No. 17 Cal Downed By No. 4 USC, 23-9
Nov. 18, 2006
LOS ANGELES (AP) - No. 4 Southern California is headed back to Pasadena at the very least. The Trojans kept a loftier goal alive as well.
John David Booty passed for 238 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the USC defense shut down California in the second half, and the Trojans beat the Golden Bears 23-9 Saturday night to clinch the Pac-10 championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
USC became the first team to win five straight Pac-10 football titles, and took another step toward a possible berth in the national championship game against No. 1 Ohio State, a 42-39 winner over No. 2 Michigan on Saturday.
The Trojans (9-1, 7-1 Pac-10) need to beat No. 6 Notre Dame and crosstown rival UCLA to have a shot at playing in their third straight national title game, although Michigan's performance against Ohio State might have been enough to get the Wolverines in. Those teams have completed their seasons.
No. 17 Cal (8-3, 6-2) was shooting for its first Rose Bowl berth in 48 years, but with speedy DeSean Jackson and Pac-10 rushing leader Marshawn Lynch held in check for the most part, the Bears couldn't get the job done.
Cal led 9-6 before USC scored on three straight possessions to take command.
The win was USC's 32nd straight at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a crowd of 91,672 watched anxiously until the Trojans broke the game open in the final period. They're 19-0 in November in Pete Carroll's six seasons as coach.
Booty, who completed 5-of-12 passes for 69 yards in the first half, wound up 18-of-31 without being intercepted. Steve Smith caught six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Dwayne Jarrett made five receptions for 66 yards and a TD. Freshman C.J. Gable gained a career-high 91 yards on 19 carries.
Cal's Nate Longshore completed 17 of 38 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Jackson, the national leader with four punt returns for touchdowns and the Pac-10 leader with nine TD receptions, caught two passes for 41 yards and returned two punts for no yards. Lynch, the Pac-10 rushing leader, gained 88 yards on 20 carries.
Booty's 25-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett with 13:01 remaining capped a 78-yard, seven-play drive and snapped a 9-9 tie. Booty's 13-yard pass to Jarrett on third-and-9 from the USC 34 kept the drive alive, and Gable turned a short pass reception into a 35-yard gain two plays before the touchdown.
Booty threw a 37-yard scoring pass to Smith on a fourth-and-2 play with 8:23 left to cap a 56-yard drive and complete the scoring.
Leading by three points, Cal moved into USC territory for the sixth time early in the third quarter, but Tom Schneider was well short on a 55-yard field goal. The Trojans then moved into position for a 49-yard field goal by David Buehler on his first career attempt, tying the game 9-all.
The Bears got only two first downs after that - both in the final minute of play.
Cal's 9-6 halftime lead was a most surprising score considering the teams are averaging 66.7 points between them and the Bears rank ninth in total defense in the Pac-10. The margin might have been greater had they not committed two turnovers in USC territory.
The Trojans moved 88 yards on their first possession, but had to settle for Mario Danelo's 19-yard field goal after Bernard Hicks' open-field tackle of Smith at the Bears' 2-yard line.
The Bears then reached the USC 44 before Longshore's long pass for Jackson was intercepted by Taylor Mays at the 3. However, Brandon Mebane tackled Chauncey Washington in the end zone on the next play for a safety - Cal's first since the 2002 season.
After the free kick, the Bears moved to the Trojans' 26 before Lawrence Jackson sacked Longshore and forced a fumble that USC's Sedrick Ellis recovered.
After Danelo's 32-yard field goal gave the Trojans a 6-2 lead, the Bears moved 73 yards on six plays, scoring on Longshore's 6-yard pass to Lavelle Hawkins on third-and-goal. Longshore completed passes of 36 yards to Jackson and 29 yards to Robert Jordan earlier in the drive.