Bruins End Trojans National Championship Hopes with 13-9 Victory
Dec. 2, 2006
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Step aside, Trojans. Your chase for the national championship is over.
UCLA knocked No. 2 USC out of the Bowl Championship Series title game with a stunning 13-9 victory over its crosstown rival Saturday.
The Bruins did it with a vastly improved defense and a quarterback starting on three days' notice.
Patrick Cowan passed for 114 yards, ran for another 55, and the Bruins snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans in paving the way for a Michigan-Ohio State rematch or an Ohio State-Florida matchup for the national championship Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.
The final BCS standings and bowl pairings will be announced Sunday.
The Trojans moved into position for a game-winning touchdown, but Eric McNeal deflected and then made a diving interception of John David Booty's pass at the UCLA 20-yard line with 1:10 remaining.
USC's bid for a third straight appearance in the national title game was over.
The Trojans got one final shot at winning, but Booty's desperation pass from deep in USC territory fell incomplete, and the celebration was on at the Rose Bowl. Moments after it was all over, defensive end Justin Hickman led teammates into the UCLA student section.
In addition to having their national championship hopes ended, the Trojans (10-2, 7-2 Pac-10) had their NCAA-record scoring streak of 63 games in which they had scored 20 or more points snapped.
The loss was USC's fourth in the last 59 games. As Pac-10 champions, the Trojans will return to Pasadena on New Year's Day and play in the Rose Bowl game.
The Bruins (7-5, 5-4) hadn't beaten USC since 1998, when they beat the Trojans for the eighth straight time. UCLA, a winner of three straight games, will face Florida State in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Francisco.
No. 1 Ohio State locked up its berth in the BCS title game by beating then-No. 2 Michigan 42-39 two weeks ago in the regular-season finale for both teams. USC moved ahead of the Wolverines in the BCS standings last weekend after beating Notre Dame 44-24.
The game at the Rose Bowl was delayed briefly with 5:52 remaining after a punt, when UCLA gathered for a team huddle a couple of yards onto the field. USC decided to do the same thing, and seconds later, the players began bouncing up and down and waving their homes, triggering offsetting unsportslike conduct penalties.
The coaches and officials made the players keep their distance.
USC then moved to the Bruins' 18 before McNeal's game-clincher on a third-and-four play.
UCLA coach Karl Dorrell decided Wednesday that Cowan, who had started UCLA's previous six games, would get the call at quarterback rather than Ben Olson, who started the first five games but hasn't played since tearing a knee ligament Oct. 7.
Dorrell said two days earlier that Olson would get the call if he seemed to be up to it in practice.
Cowan completed 12 of 21 passes and carried 10 times. Booty completed 23 of 39 passes for 274 yards and the one costly interception.