Rose Bowl: USC 32, Michigan 18
By Eddie Pells
PASADENA, Calif. — There were no Heismans or national titles up for grabs for Southern California in this one. Given the way Dwayne Jarrett, John David Booty and that suffocating USC defense played, it was hard to tell.
Jarrett, the sensational USC receiver, caught 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns to help the eighth-ranked Trojans finish their season with a statement Monday in a 32-18 Rose Bowl romp over Michigan.
Booty threw for 391 yards and four scores to land himself on the early short list of next season’s Heisman favorites. Jarrett could be there, too, if he decides to come back. Linebacker Brian Cushing had 21/2 sacks and defensive end Lawrence Jackson came up with two turnovers — a fumble recovery and an interception — on a day when USC allowed only 321 yards.
The Trojans (11-2) salvaged something positive at the Rose Bowl and set themselves up as next year’s possible preseason No. 1 — all this just four weeks after a 13-9 loss to UCLA in the same stadium wrecked their chances for another shot at the national title.
“It’s a little disappointing because we can play with anybody and we knew that,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “But to have this opportunity and to have a night like this for our fans, it’s awesome.”
Jarrett, a junior, showed he’s ready for the pros if he chooses to leave.
“That’s the question everybody’s asking me,” he said. “I don’t know yet.”
His 62-yard touchdown behind All-American cornerback Leon Hall put USC ahead 25-11 early in the fourth and showed just how good the 6-foot-5 pass catcher can be.
For icing, Jarrett outjumped a pair of Michigan defenders for a 29-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter. A few plays later, Booty threw his fourth touchdown pass — this one to senior Steve Smith, who finished with seven catches for 108 yards.
On the losing end were Chad Henne, Mike Hart and the rest of the Wolverines (11-2).
They came in wondering if maybe they hadn’t gotten a raw deal by being left out of the national title game after a back-and-forth 42-39 loss to Ohio State in the wake of Bo Schembechler’s death in November.
But these Wolverines didn’t look as good as the ones who lost that heartbreaker in November. And they hardly looked like champions.
“I’m as disappointed as you can be,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Henne didn’t get the Wolverines past the USC 20 until they had fallen behind 19-3. When Michigan finally did reach the end zone to cut its deficit to 19-11, the Trojans came right back with the drive capped by Jarrett’s long touchdown.
Carr’s team lost its fourth straight bowl game and ended the season on a two-game losing streak for the third consecutive year. These late-season swoons are becoming a serious problem for a team that has lots of juniors returning next season and, like USC, could be a title contender.
The first half of this game was something only Schembechler could have loved — a 3-3 stalemate that wasn’t nearly as interesting as watching the colors change on the San Gabriel Mountains.
USC took control early in the third quarter when, after three straight handoffs to Hart, the Wolverines tried a screen pass that Henne threw into a crowd, only to see it land in the hands of Jackson.
Thus began a string with Booty throwing on nine straight plays, including four consecutive completions that led to the game’s first touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
After a three-and-out, Booty moved the Trojans 70 yards, capping it with a 22-yard pass to Jarrett, who easily made the catch over Morgan Trent and celebrated by pretending he was shooting hoops.
Cushing got another sack and Jackson recovered the ensuing fumble on the next drive, which led to a field goal and 19-3 lead.
From there, the teams went back and forth.