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Back to the Future: The 2006 Rose Bowl

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Coming up with an excuse to watch this game again.

NCAA Football - The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi - USC vs Texas Photo by Scott Clarke/WireImage

Last week we looked at 1971 Oklahoma and the closed circle of college football. What’s next for this perfect offenses series? More from the 70’s? No. The 80s? No. The 90s??? I mean hell, the 90s gave us this fashion statement:

Nope. 2005.

I’m not totally sure this Back to the Future exercise really works if the team in question is from when I was old enough to have my driver’s license. Can we gain any knowledge from a team like the 2005 USC Trojans that we already know so much about already?

This Youtube video has been around for a while and has all the Trojans’ pass concepts, cut up and from the coaches film.

Here’s USC, in the Rose Bowl after its incredible 2005 season, running those exact concepts:

Stick backside Double Slants

Double Slant backside Slant/Flat


This is all stuff we already knew. In fact, you can probably find Norm Chow’s offensive playbook floating around the internet.

So look, maybe this team isn’t perfect for this series. Maybe I just wanted to watch the dang Rose Bowl again. Maybe I just wanted to relive my youth, watching a couple cosmic stars bestow their greatness on the football field. We’re talking about the 23 most perfect offenses of all time — maybe I just wanted to talk about the most perfect game of all time? Surely there was something tactical to gain from it, right?

Listen to the crowd ignite when Young crosses midfield.

And watch this guy.


Watching Reggie leap into the end zone gave me an idea: what if I looked at how USC was able to use their X-factor ATH/RB/WR Reggie Bush in different ways.

Here’s a slip screen that comes off of their FB wheel route. They had hit the fullback on the wheel early in the game for a completion, so they show the same action and then slip it to Bush.

Another type of screen. I call this crack screen. The tackle lets the end go free and then chases the cornerback, while the receiver cracks down on the first available linebacker.

An angle or follow route for Bush. An easy pass and it puts the ball in his hands quickly.

Still, even after looking at the game through the Reggie Bush lens, I wasn’t that impressed. None of this was “Sean Payton + Alvin Kamara” level stuff. I kept watching, though. Kept grinding the tape. Usually when I watch these games, I’ll skip over the other team’s offense, but I couldn’t not watch the mercurial Vince Young.

It was in watching both teams’ offenses that I saw the light.

In this game, I saw the modern college football offense. Only, it was split in two. 2005 USC and 2005 Texas each did certain things that have since become major components for offenses around the country.

USC lined up under center almost all the time. In fact, I still remember running their “empty 3x2 UNDER CENTER” formation in NCAA 2006. Texas, meanwhile, was always in the shotgun. But being under center didn’t stop USC from running what I’ll call some “primitive” RPOs.

Dwayne Jarrett is uncovered so Matt Leinart just opens up and throw the ball to him. Run play called, pass thrown. They did this a few times during the game, sometimes with a bubble or a tunnel screen.

With a backfield tandem of Vince Young and Jamaal Charles, Texas lined up in shotgun and focused on the zone read.

It’s nasty personnel combination to run your zone read with.

Really, all USC was missing in regard to the mid-2010s offense was the shotgun, and all Texas was missing was a nice RPO on plays like this, when they decided to actually block the end:

You put a slant route from the slot receiver and have Young read the linebacker like teams do now, and baby you got a stew going.

Texas was often in a trips set with Limas Sweed isolated on the backside. If they called a pass play, Sweed would often run a six-yard hitch, and Young would throw to him if the corner was off.

These days, teams just make this a pre-snap read and call their run game concept. You have your zone read or whatever, but if the corner is giving a “gift” of six yards, you just take the snap and throw it.

USC ran a lot of “slice” motion. The receiver or back runs parallel to the line of scrimmage underneath the offensive line and then releases to the flat.

With this motion you don’t block the end, but because USC was under center all the time, the Trojans had no way of giving Leinart the ability to read the end. The offensive coordinator had to kind of guess when to call the pass option off of it. Put the quarterback in shotgun and have him read the end to either give the run or throw the slice, and now you’re really cooking.

Texas also ran this counter to their zone read. The guard-tackle counter that Oklahoma ran a ton this year.

On the day, Bush touched the ball 19 times for 177 yards and a touchdown. Vince Young completed 75% of his passes for 267 yards and carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and 3 scores.

On the season, the two-headed monster of Reggie Bush and LenDale White combined for 397 carries, 3,042 yards, 7.7 ypc, and 40 TDs, plus 51 catches, 697 yards, and four receiving TDs. Matt Leinart threw 28 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. Dwayne Jarrett caught 91 passes for 1,274 and 16 touchdowns. This was an incredible offense and team that unfortunately might only be remembered for one thing...