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THE RIVALRY / No. 2 USC 47, UCLA 22

Sweet-Stakes Ticket / Trojans appear to be in the title-game driver's seat after a dominating win

Leinart and Williams play pitch and catch for a 33-2 halftime advantage en route to USC's fifth consecutive victory in the series.

November 23, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Fearing his USC players might be distracted from the task at hand against UCLA, Coach Pete Carroll ordered the video board operator at the Coliseum on Saturday to delay flashing the result of the Ohio State-Michigan game.

The concern was unfounded.

By the time news of Ohio State's defeat was relayed to the sellout crowd of 93,172 at halftime, USC was well on its way to a 47-22 rout of the Bruins in the 73rd meeting between the rivals.

USC, which improved to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference with its seventh consecutive victory, is expected to move from third to second in the bowl championship series standings Monday.

With Washington's 27-19 victory over Washington State on Saturday, USC clinched at least a share of the conference title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

But the Trojans, seeking their first national title since 1978, could earn a spot in the BCS championship game in the Sugar Bowl if they defeat Oregon State on Dec. 6.

"It's in our hands now," offensive lineman Lenny Vandermade said. "Everything is right there in front of us."

On a crisp, windy day in the Southland, USC blew out the UCLA for the third year in a row. The Trojans extended their winning streak against the Bruins to five games and stretched their winning streak at the Coliseum to 14 games.

Much like last season's 52-21 rout at the Rose Bowl, the Bruins fell behind and never threatened a comeback against a Trojan team that has scored more than 40 points in six consecutive games.

"They had skill and talent at every position," UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said. "They looked the part today."

USC was ahead, 14-0, at the end of the first quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Matt Leinart to Mike Williams and a one-yard run by tailback LenDale White. The Trojans extended the lead to 33-2 by halftime.

"After we scored the first two times, I thought we were in good shape. I thought we were going to win the football game," said Carroll, who improved his record in November games to 10-0. "I could feel we wouldn't be threatened."

Leinart had another efficient day, completing 23 of 32 passes for 289 yards without an interception against the Pac-10's top pass defense.

The redshirt sophomore, who extended to 197 his school-record streak of attempts without an interception in one season, threw two touchdown passes to Williams as the Trojans amassed 444 yards.

Williams had 11 receptions for 181 yards in the first half, then sat out the last two quarters.

"It's kind of shocking how open Mike was at times," said Leinart, who has passed for 2,027 yards and 22 touchdowns with one interception in the last seven games.

There was nothing stunning about the Trojan defense's performance against a UCLA offense that has struggled all season to move the ball consistently.

USC sacked Bruin quarterback Drew Olson six times and held UCLA to only 11 yards rushing. In the first half, the Bruins had more penalty yards (50) than offensive yards (36).

Trojan defensive end Kenechi Udeze recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown with 6:26 left in the first half to make the score 30-0. Tackle Mike Patterson returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown to put the Trojans ahead, 40-2, with 8:24 left in the third quarter.

USC special teams also contributed, with Ryan Killeen's field goals of 38 and 32 yards and Reggie Bush's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

UCLA (6-6, 4-4) scored two points when Matt Clark returned a blocked extra-point attempt after Udeze's touchdown. The Bruins added touchdowns, long after the game was decided, on passes from Olson to Marcedes Lewis and Joe Cowan and a 99-yard kickoff return by freshman Maurice Drew, immediately after Bush's return.

"I expected it to be closer," UCLA cornerback Matt Ware said. "They played a good game and we made mistakes."

UCLA's biggest mistake might have been trying to play Trojan receivers straight up.

The 6-foot-5 Williams capped USC's first drive by outjumping the 5-9 Clark in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown catch.

Williams keyed the next drive by beating safety Ben Emanuel for a 39-yard reception that gave the Trojans a first down at the Bruin 13-yard line. Two plays later, freshman White rumbled into the end zone from the one for a 14-0 lead with 5:13 left in the first quarter.

"In the first half, we knew our offense was clicking," said sophomore tailback Hershel Dennis, who gained a team-best 69 yards. "Once that happened, we knew it was going to be over."

Olson, who played the entire game, completed 21 of 39 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Drew, a freshman, gained a team-best 27 yards in 10 carries for UCLA, which could be chosen to play in the Las Vegas or Silicon Valley bowls.

After beating UCLA three times by a combined total of 126-43, Carroll was asked if the difference was that great between the USC and UCLA programs.

"Draw your own conclusions," Carroll said. "What do you think? Looks like there's a difference to me."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Life Begins at 40

USC has scored 40 or more points in the last six games:

*--* OPPONENT SCORE PASSING RECEIVING RUSHING VS. STANFORD 44-21 Leinart: 260, 3 TD Williams: 7-129, White: 3 TD 23-108, 2 TD AT NOTRE DAME 45-14 Leinart: 351, 4 TD Williams: 9-112, Bush: 6-89, TD TD AT WASHINGTON 43-23 Leinart: 351, 2 TD Bush: 5-132, 2 TD Dennis: 14-98 VS. WASHINGTON ST. 43-16 Leinart: 191, 2 TD Colbert: 9-80, TD White: 12-149 AT ARIZONA 45-0 Leinart: 296, 4 TD Williams: White: 15-90, 11-157, 3 TD 2 TD VS. UCLA 47-22 Leinart: 289, 2 TD Williams: Dennis: 12-69 11-181, 2 TD

*--*

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