Southern Cal's LenDale White (21) runs out of the tackle of Oklahoma's Antonio Perkins (28) in the third quarter of the Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium in Miami on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2005.
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
MIAMI Matt Leinart and his Southern California teammates bounced around the end zone, then broke into a victory dance.
The celebration was on and it was only halftime.
Playing to perfection, the Heisman Trophy winner threw a record five touchdown passes and USC overwhelmed Oklahoma 55-19 Tuesday night in the Orange Bowl, assuring the Trojans will end the season just as they started: No. 1.
''I think we proved tonight that we are the No. 1 team in the country without a doubt,'' Leinart said. ''No doubt.''
Even better, there's no one they have to share it with.
The much-anticipated battle of unbeatens, No. 1 vs. No. 2, turned into a coronation for USC, which had to settle for a share of the national championship last year after being left out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.
''We didn't expect it to be this easy, but the game went our way from the beginning,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. ''I was a little surprised.''
That was no consolation for unbeaten Auburn, the odd team out of the BCS title game this season.
The Tigers (13-0) stated their case with a 16-13 victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night and could have done no worse than Oklahoma against Southern Cal. But they can only hope for second when the final Associated Press poll is released early Wednesday morning.
USC surely will become the first team to repeat as AP national champions since Nebraska in 1994-95 and join Florida State in 1999 as the only teams to go wire-to-wire from preseason to post bowls as No. 1.
''I think they're great, and they sure proved it,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''We just got whupped.''
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was on hand to witness the rout in a game he believed his team should have been playing in.
''It's a little empty feeling,'' Tuberville said of being at the Orange Bowl. ''You want to have some kind of recognition. I'm going to take my own poll.''
''I'd like to play the winner of this game,'' Tuberville said at halftime, trying to be kind because by then the winner was hardly in doubt.
USC was shut out of last season's BCS title game, despite topping both the AP Top 25 and coaches' poll at the end of the regular season. The BCS computer rankings favored Oklahoma, even though the Sooners lost the Big 12 title game 35-7.
Oklahoma then washed out in the BCS championship game, losing to LSU in the Sugar Bowl 21-14 to give the Tigers the top spot in the coaches' poll.
The Trojans wrapped up their 2003 national title three days before the BCS championship game by beating Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl.
They won't have to wait for their trophy this season.
With the aide of four Oklahoma turnovers, the Trojans (13-0) ambushed the Sooners (12-1) with 38 points in the final 20 minutes of the first half.
The first meeting of Heisman winners couldn't have been more one-sided. Leinart set an Orange Bowl record with his five scoring tosses and Jason White spent another BCS title game running for his life.
Oklahoma's Heisman winner finished 24-of-36 for 244 yards with three interceptions and two touchdowns.
''They were prepared to play and came out to play and we didn't,'' White said.
Leinart was 18-of-35 for 332 yards and he had the USC band playing ''Fight On'' all night. The laid-back Californian who replaced Carson Palmer became the first Heisman winner to win a national title since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997.
Leinart looked nothing like the overrated quarterback for an average offense, as Oklahoma defensive end Larry Birdine described him.
''They were talking a lot of mess all month,'' USC defensive Frostee Rucker said. ''We heard it.''
Leinart tossed four scores in the first half as the Trojans turned an early 7-0 deficit into a 38-10 halftime lead.
And when the demolition had ended, the Trojans grooved in the end zone as Outkast's ''Hey Yeah'' blared through Pro Player Stadium. Meanwhile, the Sooners trudged off having already allowed more points in a bowl game than any team in school history.
Leinart shrugged off Birdine's comment and played great in what could be his farewell to college football. The junior could be a top pick in the next NFL draft.
He also got plenty of help. The Trojans reached a season high for points and turned the game into a USC highlight reel, with Leinart making pinpoint passes and his receivers making spectacular catches.
Steve Smith caught an Orange Bowl record three touchdowns, LenDale White ran for 118 yards and two scores and the USC's defense smothered Oklahoma's freshman sensation Adrian Peterson.
Peterson, the Heisman runner-up, managed just 82 yards on 25 carries.
Senior Mark Bradley made a freshman mistake that set off one of those USC runs that have done in so many opponents during the Trojans' 22-game winning streak.
The Sooners' most versatile player and the son of former Oklahoma quarterback Danny Bradley tried to scoop up a punt that had bounced inside the Oklahoma 5. Collin Ashton grabbed on to Bradley, the ball squirted away and USC recovered at the 6.
Bradley trudged back to the sideline, where he received some pats on the head and back.
His mood no doubt worsened on the next play, when LenDale White reached the ball over the goal line to give the Trojans a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.
USC made it 21 straight points with the help of Oklahoma's second turnover. Under pressure, White heaved a deep ball into quadruple-coverage and Jason Leach came up with USC's 20th interception of the season.
Then the Trojans went to work on Oklahoma freshman cornerback Marcus Walker with their own star freshman, Dwayne Jarrett.
The 6-foot-5 Jarrett went over the 5-11 Walker for an 18 yard gain on third-and-8.
Walker ended up in no-man's land on the next play. He looked like he wanted to blitz but stopped. Meanwhile, Jarrett ran straight down the sideline and hauled in a perfect throw from Leinart for a 54-yard score.
The USC deluge continued.
White was upended while throwing and was picked off by Eric Wright deep in Sooners territory.
This time Leinart found Smith alone in the end zone from 5 yards out, to cap a four-touchdown barrage.
In a span of 10:10, USC turned a 7-0 deficit into a 28-7 lead that left the Sooners looking dumbfounded.
Oklahoma drove for a field goal on the next possession, but all it did was give USC enough time to catch its breath.
Reggie Bush ripped off a 33-yard run to start the Trojans on their way and Leinart again picked on a secondary that looked like Oklahoma's soft spot much of the season.
Leinart went deep to Smith, who hauled in a 33-yarder while hitting the ground to make it 35-10.
Carroll greeted Leinart with a hug after the left-hander's fourth touchdown pass. Leinart gave a sly grin as he glanced up at the scoreboard.
Oklahoma's season-high fourth turnover, led to Ryan Killeen's 44-yard field goal just before halftime.
An aching White trudged into and then limped through the Sugar Bowl last year. But he was spry and agile against the Trojans at the start.
He rolled out, scrambled and stepped up in the pocket while completing four of his first five passes for 75 yards. He finished the 92-yard TD drive by zipping a 5-yarder to Travis Wilson.
Leinart answered quickly, hitting four straight and finding Dominique Byrd deep down the middle for a spinning, one-handed 33-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown the Sooners had allowed in four games.
© 2017. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us