Somehow, you had to believe they had one last miracle left in them.
And as the ghosts of Rose Bowls past seemed to dance in the clouds up through the Arroyo Seca and into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and more than 93,000 watched in person and millions more on television, sure enough, there it was.
Never in the 90-year history of the Rose Bowl has a game been decided on the final play. But in year 91, it did.
Throughout the week, as Texas and Michigan lived two blocks apart at swank Century City hotels right there near Beverly Hills, they had traveled different, and similar paths to this space.
And from the windows facing east from the 'Horns' home, the Westin Century Plaza, you could see the sign on the distant hill. "Hollywood."
Where dreams come true.
They say it never rains on The Parade, and Saturday was no exception. Not on the Tournament of Roses Parade, and not on Texas', either. Despite a record-setting week of rain in Los Angeles, game day, and Parade day, dawned bright and clear. By the time Texas and Michigan kicked off, it was overcast, but the rain stayed away.
And when that kickoff came, the historic stadium was an artist's canvas of the burnt orange of Texas, and the blue of Michigan.
The giant B-2 Stealth bomber had put a punctuation mark on the National Anthem with the second fly-over of the pre-game ceremonies, and now, it was time to put away all of the talk which had been about a shadowy syndicate known as the BCS. It was even appropriate that all of the history, the legends of Darrell Royal and Bo Schembechler and the grandeur of a match between Texas and Michigan, be put aside.
For Saturday afternoon in Pasadena also will belong to the ages. But in that space and time, in the California canyon and throughout the world of electronic media magic, on that grand stage, the moment belonged to the young men on the teams of the Longhorns and the Wolverines.
And so it was fitting that in this first ever meeting of these two, in Texas' first ever Rose Bowl, we were all treated to what long-time observers called one of the most exciting games in the storied history of "The Granddaddy of Them All."
The day had begun for the team like any other game day, but many of their family members, along with a million other folks and viewers from no less than 10 live national network telecasts, watched as the Rose Parade enjoyed its 50th consecutive year without rain.
All of that is important to this story, because the theme of the 2005 parade, and therefore the theme of the game, was "Celebrate Family."
This trip to California had brought a unique connection between the Rose Bowl family, and the Texas Longhorn family. In all of its years in bowl games, in its 36th trip over the last 50 years, Texas has never been more welcomed than it was by the Rose Bowl people. Two families, unexpectedly brought together by chance, formed a bond.
The bond of family also extended to the enormous Texas contingent which made the trip to Pasadena. From the nine charter planes which the Texas Exes gathered from Texas to the thousands of Longhorn fans who gathered on the West Coast from California and other locations, it was the largest migration of a people with a common purpose in state history. Of the 93,000 plus in the stadium, more than half were wearing orange.
Folks who hadn't been around the program in years joyously celebrated the New Year in Tinsel Town.
But the epicenter of the family experience was an extremely unique group of college age kids and their coaches, who have redefined the word "team."
That is why we expected the miracle.
We had seen it early in the season in Arkansas, when it looked for all the world that the Razorbacks were maneuvering for a victory before Texas stripped their hopes away, causing a fumble and recovering it.
The circle tightened when they were down, 35-7 to Oklahoma State, and seemingly faced certain defeat in Kansas. And again, when a stunning play put them behind at halftime to Texas A&M.
So it was to be expected that they would swap leads with Michigan, that they would somehow snatch victory from the Wolverines' determined jaws.
The Saturday experience in the Rose Bowl was a portrait of a team, its coaches, and the people behind it.
From the steamy days of conditioning in the spring, through the hot Texas summer, they had worked for this moment. They had laughed together, cried together. In separate sessions with their position coaches, they had opened their souls before their teammates.
So when Cedric Benson, who played with supreme toughness all season, hurt his knee when he cut on a nine yard run to open the game, Vince Young had his back. And the Texas offense adjusted.
In the traffic coming back from the media day at The Home Depot Center on Thursday, Cedric had talked about the team, and the fact that this team had made the game of football a unique blend of work and fun. Asked about the secret to the good karma, he thought for a minute and then said, "Vince Young."
