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Building a Trophy Case

Times Staff Writer

Matt Leinart did not intend for it to turn into a personal showcase.

USC’s junior quarterback stressed team goals throughout the two weeks leading up to the top-ranked Trojans’ game against Notre Dame.

But for Leinart, like Carson Palmer before him, the Coliseum provided a perfect stage and the Fighting Irish a compelling foil.

Leinart passed for five touchdowns and 400 yards, both career bests, as the Trojans remained on track for the bowl championship series title game with a 41-10 victory Saturday before a sellout crowd of 92,611.

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On a night that featured rain throughout much of the first half, Leinart threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett and one each to running back Reggie Bush, flanker Steve Smith and receiver Jason Mitchell as the Trojans rolled up 488 yards and improved to 11-0.

Leinart’s performance helped USC extend its winning streak to 20 games and its home winning streak to a school-record 21.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said Leinart deserved to be considered the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

“I sure hope so -- heck yes,” said Chow, who also tutored 2002 Heisman winner Palmer at USC and 1990 winner Ty Detmer at Brigham Young. “He’s leading the best team in the country. I think that says something.”

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Leinart completed 24 of 34 passes without an interception against an opponent that ranked 107th nationally in pass defense. Just like last season, when Leinart passed for 351 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame, Trojan receivers had plenty of space to work in.

“Guys were wide open, so it wasn’t very hard for me to get them the ball,” said Leinart, who received five stitches in his chin at halftime.

USC trailed, 10-3, early in the second quarter before scoring 38 unanswered points on Leinart’s touchdown passes and Ryan Killeen’s second field goal of the game.

“They hung 10 on us but we kept fighting and had to shift some things,” said USC Coach Pete Carroll, who improved to 13-0 in November games. “But after that it was all about energy.”

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Smith, playing for the first time since breaking his leg against California on Oct. 9, caught four passes for 96 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith said Leinart “showed his true Heismanship. He did what he’s supposed to do. A normal day at the office.”

Bush, who turned a short pass into a spectacular 69-yard scoring play in the third quarter, agreed.

“I’ve seen this before in him, where he just has games where he’s just on fire,” Bush said. “There’s not much a defense is going to be able to do to stop him because he’s on fire, he’s seeing his reads, he’s slowing down the game.

“He’s a great player. He’s my pick for the Heisman.”

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In the 76th meeting in the intersectional series, USC also continued a recent tradition: For the third year in a row, the Trojans whipped the Fighting Irish by 31 points.

“It’s not about winning, it’s about domination,” said freshman defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who had two tackles for losses, including one of the Trojans’ three sacks.

Senior Ryan Grant gained 94 of Notre Dame’s 195 yards rushing against a USC defense that was ranked second nationally against the run.

The Fighting Irish also limited the Trojans to 83 yards rushing.

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But they missed some early opportunities to intercept passes and could not manufacture much on offense after scoring a touchdown and field goal on time-consuming drives in the first 19 minutes of play.

“They are No. 1 for a reason,” said Notre Dame Coach Tyrone Willingham, whose 6-5 team is probably bound for the Insight Bowl. “They demonstrated tonight that if you take something away from them, like their running game, they will find some other way to get past you.”

With a steady rain falling at kickoff, Notre Dame stopped USC on the game’s first possession and then methodically drove a season-long 92 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed six of seven passes for 59 yards during a 13-play drive that consumed 6:24 and ended with his one-yard, fourth-down touchdown throw to tight end Billy Palmer for a 7-0 lead.

USC answered with a 39-yard field goal by Killeen, but Notre Dame came right back with a 28-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick that capped a 73-yard, 12-play drive with 11:51 remaining in the first half.

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But after the teams exchanged possessions, the Trojans began their characteristic push.

Taking over at their 20 with 8:32 left in the second quarter, the Trojans moved to the Notre Dame 31 on a 42-yard pass from Leinart to Smith. Two plays later, Bush rushed for 18 yards on a draw play, setting up Leinart’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett that tied the score, 10-10, with 5:53 left in the first half.

USC got the ball back with 4:01 remaining and moved from its 27 to the 43. Leinart dropped back and threw a pass to Jarrett, who caught the ball at the Notre Dame 35, then turned toward the end zone and got a block from Smith en route to a 57-yard touchdown that put the Trojans ahead, 17-10, with 2:06 left in the half. Jarrett finished with a game-high six receptions for 102 yards.

“By the last few plays of the first half you could tell,” said senior tight end Alex Holmes, who caught four passes for 44 yards. “We knew we were going to come out in the second half and blow them out.”

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Killeen’s 42-yard field goal with 9:16 left in the third quarter was prelude to Bush’s 69-yard scoring play and fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 35 yards to Smith and 23 to Mitchell.

