Behind Balanced Offensive Attack, Trojans Squash Colorado, 40-3
Sept 14, 2002
BOULDER, Colo. - Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer believes his team can play a lot better. Colorado hopes not.
Palmer passed for 244 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score as No. 17 Southern California embarrassed No. 18 Colorado 40-3 Saturday.
Malaefou MacKenzie had a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, and Sultan McCullough ran for 110 yards and a TD as the Trojans (2-0) generated 425 yards. Short-handed Colorado (1-2) had a meager 61 total yards and four first downs.
'So many things worked so well for us,' Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. 'I think we handled the environment, we handled the altitude. We ran the football like we haven't in a while. Defensively, we didn't let them get into a rhythm. I'm glad we could get some focus and play a complete football game.'
Carroll had to wrack his brain to find an area of concern.
'We had some problems in the kicking game, and those are things we can get fixed,' he said.
Southern California, coming off a bye week after a 24-17 opening win over Auburn, posted its sixth straight regular-season victory dating back to last season.
Colorado quarterback Robert Hodge, who got his first major-college start because Craig Ochs was sidelined with a concussion, led the Buffaloes to only 58 yards through three quarters. Zac Colvin replaced Hodge in the final quarter.
'We were just awful,' Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. 'I don't know what else to say. We were doubly awful on offense and just awful on defense.
'We were totally inept on offense. I'm really disappointed that we couldn't run the ball better. We knew going in that that was the only way we were going to win.
'But I don't want to take anything away from Southern California. That's a very good team and a well-coached team. I'm embarrassed that we didn't give them a better game. They were obviously ready to play, and we were not ready to play that caliber of football today.'
Palmer, who completed 22 of 30 passes, was 14-of-22 for 151 yards in the first half as the Trojans had 291 total yards in taking a 20-0 halftime lead. Colorado had just 54 yards at intermission.
The Trojans fashioned three 80-yard scoring drives, two of them in the first quarter.
'We were just kind of dinking the ball around, a lot of quick passes, short passes,' Palmer said. 'Guys were just making plays. People were breaking tackles and getting the ball upfield.'
Palmer completed 17- and 21-yard passes to Keary Colbert to highlight the first drive. On fourth-and-7 from the Colorado 32, MacKenzie caught a short pass off the left side, broke three tackles and scored.
Later in the period, the Trojans, aided by a pass-interference penalty, reached the 14, where MacKenzie romped up the middle for another TD.
Colorado's offense was ineffective in the early going. After Hodge threw a 20-yard completion to Beau Williams on the second play from scrimmage, the Buffs got only 16 yards on 12 plays the remainder of the period.
Mark Mariscal was Colorado's lone weapon in the first half, hitting punts of 57, 55, 67, 68, 50 and 62 yards to consistently pin the Trojans in their own territory.
With 3:35 left in the second quarter, Colorado appeared to get a key turnover on freshman J.J. Billingsley's interception and 15-yard return to the USC 38. The Buffs were penalized for roughing the passer, however, and USC retained possession.
Three plays later, McCullough went 62 yards off the left side to make it 20-0.
David Davis' extra-point attempt was wide, and Davis also had a 38-yard field goal try blocked.
Colorado squandered its only other scoring opportunity in the half after Roderick Sneed's 44-yard kickoff return. Two plays later, Hodge was intercepted.
The Buffaloes blocked a punt early in the third quarter, but Pat Brougham missed a 23-yard field goal.
Later in the period, Kareem Kelly fumbled while making a fair catch on a punt, and Colorado recovered at the USC 19. Brougham kicked a 42-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 20-3.
The Trojans countered with another 80-yard drive. Palmer completed 6-of-6 passes on the march, sneaking the final yard for a 27-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.
A fumble by Colvin set up Darryl Poston's 4-yard TD run in the closing minutes.
It was Colorado's worst loss since a 52-7 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln in 1992 and its worst loss at home since a 59-20 setback at the hands of Missouri in 1983.
Kelly caught a pass in his 37th straight game, tying the school record set by John Jackson from 1986-89.
By JOHN MOSSMAN
AP Sports Writer