Sometime after the struggle against Oklahoma and Missouri, probably in the mountains of Colorado and certainly on the South Plains of Texas against Texas Tech, this became Vince Young's team.
And Saturday in Pasadena, he took center stage at the most famous venue in college football.
In the history of Texas football, there are moments that everyone remembers. There are games that define a program, or perhaps better said, define a culture.
That is what happened in Pasadena. That is why this team, which had its critics and its doubters along the way, never doubted itself.
There have been Texas teams, even recently in the Brown era, that probably had more high profile talent. But fusion and destiny aren't built on a computer, and as we've said before, destiny makes an interesting traveling companion.
And so it was that destiny weaved its way into the Rose Bowl Stadium. Make no mistake about this: the challenge was significant. This was not your average opponent. Michigan won the Big Ten, and except for a couple of glitches along the way, was in position to contend for the National Championship.
They have been to 20 Rose Bowl games in their storied history, including the first. They knew the territory, right down to the blades of grass dampened from the week's rains, despite a good field cover.
And they had rare talent. Those weren't breakdowns on defense or special teams for Texas. The remarkable part, particularly on the kickoff returns by Michigan, was the fact that Texas used its speed to recover and prevent touchdowns on the plays.
Study the names of those Michigan players, you will hear from them again, playing on Sundays in the NFL.
But as the folks in the ads say, "You've got questions? We've got answers."
That is why, when it seemed that time was running out on Texas, the Longhorns reached down for one more reply.
And there, with only two seconds remaining in the game and down by two points, stood Dusty Mangum.
So many times over the last four years, he walked on the field, just as he walked on to the Texas team, and kicked the football. Mack Brown called his field goal unit around him, and told them, "if you do your job and protect, he'll kick this."
Twice, Michigan called time out in an attempt to play with Mangum's mind. Brown countered, laughing with him and telling him, "I wish I had the chance you have. You're gonna be a hero and win this football game. You're gonna get to be the hero."
Finally, the moment came.
Tony Jeffrey put the ball down, and Mangum swung his right leg.
Legend will say that in a desperate effort, a Michigan player actually tipped the ball, sending the strong kick into a free flight, turning and wobbling toward the south end of the stadium, away from the canyons of the Arroyo Seco.
Call it what you will, Darrell Royal says luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Maybe that was it. Or maybe, just maybe, the Good Lord looked down on his special child called Dusty Mangum and determined that he shouldn't have to go through the rest of his life remembering what might have been.
Those who were there said the world seemed to go in slow motion, that the ball seemed to take an eternity to reach the goal posts. But when the two officials on either side of the goal posts stepped forward and raised their hands, the burnt orange in the stadium (as well as a significant collection of those kids on the field) exploded.
They carried Dusty off on their shoulders, they dumped ice water on Mack Brown, and Vince Young ran to the Texas fans and then straight into a huge national spotlight.
Back home in Austin, the Tower was orange, and Longhorn faithful across the world celebrated.
Mack Brown had told his team they didn't have to apologize for being there in LA. "We're not Clem from the Country," said the native of Cookville, Tenn.
To which co-defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who has coached in and been on the winning team in four Rose Bowls and is undefeated in eight bowl games and two Super Bowls replied, "Well, I'm Sid from the city, and I like Clem from the country."
One more time, that underscored the amalgamation of this team. They have come from different backgrounds, and different areas, and all blended together, they have formed something very special.
In the Trophy Room at the football building in Austin, they already had plans for a security case to house the brand new Rose Bowl trophy, made this year for the first time by Tiffany's.
Equipment managers popped out Texas Longhorn Rose Bowl Champion caps, and Mangum was wearing one as he rode off in the sunset (figuratively speaking of course) on the shoulders of his teammates.
Late in the night, from his hotel room at the Century Plaza, Darrell Royal made a room-to-room phone call to Mack Brown.
"That," he said, "is a game that will be remembered forever. They'll be talking about that one long after you and I are both gone."
What they will remember will be a special group which brought special pride, a team that played with all of its heart and its soul, and absolutely refused to lose.
And that is why you knew, you just knew, they had one last miracle left.