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Chris Dufresne | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

With Booty on target, there are no questions left

September 23, 2007|Chris Dufresne

The question after a 28-point win over Idaho was, "How could USC look so sluggish in its home opener?"

The question after the bye week was, "How could USC be No. 1 when Louisiana State just crushed Virginia Tech in Baton Rouge?"

The question after a romp over Nebraska last week was, "Nice running game, but when will the star quarterback and his passing game show up?"

The only question after USC's 47-14 win over Washington State at the Coliseum on Saturday night was. . .

. . . Next?

That would be Washington, next week, in Seattle.

Saturday night was a bad night for Trojans Nitpick Nation as USC turned in a worked-them-like performance.

You want blemishes?

Starting quarterback John David Booty tossed an interception near the end of the first half.

Bad, bad, Booty -- how could you let that pass leave your hand?

Trojans kicker David Buehler missed an extra point that would have given USC 48 points instead of 47.

Early morning stadium steps might be in order.

The backup quarterback, Mark Sanchez, had a late pass intercepted and two Trojans defenders dropped in-their-hands interceptions that could have ended the game sooner.

Other than that, it was a near-perfect effort as the Trojans implemented Operation Balancing Act.

Thought the Trojans were a little run-heavy against Nebraska last week?

Might be nice if they could balance things out?

Saturday night, USC rushed for 207 yards and passed for 302.

"We ran for 200 and passed for 300," USC Coach Pete Carroll said shortly after he reviewed the final stat book. "That's about what you hope to do."

Booty completed 10 of 11 passes on USC's opening drive, but Carroll said nobody was trying to prove anything.

"It was not a statement to anybody else," he insisted. "We just need to work."

Booty capped the first drive with six-yard scoring pass to Fred Davis in the back of the end zone.

Davis came to USC as a wide receiver but is now a 250-pound tight end who ran over and around Washington State defenders.

For years, he lingered in the shadows of receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.

"Now he's the veteran," Booty said, "now he's the old guy."

Davis finished with nine catches for 124 yards.

"He just showed up," Booty said. "He was the guy getting open."

But it's not as though Davis was a ball hog.

Booty spread the outgoing bounty like bread to city-square birds.

Nine Trojans receivers caught at least one pass and eight players had at least one carry.

"Nice to see the balance," Trojans left tackle Sam Baker said.

So when the lights literally went out on Washington State Coach Bill Doba's postgame news conference, it was . . .

"Fitting for the night," Doba said. "I'm done."

The Trojans hit all their marks and displayed the embarrassment of riches everyone knew they had stashed all along.

"Oh yeah," Doba said. "It's not hard to see."

Booty heard the talk that maybe the Trojans might be all rush and no pass.

But he said the reason USC ran for 300-plus yards last week against Nebraska was because USC could. He knew this season would eventually come to pass.

"It's something we knew we could do," he said. "It's something we just knew was coming."

The Trojans have so many weapons you tend to lose track.

Stafon Johnson had 144 yards rushing last week against Nebraska and yet he didn't even touch the ball Saturday until the second quarter.

He didn't touch it early because the Trojans started Chauncey Washington at tailback and he gained 84 yards in 11 carries.

Senior ranking, in this case, trumped sophomore status.

Are we missing anyone in this roll-over-Washington-State call?

Oh yeah, Joe McKnight, the top tailback prospect, the kid out of New Orleans, who bopped in late to average 6.9 mop-up yards in seven carries.

Time to roll out the barrels and the Carrolls.

Crank up the campaign bus for Booty, who came up big on a day when other Heisman Trophy candidates had their issues.

Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm likely removed himself from contention after the Cardinals' shocking home loss to previously winless Syracuse.

Brohm had great numbers: He completed 45 of 65 passes for 555 yards and four scores in defeat, with the key word being d-e-f-e-a-t.

Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden, who finished second in Heisman balloting last year behind winner Troy Smith, ran for 172 yards but Arkansas lost its second game of the season when it fell to Kentucky.

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan was going up against some school named Charleston Southern, so nothing he did Saturday night was going to further his cause.

California took care of Arizona in Berkeley, but superstar receiver/return man DeSean Jackson had only three catches for 39 yards and was held without a touchdown.

Booty completed 28 of 35 passes for 279 yards with four touchdowns.

He is a top player for one of the top schools in the nation, a Heisman formula that worked well this century for Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.

"John David I thought was just rock-solid tonight," Carroll said.

And that meant lights out for Washington State.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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