Bruins do their best to make Booty fall
Dwayne Jarrett loved what he saw in front of him -- single coverage by a lone UCLA cornerback and plenty of open space. But the thing that bothered Jarrett was what was happening behind him.
Jarrett said he and fellow USC receiver Steve Smith were “killing the corners,” but that didn’t matter much. By that point, quarterback John David Booty was usually on his backside, engulfed in Bruins pass rushers.
“He couldn’t plant his feet, pressure was coming from the left and right, it was just crazy,” said Jarrett, a Biletnikoff Award finalist who finished with four catches for 68 yards. “Every time I looked around, he was on the ground.”
That was UCLA’s plan all along: Put Booty on his backside then watch everything around him fall to pieces. Although the Bruins sacked him only twice, they repeatedly pressured him into rushing his decisions and forcing his throws. Meanwhile, his offensive line got jumpy and was flagged four times for false starts.
“They brought a lot of pressure all day,” left tackle Sam Baker said. “They were just up the field. We were having trouble hearing the snap count and were getting off the ball late.”
Not surprisingly, the offense started to sputter. Booty never found his groove, his team converted only six of 17 third downs, and the Trojans ground attack that had averaged 141.9 yards a game was stuffed for a humbling total of minus-seven yards in the second half.
To hear the Bruins tell it, everything started with stopping Booty.
“We came into this game thinking it was us against Booty, and we were going to put Booty on his [rear],” end Nikola Dragovic said. “That was the biggest thing that we had going for us, because we knew they couldn’t beat us without Booty having a good game. We knew we had to stop him, put him on the ground and shut him down.”
It was somewhat reminiscent of the way UCLA manhandled Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn in October, sacking him five times before he broke the Bruins’ heart with a last-minute winning drive. In that game, however, UCLA’s defense double-covered the receivers more and blitzed less frequently. The Bruins came after Booty, and, some UCLA players said, it had an effect on his confidence from the start.
“I think we messed him up mentally more than we did Brady Quinn,” Dragovic said. “Brady Quinn still had that fighter’s mentality. Booty was completely lost. After the third quarter, we knew we were going to win. Every time we went out there, we were thinking, ‘We’ve got to knock this guy on his butt.’
“You could tell by the body language of the whole offense, including Booty. Guys were just kind of moping around and you could tell they were down....We knew we were keeping them out of the end zone and going home happy.”
Booty was subdued after the game but wasn’t critical of his line’s blocking.
“Guys are going to come free,” he said. “You can’t block everybody on every play for three or four seconds. That’s going to happen.”
Nine points were by far a season low for a USC team that averaged 32.3 points in its first 11 games, and it was the fewest points the Trojans have scored in the series with UCLA since a 7-7 tie in 1971. Before Saturday, USC had scored 20 points or more in 63 consecutive games.
Said Trojans Coach Pete Carroll: “It’s been a long time since someone stopped us like that.”