Dec. 2, 2006
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -Step aside, Trojans. Your chase for the national championship is over.
UCLA knocked No. 2 USC out of the Bowl Championship Series title game with a stunning 13-9 victory over its crosstown rival Saturday. The Bruins did it with a vastly improved defense and a quarterback starting on three days' notice.
Patrick Cowan passed for 114 yards, ran for another 55, and the Bruins snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans in paving the way for a Michigan-Ohio State rematch or an Ohio State-Florida matchup for the national championship Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.
The final BCS standings and bowl pairings will be announced Sunday.
The Trojans moved into position for a game-winning touchdown, but Eric McNeal deflected and then made a diving interception of John David Booty's pass at the UCLA 20-yard line with 1:10 remaining.
USC's bid for a third straight appearance in the national title game was over following its only turnover of the game.
The Trojans got one final shot at winning, but Booty's desperation pass from the USC 12 with six seconds left fell incomplete, and the celebration was on at the Rose Bowl. Moments after it was over, defensive end Justin Hickman led teammates into the UCLA student section.
Besides having their national championship hopes ended, the Trojans (10-2, 7-2 Pac-10) had their NCAA-record scoring streak of 63 games in which they had scored 20 or more points snapped.
The loss was just USC's fourth in the last 59 games. As Pac-10 champions, the Trojans will return to Pasadena on New Year's Day and play in the Rose Bowl game.
"I don't have any feelings right now," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "I'm just disappointed that we couldn't find a way to score some points today. It just didn't happen today. You've just got to credit them for that.
"We'll go to the Rose Bowl and make it a great event."
The Bruins (7-5, 5-4) hadn't beaten USC since 1998, when they topped the Trojans for the eighth straight time. UCLA, a winner of three straight, will face Florida State in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Francisco.
"I feel great for our players," said UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, who's been hearing criticism all season - his fourth on the job. "I feel great for our players. They've had to endure a lot. We believed in ourselves. We were fortunate to be the ones on top.
"I didn't believe it until the clock hit zero. All we wanted to do was stay close and get a chance to win."
No. 1 Ohio State locked up its berth in the BCS title game by beating then-No. 2 Michigan 42-39 two weeks ago in the regular-season finale for both teams. USC moved ahead of the Wolverines in the BCS standings last weekend after beating Notre Dame 44-24.
The game at the Rose Bowl was delayed briefly with 5:52 remaining after a UCLA punt, when the Bruins gathered for a team huddle a couple of yards onto the field. USC decided to do the same thing, and seconds later, the players began bouncing up and down and waving their arms, triggering offsetting unsportslike conduct penalties.
The coaches and officials made the players keep their distance.
USC then moved to the Bruins' 18 before McNeal's game-clincher on a third-and-four play.
Dorrell decided Wednesday that the more mobile Cowan, who had started UCLA's previous six games, would get the call at quarterback rather than Ben Olson, who started the first five games but hasn't played since tearing a knee ligament Oct. 7.
Dorrell said two days earlier that Olson would get start if he seemed to be up to it in practice. Obviously, that didn't turn out to be the case.
Cowan completed 12 of 21 passes and carried 10 times. Booty completed 23 of 39 passes for 274 yards and the one costly interception.
Justin Medlock kicked a 22-yard field goal with 5:45 left in the third quarter and a 31-yarder with 8:49 remaining in the game for the only scoring of the second half.
USC got an opportunity late in the third period when Michael Pitre couldn't handle a swing pass from Cowan that was ruled a lateral, and Sedrick Ellis recovered at the UCLA 44 for UCLA's only turnover. But C.J. Gable was thrown for a 4-yard loss by Christian Taylor and Alterraun Verner on fourth-and-2 from the 36.
The Bruins then moved into position for Medlock's second field goal. He leads all Division I-A kickers with 26 field goals in 30 attempts.
With defensive ends Bruce Davis and Hickman pressuring Booty just about every time he tried to pass, the Trojans were held in check until a 1-yard run by Gable with 51 seconds left before halftime capped a 66-yard, 12-play drive and put them on top 9-7.
But USC wouldn't score again, and the crowd of 90,266 was roaring at the end.
The Bruins moved 91 yards on their third possession for a 7-0 lead, scoring on Cowan's 1-yard run. Cowan scrambled three times for 54 yards earlier in the 11-play drive. He entered the game having netted 49 yards on 37 carries this season.
After Greg Woidneck's punt was downed at the UCLA 1 early in the second period, a holding penalty against Robert Chai in the end zone resulted in a safety, and that turned out to be the difference at halftime.
USC didn't score despite crossing midfield on its first three possessions, turning the ball over on downs at the UCLA 31 when Taylor held Chauncey Washington to no gain on a fourth-and-1 play, and punting twice.
The Trojans moved into Bruins territory following the second-half kickoff, but a personal foul penalty against guard Chilo Rachel and an incompletion ended the drive.