Rose Bowl's Top Matchup: Bush vs. Huff

Texas QB Vince Young couldn't catch USC's Reggie Bush in the Heisman race; now, SS Michael Huff's expects it will be primarily his job to run him down in the open field on January 4. The matchup pitting the Heisman and Thorpe Award winners is the most intriguing, and critical, of the BCS National Championship Game.

Whether Bush lines up in the backfield or in the slot, Huff believes the A.P. Player of the Year to be his top assignment when the Horns and Trojans meet in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

"I'll be on him," Huff said. "That's what I'm going to tell (Co-Defensive Coordinators) Coach (Gene) Chizik and Coach (Duane) Akina. If I'm the best, then I'm going to play against their best player. I know if I play well against their best player, our defense will player better. And if our defense plays better then the team will play better. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

One could almost draw names from a hat when tabbing USC's 'best player.' QB Matt Leinart put up better numbers this year (254-of-391 passing for 3,450 yards, including 27 TDs and seven INTs) than he did during his 2004 Heisman season. RB LenDale White ran for 1,178 yards on 177 totes (just 10 fewer carries than Bush) and posted a team-leading 27 rushing TDs. WR Dwayne Jarrett is the leading receiver (81 catches for 1,153 yards) and is faster than former Trojan Mike Williams.

But there is only one 2005 Heisman winner and Huff expects to be assigned the same type of lockdown duties in Pasadena as he did in Columbus, Ohio on September 10.

That's when Huff held explosive Buckeye WR Ted Ginn Jr. to just nine yards on two grabs. The previous season he shut down former Oklahoma WR Mark Clayton, limiting the All-American to 19 yards on three receptions. However, the multifaceted Bush is in a league of his own, Huff believes.

"Both (Ginn and Bush) are great athletes and both did a lot of great things," Huff said, "but there's just something about Reggie. He just makes plays. If he's trapped in the backfield, he'll find a way to break for 80. Plus, he'll get the ball a lot more than Ginn did because he was just a receiver."

And Bush does just about everything else for the nation's top offense. He averaged 8.9 ypc, generating 1,658 yards on 187 attempts (138.2 ypg). Bush added 383 yards on 31 receptions and is credited with 17 TDs this season: 15 rushing and two receiving. He also totaled 391 yards on 23 kickoff returns and 179 yards on 18 punt returns.

So, how do you stop Bush? You don't, head coach Mack Brown said.

"You have to chase the ball and you have to have great pursuit angles," Brown said. "He's going to make his plays; you just try to keep him from having the long plays."

Huff is the fastest player on the Texas defense, but some have questioned if the track star can match Bush's speed. Coaches are attempting to simulate Bush's breakaway burst with RBs Ramonce Taylor and Jamaal Charles rather than using second-team or scout-team players against the defensive starters.

"Nobody has contained him the past two years," Huff added. "Hopefully, we'll be the first."

Obviously, Huff will get by with a little help from his friends.

"There are five (DBs) that can play," Brown said. "They're all starters and they don't play at the same time unless we have a nickel or dime (package). They're interchangeable. Corners can play safety and vice-versa. They've played ever since they've been here; every one of them. They've had some tough days and they've earned their stripes. They're very confident because there's not much they haven't seen. Because of their confidence, experience, ability and because they're big -- they're not little, short guys -- we can match them up with man coverage. We can also do a lot of disguising with their experience, and they do not get too far out of position very often."

Texas will counter the explosive Trojan aerial assault with college football's No. 5 pass defense (155.9 ypc) but, for now, Huff relishes the fact that most oddsmakers expect Southern Cal to three-peat as national champs.

"It's fun for me because nobody is giving us a chance," Huff said of the seven-point underdog Longhorns. "Everybody expects us to go out there and give up 50 or 60 points. If we hold them to 20 or 30 points, we'll be happy because we know our offense will do what they do every week which is to score a lot of points."

The Horns will practice through December 22 before breaking for five days. The team is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on December 28.

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