*

Quarterback throws for 400 yards and five touchdowns as USC routs Irish again and improves to 11-0

*

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Matt Leinart did not intend for it to turn into a personal showcase.

USC’s junior quarterback stressed team goals throughout the two weeks leading up to the top-ranked Trojans’ game against Notre Dame.

But for Leinart, like Carson Palmer before him, the Coliseum provided a perfect stage and the Fighting Irish a compelling foil.

Leinart passed for five touchdowns and 400 yards, both career bests, as the Trojans remained on track for the bowl championship series title game with a 41-10 victory Saturday before a sellout crowd of 92,611.

Advertisement

On a night that featured rain throughout much of the first half, Leinart threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett and one each to running back Reggie Bush, flanker Steve Smith and receiver Jason Mitchell as the Trojans rolled up 488 yards and improved to 11-0.

Leinart’s performance helped USC extend its winning streak to 20 games and its home winning streak to a school-record 21.

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said Leinart deserved to be considered the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.

“I sure hope so -- heck yes,” said Chow, who also tutored 2002 Heisman winner Palmer at USC and 1990 winner Ty Detmer at Brigham Young. “He’s leading the best team in the country. I think that says something.”

Advertisement

Leinart completed 24 of 34 passes without an interception against an opponent that ranked 107th nationally in pass defense. Just like last season, when Leinart passed for 351 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame, Trojan receivers had plenty of space to work in.

“Guys were wide open, so it wasn’t very hard for me to get them the ball,” said Leinart, who received five stitches in his chin at halftime.

USC trailed, 10-3, early in the second quarter before scoring 38 unanswered points on Leinart’s touchdown passes and Ryan Killeen’s second field goal of the game.

“They hung 10 on us but we kept fighting and had to shift some things,” said USC Coach Pete Carroll, who improved to 13-0 in November games. “But after that it was all about energy.”

Advertisement

Smith, playing for the first time since breaking his leg against California on Oct. 9, caught four passes for 96 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith said Leinart “showed his true Heismanship. He did what he’s supposed to do. A normal day at the office.”

Bush, who turned a short pass into a spectacular 69-yard scoring play in the third quarter, agreed.

“I’ve seen this before in him, where he just has games where he’s just on fire,” Bush said. “There’s not much a defense is going to be able to do to stop him because he’s on fire, he’s seeing his reads, he’s slowing down the game.

“He’s a great player. He’s got my pick for the Heisman.”

Advertisement

In the 76th meeting in the intersectional series, USC also continued a recent tradition: For the third year in a row, the Trojans whipped the Fighting Irish by 31 points.

“It’s not about winning, it’s about domination,” said freshman defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who had two tackles for losses, including one of the Trojans’ three sacks.

Senior Ryan Grant gained 94 of Notre Dame’s 195 yards rushing against a USC defense that was ranked second nationally against the run.

The Fighting Irish also limited the Trojans to 83 yards rushing.

Advertisement

But they missed some early opportunities to intercept passes and could not manufacture much on offense after scoring a touchdown and field goal on time-consuming drives in the first 19 minutes of play.

“They are No. 1 for a reason,” said Notre Dame Coach Tyrone Willingham, whose 6-5 team is probably bound for the Insight Bowl. “They demonstrated tonight that if you take something away from them, like their running game, they will find some other way to get past you.”

With a steady rain falling at kickoff, Notre Dame stopped USC on the game’s first possession and then methodically drove a season-long 92 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed six of seven passes for 59 yards during a 13-play drive that consumed 6:24 and ended with his one-yard, fourth-down touchdown throw to tight end Billy Palmer for a 7-0 lead.

USC answered with a 39-yard field goal by Killeen, but the Notre Dame came right back with a 28-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick that capped a 73-yard, 12-play drive with 11:51 remaining in the first half.

Advertisement

But after the teams exchanged possessions, the Trojans began their characteristic push.

Taking over at their 20 with 8:32 left in the second quarter, the Trojans moved to the Notre Dame 31 on a 42-yard pass from Leinart to Smith. Two plays later, Bush rushed for 18 yards on a draw play, setting up Leinart’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett that tied the score, 10-10, with 5:53 left in the first half.

USC got the ball back with 4:01 remaining and moved from its 27 to the 43. Leinart dropped back and threw a pass to Jarrett, who caught the ball at the Notre Dame 35, then turned toward the end zone and got a block from Smith en route to a 57-yard touchdown that put the Trojans ahead, 17-10, with 2:06 left in the half. Jarrett finished with a game-high six receptions for 102 yards.

