No. 1 USC 66, No. 11 UCLA 19
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Run, Reggie, run—all the way to the Rose Bowl and probably with the Heisman Trophy in tow.
A step away from playing for an unprecedented third straight national title, Reggie Bush and No. 1 Southern California stomped into the championship game by overpowering their crosstown rivals Saturday.
Bush ran for 260 yards and two touchdowns in a 66-19 victory over No. 11 UCLA, the 34th consecutive win for the top-ranked Trojans and 16th straight against a ranked opponent.
Now only Texas stands between USC (12-0, 8-0 Pac-10) and a perfectly historic season.
“This is the type of season we wanted from Day One,” Bush said. “This is the type of season we envisioned. We were able to make it come true, it’s a great feeling.”
Just about the time the unbeaten and second-ranked Longhorns were wrapping up a 70-3 victory over Colorado in the Big 12 title game that will send them to the Rose Bowl, USC was starting its own victory march to Pasadena.
The Bowl Championship Series will make it official on Sunday: Trojans vs. Longhorns on Jan. 4 in the national title game.
USC has had its close calls in 2005, most notably against Notre Dame and Fresno State, but the Trojans brought back memories of their 55-19 beating of Oklahoma in last year’s national title game with their performance against UCLA (9-2, 6-2).
“We’ve done everything we can do to this point, we’ve done it with a little flair, and a little bit of drama along the way,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “This game was an exclamation point for this 12-game run.”
The festivities at the Coliseum started with a warm farewell to a senior class that’s been part of one of the greatest dynasties in college football history. Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart was last to be honored with a long standing ovation before USC and UCLA played for the 75th time.
From there, it was Bush’s day.
Against the 115th-ranked run defense in the country, USC made its intentions clear for the start. Keep it simple and let Bush put a punctuation mark on his Heisman campaign. No doubt both Bush and Leinart will be in New York next Saturday when the big bronze trophy is handed out. And after the way Bush finished off the regular season, it certainly seems like it’s his turn hold the hardware.
“Reggie’s got my vote,” Leinart said.
On the second play from scrimmage, Bush zipped off tackle for 28 yards. USC ended up driving 70 yards on 16 plays without completing a pass. UCLA held the Trojans to a 35-yard field goal by Mario Danelo. It was a small victory and one of the few UCLA would be able to chalk up in its seventh straight loss to USC.
Leinart started the game 0-for-5, looking overanxious in his final home game. He finished it 21-for-40 for 233 yards with three touchdown passes.
“I was a little tight out there in the first half, you know it was an emotional day,” Leinart said. “I was off, obviously.”
More importantly, though, he ran his record as a starter to 37-1 thanks to a running game that piled up 430 yards, USC’s most since 1989, and a defense that stymied one of the best offenses in the country.
“We were just on fire,” Bush said. “We knew we can do whatever we wanted against these guys as long as we execute. Hopefully, that confidence will be able to carry over to the Rose Bowl.”
USC was backed up with a third-and-10 at its own 3 at the start of the second quarter, when Bush found a huge lane off the left end and streaked down the sideline for 65 yards.
With that play, LenDale White, Bush’s running mate, said he “knew it was a rout.”
White ran for a 19-yard touchdown moments late to make it 17-0. He finished with 154 yards rushing on 14 carries as USC went over 300 yards rushing for the fifth time this season. White, the burly thunder to Bush’s lightning, scored three touchdowns to break Charles White’s school record with 54 for his career.
UCLA fumbled the ensuing kickoff away to USC and Bush, who carried 24 times, went back to work.
He hurdled over a tackler for a 13-yard score to make it 24-0, and later slipped a UCLA defender in the backfield and scored from 10 yards out to put USC up 31-6 at the half.
“If Reggie Bush didn’t show it today, I don’t know what the heck else he has to do,” Carroll said about Bush winning the Heisman. “What an incredible job of seizing the moment by him in the last couple of weeks.”
Bush’s latest jaw-dropping performance came two weeks after he set a school-record with 513 all-purpose yards, a career-high 295 rushing, in a thrilling 50-42 victory over Fresno State.
In an up-and-down season for the USC defense, the Fresno State game was a low point. On Saturday, defensive end Lawrence Jackson and his crew responded with their best performance of the season.
They had five sacks, three by Jackson, held an offense averaging 40 points a game out of the end zone for the first 56 minutes and even scored a TD when Justin Wyatt returned a fumble 38 yards to make it 45-6 in the third quarter.
“Our defense was on the field too long,” UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. “We played catch up with our offense and that was a difficult task.”
Drew Olson, the nation’s leader in pass efficiency coming in, finished 14-for-32 for 146 yards and a touchdown, and the Bruins entered the fourth quarter with 166 total yards.
“I’m disappointed and embarrassed,” Olson said. “We came in to put up a good fight and the opposite happened.”
Meanwhile, what very well might be the best offense college football has ever seen racked up 679 yards—with its All-American quarterback having an off day.
USC called a timeout with its offense on the field early in the fourth quarter to give Leinart, who passed up big NFL bucks to return for his senior season, a chance to receive one more ovation and hugs from his teammates.
“It’s been perfect so far,” Leinart said. “This is everything I dreamed of coming back (for).”