Entering Coliseum, USC loaded for bear

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals No. 1 in the country. The Trojans were simply in another class Saturday, at a level the rival UCLA Bruins and precious few others could even imagine. USC played with the Bruins, did as they willed throughout a gorgeous fall afternoon before finally leaving the Coliseum with roses in hand and a 66-19 victory over 11th-ranked UCLA. “This game was an exclamation point for our 12-game season,” said USC coach Pete Carroll. The victory leaves the Trojans 12-0 and headed to the Rose Bowl to meet unbeaten and second-ranked Texas in the BCS national championship game. Here they are, right where they were expected, right where we left them. On top of the college football world. Taking on all challengers. One step from laying claim to a record third consecutive national championship. The USC Trojans have been No. 1 longer than Microsoft. The Ming Dynasty didn’t last as long. They have dominated in an era when such a thing was no longer thought possible. They have rolled and dodged and overwhelmed. They were at it again Saturday, completing their regular season the same way it began, the same way it has been for the past 32 consecutive weeks in the Associated Press football poll: Back in the center ring, back in college football’s main spotlight, back for another game of the ages. “This is the type of season we pictured in our minds from Day One,” said tailback Reggie Bush. Texas destroyed Colorado 70-3 in the supposed Big 12 championship, a game whose lone purpose is to generate additional revenue for the conference. Texas has been No. 2 all season in the AP poll to USC’s No. 1. Aside from one week when they flopped positions, USC and Texas also have been first and second in every Bowl Championship Series poll. It’s the game anticipated since the first rankings came out last summer, but only the second time in AP history teams remained No. 1 and No. 2 the entire season. The first time it happened was last season. Back then, USC and Oklahoma managed it before meeting in the BCS title game in the Orange Bowl. That would be the game USC won 55-19. USC and Texas are the only unbeaten teams remaining, the survivors of long and uncertain seasons. The Trojans have traveled this path before, and even if expected to return, their current 34-game overall winning streak is so remarkable as to defy believability. This season offered several peaks, and, if no real valleys, a few dips that caused the heart to skip. An anticipated finale still arrived via its own path. “I didn’t know for sure how it would go,” said center Ryan Kalil. “We had a lot of guys back, but every year it’s a different team. Every team has a different story.” This USC team was heavily favored Saturday, but given how explosive UCLA’s offense had been, there remained some uncertainty. It was unfounded. Even with Heisman winning quarterback Matt Leinart, emotional in his final game at the Coliseum and out of sync in the first half, USC simply ran away from the 9-2 Bruins. USC scored on five of its first six possessions. It never did punt. It unleashed Bush in the first half, and the Bruins – soft against the run all season – had no answer. Bush had 228 yards rushing and two touchdowns – by halftime. The Trojans might as well have presented him the Heisman at the half on the way up the Coliseum tunnel. By halftime, USC led 31-6 and all the air had gone out of an early awaited game. The Trojan Horse wore out from touchdown laps. Leinart completed 8-of-20 passes in the first half, and it was still a blowout. USC was expected to field one of the greatest offenses college football had ever seen, and it did not disappoint. If the passing game stalled, there was always the running game. “It was beautiful,” Carroll said. “It was a beautiful day. It played out so well. “We have done everything we could to this point.” USC opened the game with a simple field goal, and UCLA answered with a drive that left it facing a fourth-and-5 from the USC 35-yard line. UCLA coach Karl Dorrell elected to punt. Facing a high-powered offense like USC and knowing it would likely rain points, he punted. The Bruins were never in the game again. “We knew from the beginning of the game we would be able to do almost anything we wanted,” Bush said. Bush carried the ball only six more times in the second half and finished with 260 yards on 24 carries. Len Dale White added 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Leinart, who elected to return for his senior season despite last year’s Heisman and the lure of NFL millions, rebounded from his off first half to finish 21 of 40 for 233 yards and three touchdowns. “This is everything I dreamed coming back,” Leinart said. Back in the BCS title game, for a battle projected since the season began, back where they left off. Their season was only expected to be perfect. “Now we have one more game,” Leinart said. It all played out as anticipated. USC and Texas, two storied programs, the two most explosive offenses in football, now left with one game to decide it all. For USC, it’s an old story that never gets old. Steve Dilbeck’s column appears in the Daily News four times a week. He can be reached at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img