USC soars to win, 38-24
By John Nadel
PASADENA, Calif. ó Overwhelming from the start, Southern California put on a championship performance.Too bad for the Trojans, they weren’t playing for the national title.
Mark Sanchez passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns, USC dominated on defense and the fifth-ranked Trojans beat up No. 6 Penn State 38-24 on Thursday in the Rose Bowl.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno watched from the press box, where he’s been for most of the season because of hip problems. He couldn’t have liked what he saw ó at one point in the first half, the TV camera caught him shaking his head as USC (12-1) rolled to a 31-7 lead.
But even before the game, the 82-year-old coach said several times he thought USC was at least as good as any team in the country, perhaps better.
It doesn’t matter.
Out of the BCS championship mix, the Trojans can only wonder what might have been had they not lost 27-21 at Oregon State on Sept. 25.
What was thought to be a weak Pac-10 hurt the Trojans’ chances to reach the national championship game in Miami ó where Florida and Oklahoma will play next week. But the Pac-10 finished the postseason 5-0.
“With all due respect, those are two great programs, I don’t think anybody can beat the Trojans,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “I just think we can beat anyone we played. That’s happened a lot to us late in the season. This is a terrific finishing program. There are so many things we can do. We’re just hard to beat right now.
“I just wish we could keep playing. Unfortunately, we don’t get to. Maybe someday there will be a chance, but not now.”
And not soon, either. There’s no playoff in sight for major college football.
USC scored four touchdowns and a field goal on five straight first-half possessions for a 24-point halftime lead against a team that allowed only 12.4 points a game during the regular season.
With the No. 1 defense in the nation, there was no way the Trojans would blow that kind of lead.
The Nittany Lions (11-2) scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to make the final score respectable.
Paterno, who has won 383 games, including 23 bowls ó both records ó thought the Trojans were every bit as good as advertised. USC won 10 straight after losing to Oregon State, outscoring the opposition 380-80.
“I thought that we were playing against the best, and I thought we had to play our best to be competitive,” Paterno said. “In the first half, we just did the dumb things that we have not done all year. We didn’t play our game in the first half, but we came back and we hung in there. So we have nothing to be ashamed of.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Southern Cal because they played a heck of a football game and their quarterback played a great game. They certainly deserved to win it, but I’m a little disappointed that we weren’t a little bit more competitive.”
The Trojans’ 31 first-half points were the most they’ve scored in any of their record 33 Rose Bowl games. They spent most of the second half working the clock.
“The offense was on fire in the first half,” Carroll said. “I thought Mark just set the tempo.”