John David Booty did not expect it to be easy.
USC's quarterback had stood on the Coliseum sideline for three years and watched as the Trojans matured into one of the most potent offenses in college football history.
But when Booty started at the Coliseum for the first time before an expectant sellout crowd Saturday night, his goal was modest: A mistake-free performance and a victory.
Booty engineered both as the fourth-ranked Trojans defeated 19th-ranked Nebraska in workmanlike fashion, 28-10, before 92,000.
"Not every game is going to be a walk in the park," Booty said.
It might have seemed that way after the Trojans routed Arkansas, 50-14, in their opener two weeks ago, but a stubborn and conservative Nebraska team looking for respect made USC work for its 28th consecutive victory at home.
On a clear and breezy night before a crowd bathed in USC cardinal and pockets of Nebraska red, the Trojans were unable to uncork the trademark scoring sprees that typified USC teams of the previous three-plus seasons.
Coach Pete Carroll said he was proud of the defense and the Trojans' hard-fought victory, but acknowledged that stylistically as a whole, "It didn't feel right. Too many issues."
Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin agreed after the Trojans amassed only 399 yards.
Asked how he thought the offense played, Kiffin grimaced and said, "Not very well. We have a long ways to go."
For all the wringing of hands, there were several bright spots for the Trojans.
Booty completed 25 of 36 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
"I thought I did all right, but I know I can keep getting better," said Booty, who has passed for six touchdowns with no interceptions in two games.
Booty benefited from an outstanding performance by All-American split end Dwayne Jarrett. The junior from New Jersey, who was slowed by a leg injury throughout training camp and the opener, caught 11 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns.
Last week, Kiffin had criticized Jarrett for not playing at an All-American level against Arkansas.
"I kind of did need this game to let the world know I'm still working hard, I'm still out there," said Jarrett, who established a USC record with his 31st touchdown catch.
Jarrett's first touchdown came on a 12-yard pass after he beat Nebraska cornerback Andre Jones on a post route. Jones, a transfer from Fresno City College, had boldly predicted that the Cornhuskers would beat the Trojans.
"It felt good, just from his running his mouth," Jarrett said.
Nebraska (2-1) had looked efficient in easy victories over Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State, but the Cornhuskers struggled to move consistently against a USC defense that featured four players stepping in for injured starters.
Chilling of the Corn
Efficient offense, dominant defense power No. 4 USC past No. 19 Nebraska, 28-10
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