Dec. 1, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AP) -Southern California is returning to the Rose Bowl thanks to another late-season surge capped by a convincing victory over its biggest rival.
John David Booty passed for 206 yards and one touchdown, USC rushed for another 231 yards, and the eighth-ranked Trojans beat the Bruins 24-7 Saturday to assure themselves a date in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
"The senior class has been there four of the last five years," Booty said. "We're going to prepare just like we always do, practice the same way, hopefully have the same outcome we've had the majority of the times we've been there."
The Trojans (10-2, 7-2 Pac-10) won their final four regular-season games to earn an unprecedented sixth consecutive conference championship. It also gives them a record 32nd appearance in the Rose Bowl as well as a sixth straight BCS bowl berth.
"I don't think anybody around here was thinking we were going to be champions this year," USC coach Pete Carroll said, referring to his team's status four weeks ago after a 24-17 loss at Oregon. "But those guys knew they could be and they understood that and they just did a marvelous job.
"There's nothing we like more than winning championships. I know everybody talks about all the rest of the stuff, but we don't have control of the other stuff. What we do have control of is this Pac-10, and every chance we get we want to win this thing and get ourselves in that Rose Bowl."
The Trojans were a near-unanimous pick as No. 1 entering the season, but a shocking 24-23 loss to 41-point underdog Stanford Oct. 6 and the setback at Oregon three weeks later knocked them out of the national championship race.
While Carroll said he's fine with playing in the Rose Bowl, his words indicate otherwise.
"We'll play anybody, anywhere, anytime," he said. "I know this isn't the system and we don't get to. We wish we could keep playing. If there was a way to keep playing games and see who would win and be the last team standing, we'd love to have that opportunity."
USC has a 25-1 record in regular-season games played in November and December since Carroll was hired in 2001. The only loss was a 13-9 setback to UCLA last year, snapping the Trojans' seven-game winning streak against their crosstown rivals.
The Trojans certainly gained a measure of revenge in this game - their fifth straight triumph over UCLA at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where they've won 38 of their last 39 games. USC has outscored the Bruins 181-55 in those five games.
"[Coach Dorrell] wasn't the one that couldn't execute, he didn't go out there and miss tackles, he didn't cause turnovers," senior defensive end Bruce Davis said. "I don't want to see him go. I'll always be indebted to him. Off the field, every time I've needed him, he's been there for me and my family."
Booty completed 21 of 36 passes with one interception. Freshman Joe McKnight gained 89 yards on 13 carries; Stafon Johnson picked up 73 yards on 15 carries, and Chauncey Washington rushed for 66 yards on 13 attempts.
USC gained 437 yards to UCLA's 168. Cowan, playing for the first time since suffering a concussion and partially collapsed right lung Nov. 3, was 13-of-24 for 156 yards before being relieved by Olson with 6:07 left after injuring his left knee. Chris Markey gained 49 yards on 17 carries.
"Offensively, we struggled," Dorrell said. "Our defense was playing well, but then, our defense was playing too many plays."
USC had the ball for nearly 38 minutes and UCLA a little over 22. Bruins safety Dennis Keyes was involved in 19 tackles.
The Trojans led 17-7 late in the third quarter when the teams combined for three turnovers in a span of 80 seconds, with the third an interception by USC's Terrell Thomas at the Bruins' 43.
That led to a game-clinching 12-yard touchdown pass from Booty to Fred Davis with 12:03 remaining. Neither team threatened after that.
The Trojans dominated the first half, outgaining the Bruins 243 yards to 101, but their lead was only 10 points.
McKnight scored on a 5-yard run midway through the first quarter, going into the end zone two plays after Keith Rivers recovered a fumble by Markey at the UCLA 32.
The Trojans made it 14-0 early in the second period on Washington's 10-yard run, capping a 12-play, 79-yard drive. The TD came two plays after Korey Bosworth was penalized for roughing the passer after Booty threw an incompletion on third-and-12.
David Buehler added a 46-yard field goal with 45 seconds left before halftime, but the Bruins then moved 65 yards on five plays, scoring on a 9-yard pass from Cowan to Dominique Johnson with seven seconds remaining in the half to make it 17-7.
UCLA had only one first down before the scoring drive, and just 10 total to USC's 26.
The Bruins lost two fumbles and punted three times in the first period, but the Trojans blew two scoring opportunities. Washington was stopped for no gain by Jess Ward on fourth-and-1 at the UCLA 24, and Buehler missed a 40-yard field goal.
The game was played before a crowd of 91,553.