No. 3 USC Storms Past Cougars
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Football Writer
LOS ANGELES - Matt Leinart, LenDale White and the rest of the SouthernCalifornia Trojans showed there's no doubt who is the best team in the West.Now they hope to have a chance to show they're tops in the nation as well.
Leinart threw three touchdown passes, White ran for 149 yards on 12 carriesand No. 3 Southern Cal smothered sixth-ranked Washington State 43-16 Saturday.
In what was billed as one of the biggest Pac-10 games in years, the Trojans(8-1, 4-1) used their big-play ability to break open a close game in the secondhalf.
USC, fourth in the BCS standings, must hope the dominant win impressed thepoll voters and computers that help determine the top two teams in the countryto play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl.
Leinart threw for 191 yards, Mike Williams caught a TD pass and threw aspectacular pass of his own and Hershel Dennis scored on a 24-yard run as USCscored at least 40 points for a school-record fourth straight game.
The Trojans won their 13th straight home game and moved into a tie for firstin the conference with the Cougars (7-2, 4-1) and UCLA.
USC is off to its best start since opening 10-0 in 1988. The only blemishcame Sept. 27 in a 34-31 triple-overtime loss at California.
The Trojans had too many offensive options for the Pac-10's top defense tohandle. Keary Colbert had nine catches for 80 yards and a touchdown andWilliams had four catches for 43 yards despite a sprained ankle. Freshman SteveSmith even got into the act with a 55-yard touchdown reception.
Williams also had the most memorable play of the game. He took a lateralfrom Leinart in the left flat and tried to pass but nobody was open. Williamsthen scrambled across the field, sidestepped a defender and hit a wide-openGregg Guenther for a 23-yard gain. One play later, Leinart hit Williams on a13-yard slant to make it 29-10.
Matt Kegel and the Cougars didn't go away easily, mounting a 17-play drivewith a pair of fourth-down conversions - including a 13-yard run on a fake puntby Erik Coleman - to score on Jermaine Green's 1-yard plunge.
Leinart then threw a 13-yard TD pass to Colbert on the next drive and Whiteput the game away with his running.
Smith started the big second half by taking a slant pass, breaking JasonDavid's arm tackle and sprinting down the sideline for the score that made it22-10.
Matt Kegel drove Washington State down to the 18 on the next drive beforefumbling a snap that Jason Leach recovered at the 19.
A 49-yard run by White helped set up Williams touchdown reception and theTrojans' defense was too tough for the Cougars.
The Cougars finished with minus 35 yards rushing - although they would havehad 29 except for two botched punt snaps in the first half.
Kegel was under constant pressure from USC's defensive line and left thegame briefly after spraining his right knee in the second quarter.
Washington State also committed 15 penalties for 115 yards.
Ryan Killeen's 30-yard field goal opened the scoring for USC on a driveaided by three offsides penalties.
Kegel, who finished 28-for-47 for 301 yards, threw a 5-yard pass to DevardDarling on the first play of the second quarter to make it 7-3.
USC answered with its best drive of the half, going 82 yards in nine playsto regain the lead on Dennis' 24-yard run.
USC extended the lead when Washington State backup long snapper RileyFitt-Chappell botched two snaps. Starter Troy Bienemann did not make the tripbecause of a bad back and the injury proved costly.
The first snap, coming from the 28, went over Kyle Basler's head into theend zone. Basler knocked it out of bounds for a safety.
On Washington State's next possession, Fitt-Chappell had another bad snapfrom the 46 and Reggie Bush recovered at the Cougars 9. Another field goal byKilleen made it 15-7.
Drew Dunning's 49-yard field goal cut it to 15-10 at the half.
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