Coming Up Roses
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -The goal at Southern California is the same every year: Win the Pac-10 championship and play in the Rose Bowl.
The Trojans always aspire to be national champions as well, but for the fourth year in a row, the Rose Bowl will just have to do after beating UCLA 28-7 Saturday.
Mark Sanchez passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns, USC's hard-hitting defense stuffed UCLA at every turn, and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their ninth in 10 games between the crosstown rivals.
The win assured USC (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) of an unprecedented seventh consecutive BCS bid, seven straight 11-win seasons and seven conference championships in a row. They'll make a fourth straight appearance in the Rose Bowl game, against No. 6 Penn State.
``We did a good job,'' USC linebacker Brian Cushing said. ``It's great to be Pac-10 champs again. It upsets me a little that two one-loss teams will go to the BCS championship game and we'll be left out. But we will just have to see what happens.''
UCLA stunned USC 13-9 as a 13 1/2-point underdog two years ago at the Rose Bowl, bouncing the Trojans out of the BCS championship game. The 33-point underdog Bruins (4-8, 3-6) inspired hopes for a repeat performance by taking a 7-0 lead in the opening four minutes of this game, but they were unable to pose a scoring threat after that, crossing midfield just once.
``To beat our rival team in their house, it feels awesome,'' said Sanchez, who completed 18 of 33 passes with one interception. ``I'm definitely going to have fun tonight, celebrating with friends and family. It's just unfortunate that we won't be in the national championship game.''
For some USC players, playing in Pasadena on New Year's Day is just fine.
``It feels real good to continue the tradition of playing in another Rose Bowl. It's always the thrill of a lifetime,'' tailback Stafon Johnson said.
``It's like a home game for us,'' wide receiver Patrick Turner said. ``We love representing the whole city.''
The Trojans rolled up 33 first downs and 478 yards of total offense while the Bruins had just seven first downs and gained only 157 yards against the national leader in total defense and scoring defense.
``I thought we had a terrific football season,'' coach Pete Carroll said. ``I'm really proud of the consistency. I'm proud that we kept the program on top of the conference. Defense was the key today.''
It's been that way all season. The Trojans held nine of their 12 opponents to 10 points or less and outscored the opposition 342-56 in winning their last nine games after a 27-21 loss at Oregon State.
UCLA's Kevin Craft completed 11 of 28 passes for 89 yards with one interception, and Kahlil Bell rushed for 36 yards on 14 carries.
``I thought our team played very hard and hung around,'' first-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. ``Unfortunately, some penalties and some things were happening with special teams that hadn't happened all year long and reared their heads in the first half.
``We'll get better. I see us with a year of time to develop our program with all the pieces in place.''
The Bruins lost eight games for the first time since 1963, when they went 2-8.
``Little things seemed to mess it up,'' Craft said. ``We should be better next year, when everybody comes back. We know what we must to do get better. Everyone can hardly wait to come back.''
For the first time in 26 years, both teams wore home jerseys in their annual matchup. That meant cardinal red for the visiting Trojans and powder blue for the host Bruins.
They both played their home games at the Coliseum until UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982, and the NCAA passed a rule the following year that would penalize teams one timeout if they didn't wear their proper home and road jerseys. So the Bruins wore white at the Coliseum in 1983, and the visitors did the same ever next year at the Rose Bowl.
USC was penalized a timeout after the opening kickoff, and UCLA voluntarily took its first timeout immediately thereafter, as Neuheisel had promised. The timeouts prompted a large cheer from the Rose Bowl crowd of 87,790.
After UCLA went three-and-out, C.J. Gable fumbled on USC's first scrimmage play and Korey Bosworth recovered at the Trojans' 20. Two running plays lost a yard before Dominique Johnson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Bell, giving the Bruins their early lead. Craft tossed a backward pass to Johnson before the sophomore wide receiver was successful on the first pass of his career.
``That was a huge deal,'' Neuheisel said. ``We had the play for the entire year. The play is actually called Tennessee because it was put in for the Tennessee game. We used it today, it worked, got us off to a good start. It was exciting.''
The Bruins rallied for a 27-24 overtime victory over the Volunteers to open the season.
USC quickly moved into UCLA territory on a 20-yard pass from Sanchez to Turner and a roughing-the-passer penalty, but David Buehler was wide right on a 41-yard field goal, the first of three misses for a kicker who went 8-of-9 in the first 11 games of the season.
The Trojans tied the game on their third possession, scoring on a 12-yard run by Joe McKnight, who gained 99 yards on 15 carries.
That was just the beginning for USC.
Sanchez threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Damian Williams before the first quarter was over. Helped by a roughing the kicker penalty against David Carter, the Trojans moved 70 yards on 16 plays for a 21-7 lead, scoring on a 2-yard run by Johnson with 1:55 left before halftime.
USC needed just 2 1/2 minutes of the third quarter to extend its lead to 28-7, scoring on an 18-yard pass from Sanchez to Turner to cap a 66-yard drive following the second-half kickoff.
``It feels good to get in the end zone in my last game of the regular season,'' said Turner, a senior who caught five passes for 81 yards. ``It's a beautiful thing.''Bet College Football
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Posted: 12/7/08 1:35 AMET