“By the last few plays of the first half you could tell,” said senior tight end Alex Holmes, who caught four passes for 44 yards. “We knew we were going to come out in the second half and blow them out.”

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Killeen’s 42-yard field goal with 9:16 left in the third quarter was prelude to Bush’s 69-yard scoring play and fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 35 yards to Smith and 23 to Mitchell.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Comparing With the Best

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A breakdown of the top three teams, with Associated Press rankings:

NO. 1 USC TROJANS (11-0 OVERALL, 7-0 PACIFIC 10)

NONCONFERENCE OPPONENTS

* Record of nonconference opponents: 24-20

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*--* OPPONENT (RECORD) CONFERENCE SCORE vs. Virginia Tech (9-2) Atlantic Coast 24-13 Colorado State (4-7) Mountain West 49-0 at Brigham Young (5-6) Mountain West 42-10 Notre Dame (6-5) Independent 41-10

*--*

RANKED OPPONENTS

* Record of ranked opponents: 26-6

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* Average win margin vs. ranked opponents: 18.3

*--* OPPONENT (RECORD) CONFERENCE SCORE vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech (9-2) Atlantic Coast 24-13 No. 4 California (9-1) Pacific 10 23-17 No. 18 Arizona State (8-3) Pacific 10 45-7

*--*

TOTALS

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* USC home record: 6-0

* USC road record: 5-0

* Points scored: 412

* Points allowed: 126

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* Remaining game: Pac-10 finale, Saturday vs. UCLA (6-4)

NO. 2 OKLAHOMA SOONERS (11-0 OVERALL, 8-0 BIG 12)

*--* NONCONFERENCE OPPONENTS * Record of nonconference opponents: 16-17 OPPONENT (RECORD) CONFERENCE SCORE Bowling Green (8-3) Mid-American 40-24 Houston (3-8) Conference USA 63-13 Oregon (5-6) Pacific 10 31-7

*--*

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*--* RANKED OPPONENTS * Record of ranked opponents: 24-9 * Average win margin vs. ranked opponents: 7.3 OPPONENT (RECORD) CONFERENCE SCORE vs. No. 6 Texas (10-1) Big 12 12-0 at No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-4) Big 12 38-35 at No. 23 Texas A&M; (7-4) Big 12 42-35

*--*

TOTALS

* Oklahoma home record: 7-0

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* Oklahoma road record: 4-0

* Points scored: 371

* Points allowed: 161

* Remaining game: Big 12 championship, Saturday vs. Colorado (7-4)

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NO. 3 AUBURN TIGERS (11-0 OVERALL, 8-0 SOUTHEASTERN)

*--* NONCONFERENCE OPPONENTS * Record of nonconference opponents: 13-19 OPPONENT (RECORD) CONFERENCE SCORE Louisiana Monroe (5-6) Sun Belt 31-0 Louisiana Tech (5-6) Western Athletic 52-7 The Citadel (3-7) Southern (I-AA) 33-3

*--*

*--* RANKED OPPONENTS * Record of ranked opponents: 27-6 * Average win margin vs. ranked opponents: 14.3 OPPONENT (RECORD) CONFERENCE SCORE No. 14 Louisiana State (9-2) Southeastern 10-9 at No. 15 Tennessee (9-2) Southeastern 34-10 No. 8 Georgia (9-2) Southeastern 24-6

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*--*

TOTALS

* Auburn home record: 7-0

* Auburn road record: 4-0

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* Points scored: 363

* Points allowed: 106

* Remaining game: SEC championship, Saturday vs. No. 15 Tennessee (9-2)

*

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The probable lineup of BCS bowl games barring any major upsets on Saturday. BCS rankings used:

*--* ORANGE BOWL

*--*

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Jan. 4, 5 p.m. PST, Ch. 7

No. 1 USC (11-0) vs.

No. 2 Oklahoma (11-0)

* The story lines surrounding this matchup are closer to what most objective fans really want to see.

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*--* SUGAR BOWL

*--*

Jan. 3, 5 p.m. PST, Ch. 7

No. 3 Auburn (11-0) vs.

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ACC Champion

* It’s fairly simple: the Miami-Virginia Tech winner will get its crack at the best that the SEC has to offer.

*--* ROSE BOWL

*--*

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Jan. 1, 2 p.m., Ch. 7

No. 4 California (9-1) vs.

No. 15 Michigan (9-2)

* Classic matchup for the folks in Pasadena. BCS actually deserves some backhanded credit for this one.

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*--* FIESTA BOWL

*--*

Jan. 1, 5:30 p.m. PST, Ch. 7

No. 6 Utah (11-0) vs.

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Big East Champion

* A three-loss Pittsburgh team probably needs only to beat South Florida to clinch the Big East title.


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