 2006 Rose Bowl several times. I feel that I need to be completely honest here before I go any further. I was incredibly nervous the entire time. I felt like I was watching my young son for four hours in a very dangerous situation. But I get that way when the Hook 'ems play big games. My pessimistic side starts to win. Pessimistic David says, "Maybe USC is just too good ... Are we really at their level? ... They have two freakin' Heisman winners in the same backfield."

It's not that I thought we couldn't win. I knew we could. It was just a very exhilarating but nerve-racking experience for me. I think I forgot to breathe at times. Even when Matt Leinart's last pass sailed to the sidelines as time ran out, I felt like someone was going to come in and take it all away. I couldn't let myself just fully enjoy it.

I tell you this to say that I've enjoyed watching the game so much more over the last few years. Maybe I'm in the vast minority here, but it's been more fun the second, third and 12th time around. I've been able to watch the game in different ways, discovering things I never noticed before. And it never gets old.

If you're like me you've watched several plays in slow-motion (assuming you have the DVD, of course), and multiple times, to get a full understanding of exactly what happened. One of the best things about revisiting the game is picking out plays and moments that no one really talked much about-key plays that many people seemed to have missed, or at least grossly underrated. Everyone remembers the big fourth-down stop, but do you remember the other big fourth-down stop? Yes, Matt Leinart's interception was huge, but it wasn't as pivotal as Reggie Bush's mistake.

In a game packed with crucial moments, some of these have been swept from memory. So, here are five key plays that, in my opinion, need to be more appreciated for their impact.

First Quarter - 4th Down Stop at the Texas 17 Yard-line

Texas had fumbled a punt. USC had scored a touchdown and was threatening again. Robert Killebrew had just stopped Reggie Bush on a flair pass the play before. The teams lined up for a fourth-and-one. Matt Leinart tried to sneak it, but was stuffed. Texas ended up punting on the next possession, but it sent USC back inside its own 20 yard-line. Had the play not been made, the first quarter could have ended with the Trojans up 14-0.

Early Second Quarter - Reggie's Bush's Bad Decision

This play came on UCS's drive after the fourth-down stop we just talked about. Now, this is one of those plays that most people easily remember. Vince Young's game-winning touchdown was the play of the game, for sure, but this, in my opinion, was the most pivotal play of the game.

USC was on the move at their own 45 when Leinart hit Bush on a screen pass. Bush turned on the jets and made a fantastic move at the Texas 45. Just before he was tackled at about the Texas 17, he tried to lateral the ball. It fell to the ground and the Longhorns dove on it. This play turned the whole game around. USC could have once again been set up with a first down deep in Texas territory, but instead, Texas got the ball. This time they turned it into points, driving down for a field goal to keep the game wide open.

Early Fourth Quarter - The Incomplete Pass

It was first-and-10 and Texas had the ball at its own 31. Vince tossed it to Jamaal Charles, who caught and dropped the ball as he was being tackled. The play was reviewed and it was ruled an incomplete pass. Had it been ruled a fumble, UCS would have set up at about the Texas 42 with an eight-point lead. Instead, Vince led a great drive that ended in a field goal to make it a five-point game.

David Thomas's First Down with 5 Minutes to Play

USC had recently scored on a long pass from Leinart to Jarrett, putting Texas down by 12. Vince almost threw an interception on the next drive, throwing the ball up and across the field. Two plays later on a third-and-2, Vince found an open Thomas for a huge first down. Texas probably would have gone for it on fourth down since they were down by 12, but this play kept the drive alive. Two plays later, Vince scampered into the endzone from 17 yards out for his second score.

Facemask Against USC on a Third-and-12 with Less Than 2 Minutes to Play

The game-winning drive was on. Texas had quickly reached a third-and-12 situation around mid-field. Vince rolled right and hit Quan Cosby, who was tackled well short of the first down. But a late facemask just before he went down tacked on the yards to give Texas a first down. Without the penalty, it would have been about fourth-and-6 with less than two minutes to go. Who knows what would have happened. Maybe Vince would have scored on the next play. Maybe Texas would have been stuffed. But it was an enormous play. We all know what happened next.

So, there you have it-five underrated key plays. Maybe you remembered them; maybe you didn't. Go back and watch them in context. It's always a great time to re-watch the greatest college football game of all time. I can't think of a better way to get your head right for the coming season.

How about you? What key plays do you think get overlooked? Leave a comment.