|USC Legends News|
On the first day of 2007, USC Trojans returned to the site of its discontent to defeat Michigan, 32-18, in the Rose Bowl, a victory that will have to serve as a consolation for the past two seasons. The eighth-ranked Trojans (11-2) unleashed relentless pressure on quarterback Chad Henne and in the second half displayed the type of explosive offense that helped them capture national championships in 2003 and 2004.
A crowd of 93,852 watched two of college football's most decorated programs engage in contest that grew more entertaining as it wore on.
The Rose Bowl began in the afternoon, but it was not until the moon was in view over the San Gabriel Mountains, midway through the third quarter, that the first touchdown was scored. A first-half defensive battle turned into a second-half shootout, featuring two schools that had dropped their regular season finales to squander national title hopes.
Michigan, which suffered its only regular season loss against top-ranked Ohio State on Nov. 18, entered the Rose Bowl feeling as if it were still national championship worthy after being leapfrogged in the final Bowl Championship Series ratings by Florida, which will meet top-ranked Ohio State on Monday in Glendale, Ariz., for the national championship.
After playing the third-ranked Wolverines (11-2) to a 3-3 halftime score, USC Trojans exploited Michigan on both sides of the ball. The Trojans repeatedly pressured Henne, sacking him five times in the first half and forcing him to fumble and throw an interception in the second half.
Offensively, USC Trojans attacked Michigan's secondary, and the Wolverines had no answer for all-American wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who might have played in his final college game if he decides to enter the NFL draft after his junior season. In all, Jarrett had 11 catches for 205 and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter that squashed all hope of a Michigan comeback.
The reception was one of four touchdown passes quarterback John David Booty threw in the second half to hand Michigan its fourth straight defeat in a bowl game. Booty finished 27 of 45 for 391 yards and four scores.
The Trojans' pressure on the quarterback was critical and proved too much for Henne to combat early in the third quarter. With two defensive players barreling toward him, Henne made an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by defensive end Lawrence Jackson.
With the ball deep in Michigan territory, USC Trojans soon made Henne pay for his mistake by scoring the game's first touchdown. Jarrett made a quick inside move on Michigan cornerback Morgan Trent to get open, and Booty completed a pass to Jarrett at the 2. On the next play, Booty rolled to his right and found wide receiver Chris McFoy open in the back of the end zone.
Both teams averaged more than 30 points per game during the regular season, but Monday's first half was anything but an offensive showcase. All both schools could muster were two field goals as the defenses dominated, particularly against the run.
Michigan netted minus-9 rushing yards on 16 carries. The Trojans held the Wolverines to 76 total yards in the first half; USC Trojans had only lost once in its last 34 games -- Dec. 2 against UCLA -- when it held an opponent to less than 300 total yards.
The largest question entering the game concerned how USC Trojans's offensive line would handle Michigan's front seven on defense. Booty was relentlessly hurried and harassed by a UCLA defensive line that paled in comparison to Michigan's.
Michigan was the only team in the country to hold opponents to less than two yards per carry. So throughout Monday's game, Booty looked to spread out Michigan's defense downfield, looking often for Jarrett. In the first half, Jarrett collected six receptions for 58 yards, as he became the school's leader in career receptions.
In the second quarter, Booty hooked up with wide receiver Steve Smith on a third-and-eight play that gave the Trojans a first down on the Michigan 21.
On the next play, however, Michigan linebackers Shawn Crable and David Harris pressured Booty in the backfield, forcing him to fumble the ball. Defensive tackle Alan Branch recovered for the Wolverines.
It was the type of scoring opportunity USC Trojans would not squander after halftime.
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