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USC Builds Upon BYU's Miscues

Trojans capitalize on three early turnovers to establish lead en route to victory.

September 19, 2004|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

PROVO, Utah — During its pregame show, the Brigham Young marching band turned toward a contingent of USC fans in the end zone and played "Fight On."

It was merely the first act of hospitality Saturday night that BYU would bestow upon the visiting Trojans.

A series of early turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble -- provided all the push that No. 1-ranked USC needed en route to a 42-10 victory at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

That BYU would be in a giving mood was not unexpected.

The Cougars had three interceptions and two fumbles in a 35-18 loss to the Trojans at the Coliseum last fall.

They have struggled taking care of the ball this season, giving up seven turnovers in a 37-10 loss at Stanford last week.

That sort of negligence plays into the hands of a USC defense that has focused on takeaways since Coach Pete Carroll's arrival in 2001.

With Carroll emphasizing an aggressive style of play as defensive coordinator, the Trojans were the second-best team in the nation in turnover margin in 2003. The two seasons before, they ranked No. 5 in that category.

"We really stressed it this week," said defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. "It was big for us."

Yet, on a warm evening in Provo, it was actually the Trojans who handed the ball over first.

On their initial possession, quarterback Matt Leinart threw into deep coverage and defensive back Jon Burbidge intercepted the pass. It was Leinart's first interception in 103 attempts.

But BYU quickly returned the favor.

Receiver Todd Watkins bobbled a low pass and all but handed the ball to USC linebacker Matt Grootegoed, who made his third interception in two weeks.

The turnover came at a crucial moment. The game was still scoreless and BYU -- nearly a four-touchdown underdog -- had driven to midfield.

Though the Trojans got the ball back, they failed to convert when Ryan Killeen missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt.

They would squander another opportunity after a Darnell Bing interception midway through the second quarter.

BYU's mistakes finally translated into points for USC just before halftime. Quarterback John Beck fumbled a snap and USC's Lofa Tatupu recovered on the BYU 20-yard line.

"That's how anxious our defense is," Tatupu said. "It's just another opportunity to get the ball."

Three plays later, Leinart threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Dwayne Jarrett for a 21-3 lead.

It was a decisive score, giving USC ample cushion against a comeback.

In last season's game between these teams, the Trojans opened a wide lead but needed a fourth-quarter BYU fumble and the resulting touchdown to hang on.

No such miscue would be necessary this time.

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