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93rd ROSE BOWL | USC 32, MICHIGAN 18 | Xs AND O's

Trojans took on an air of superiority in second half

January 02, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

After scoring only a field goal in the first half against Michigan, USC's offense appeared to be in the same funk that afflicted it in the Trojans' last game at the Rose Bowl, a 13-9 loss to UCLA nearly a month earlier.

But during Monday's halftime, the coaching staff made a decision that changed the game. They decided to almost exclusively feature the passing portion of their playbook and the Wolverines' defense couldn't keep up in the second half as USC won going away, 32-18.

"We knew that we had started off slow and then we got the ball moving in the second half by throwing," said tight end Fred Davis, who caught three passes for 39 yards after being held without a reception in the first half. "We all felt good once that started to happen because we have players like D.J. [Dwayne Jarrett] and Steve [Smith] out there making plays."

Although Jarrett finished with a game-high 11 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns, his highlight plays do not tell the whole story about USC's second-half offensive explosion.

Michigan "had to feel good at halftime because we had moved the ball some but we only had three points," USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. "So they came out and didn't really do anything different. We just threw the ball and attacked them instead of trying to be a little more balanced. So we didn't worry about protection and all of that stuff, we just threw the ball to No. 8 [Jarrett] and No. 2 [Smith]."

Even passing on nearly every down, the Trojans were not predictable. On some plays, they moved the pocket to give quarterback John David Booty time to throw; other times, they crossed up Michigan's defense with misdirection play-action passes to underneath receivers.

USC made little use of either of those tactics against UCLA, and the Wolverines appeared to be caught by surprise.

"We got some pressure on [Booty] in the first half, but they made some adjustments," Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable said. "They didn't let him sit in the pocket. They started moving him around."

USC began the third quarter with a play-action pass to Smith, who was left open on a crossing route for a nine-yard gain, but then the Trojans ran ineffectively on the next two plays and had to punt.

That would be the last time USC would be that conservative.

On the Trojans' next possession, Booty threw four times in a four-play, 38-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass to Chris McFoy to give USC a 10-3 lead.

The next time the Trojans had the ball, Booty passed five times in a five-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Jarrett's 22-yard score that put USC ahead, 16-3.

"We did such a good job on the run, their bread and butter had to be pass plays," Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley said. "You know coaches. Once they see something is working, that's what they are going to stick to and that's what they did."

USC's unpredictability in the passing game was at its best early in the fourth quarter after Michigan scored to get within 19-11. Instead of turning back to their ground attack, the Trojans continued to count on Booty, who connected with Jarrett for a 62-yard touchdown pass play.

Completing the second-half air assault, Booty needed only four passes to take USC 85 yards, his final throw a seven-yard touchdown strike to Smith to finish the Trojans' scoring.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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