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USC Makes It Tree and Out

Trojans have no trouble with Stanford in a 44-21 victory, as Leinart connects with Williams for three touchdowns. Booty plays in the fourth quarter.

October 12, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Despite a score that would indicate otherwise, USC's 44-21 Pacific 10 Conference rout of Stanford on Saturday night at the Coliseum was not devoid of drama.

As the ninth-ranked Trojans took a 27-0 lead early in the second quarter and then increased it to 41-14 by halftime, the most compelling plot line centered on freshman quarterback John David Booty and when he would make his Trojan debut.

Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Norm Chow kept Trojan fans in suspense until the fourth quarter, allowing starter Matt Leinart to pick apart the Cardinal secondary for 260 yards and three touchdowns to Mike Williams without an interception.

By the time Booty entered the game with 14:52 to play, Leinart had the Trojans well on their way to extending their home winning streak to 12 games and improving their record to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-10.

"We did what we wanted to do," Leinart said. "They had a good defense, but we just exploited it. Everything was wide open."

On a day when five teams in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll lost, the Trojans showed a crowd of 68,341 and two representatives from the Sugar Bowl who attended the game that they were still in the hunt for the Rose Bowl and possibly a national title.

"We're back to doing the things we thought we could do," Carroll said. "I don't know how far that can us, but I like our chances. I like the way we play."

USC, which was averaging a conference-best 37.4 points a game, made itself at home in its first game at the Coliseum in nearly a month.

A week after finishing its victory over Arizona State by scoring 27 unanswered points, USC did the same to start its game against Stanford, which was the last team to defeat the Trojans at the Coliseum.

The Trojans were ahead, 27-0, less than three minutes into the second quarter before Stanford scored twice in 10 seconds to pose a mild threat.

But USC answered on the ensuing possession. A three-yard touchdown run by freshman LenDale White, who rushed for 108 yards in 23 carries, effectively extinguished the Cardinal's hopes for a comeback.

"The offensive line did a great job again," White said. "When that happens, it's a lot easier."

Leinart's status had been questionable because of the high right ankle sprain and bruised knee he suffered against Arizona State.

The redshirt sophomore hobbled through practice during the week but maintained throughout that he would start. Carroll and Chow elevated Booty to No. 2 on the depth chart in case Leinart reinjured his ankle or faltered.

He did neither, and threw touchdown passes of 40, 18 and three yards to Williams while completing 16 of 23 passes before the break.

"We tried to keep him in the pocket. We tried to protect him," Chow said.

Williams had seven receptions for 129 yards in the first half as the Trojans amassed 413 yards.

Booty completed one of four passes for 13 yards.

"I thought I did OK, I just have to build on that," Booty said.

Stanford (2-2, 0-2) came into the game ranked third in the nation in rushing defense, surrendering only 56.3 yards a game.

But White, who gained 140 yards against Arizona State, and sophomore Hershel Dennis, each eclipsed that in the first half by running for 67 and 62 yards, respectively. Freshman Reggie Bush added 35 to give the Trojans 164 rushing yards in the first two quarters.

Meanwhile, junior defensive end Kenechi Udeze led a Trojan defense that stifled the Cardinal by pressuring quarterback Trent Edwards, who completed seven of 17 passes for 59 yards in the first half.

Edwards, a redshirt freshman, had played against San Jose State, Brigham Young and Washington, but had seen nothing that compared to USC's pass rush. Udeze led the charge with three sacks. He also forced two fumbles and blocked a field-goal attempt.

"Not to take anything away from their offensive line, but they were young and inexperienced," Udeze said. "We just tried to take advantage of that."

USC, which lost tight end Dominique Byrd to a knee injury, dominated from the outset.

The Trojans began the first possession of the game at their 20-yard-line and moved almost effortlessly down the field with a 20-yard run by Dennis, a 15-yard pass from Leinart to tight end Dominique Byrd, a 26-yard reception by Williams and a 13-yard run by White.

The Trojans had first-and-goal at the four but could not score a touchdown.

White gained a yard on first down, Leinart's pass was batted down on second down and Leinart could not connect with Williams in the end zone. Ryan Killeen came on and kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Udeze put the Trojans in prime position to increase the lead when he sacked Edwards on the Cardinal's third play. Defensive end Omar Nazel recovered at the 16.

White ran seven yards on first down, but was stopped for no gain on the next play. On third-and-three from the nine, a wide-open White missed scoring a certain touchdown by dropping a perfect pass from Leinart.

Killeen kicked a 26-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 9:17 left in the first quarter.

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