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USC dominates Michigan in Rose Bowl
PASADENA, Calif. -- Whether they considered it the first game of next season or the final game of this one, Dwayne Jarrett and Southern California could certainly view the Rose Bowl as a splendid success.
Jarrett and his teammates were sensational Monday, rolling through Michigan for a 32-18 victory that helped soothe some of this season's disappointments and foreshadow even better thing for the future.
"A very powerful statement for our program," coach Pete Carroll called the win.
Jarrett caught 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns and now must decide whether to go pro -- where he'll be an easy first-round draft pick -- or come back for his senior year at USC (11-2), which showed every sign it could return to the national-title picture in 2007.
"Now that he's had a performance like this tonight, I'm sure the reins will be free on what he can do and what he can't do," linebacker Oscar Lua said of USC's star receiver. "But we hope he stays. We love him here, but the ball's in his court right now."
Jarrett said he'll talk to his family to reach the right decision. Meanwhile, the rest of the college football world better get ready. No. 8 USC, which also got 391 yards and four touchdown passes from John David Booty, is going to be difficult to deal with next season.
"I said going into this game, USC is the best defensive team we've played, and there's no doubt in my mind that they are," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Not to be overlooked, indeed the defense was at its suffocating best.
Brian Cushing had 21/2 of USC's six sacks, Lawrence Jackson came up with two turnovers and the Trojans didn't let No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (11-2) past the USC 26-yard line until the game was out of hand.
USC's convincing victory came a month after a 13-9 loss to UCLA in this same stadium wrecked their chances for a third straight trip to the BCS title game. Carroll spent the down time trying to get his guys motivated for a game that was little more than an exhibition.
They put on quite a show.
"Our guys know that wasn't us," Carroll said of the UCLA loss. "That was the single game out of the last 65 that stood out because it was so different and unusual. So we put it behind us. This was an opportunity to kickstart what's going on for this football team for the future. I think we captured the night. We captured the opportunity."
Jarrett is the lone key underclassman who hasn't committed to coming back. If, in fact, this was his last college game, it was quite a finale.
His 62-yard touchdown behind All-American cornerback Leon Hall put USC ahead 25-11 early in the fourth and showed just how good the 6-foot-5 pass catcher can be.
For icing, Jarrett outjumped a pair of Michigan defenders for a 29-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter. A few plays later, Booty threw his fourth touchdown pass -- this one to senior Steve Smith, who finished with seven catches for 108 yards.
"He was as advertised," Hall said, referring to Jarrett. "He's a playmaker. We saw it on film, and we saw it today."
Joining Hall on the losing end were quarterback Chad Henne (26 completions for 309 yards, many after the game was out of hand), running back Mike Hart (47 yards) and big group of Michigan juniors who also should be a force next season.
They came in wondering if maybe they'd gotten a raw deal by being left out of the national title game after a back-and-forth 42-39 loss to Ohio State in the wake of Bo Schembechler's death.
But these Wolverines didn't look as good as the ones who lost that heartbreaker in November. And they hardly looked like champions.
Carr's team lost its fourth straight bowl game and ended the season on a two-game losing streak for the third consecutive year. Granted, there was nothing riding on this game between arguably the two best teams that weren't playing for the BCS championship. Then again, getting stomped like that can make for a tough offseason.
"I think it mattered a lot," Carr said. "They're tremendously disappointed because they wanted to win. Anybody that thinks this game doesn't mean a lot doesn't know much about this game."
The first half was a display only Schembechler could have loved -- a 3-3 stalemate that wasn't nearly as interesting as watching the colors change on the San Gabriel Mountains.
USC took control early in the third quarter when, after three straight handoffs to Hart, the Wolverines tried a screen pass that Henne threw into a crowd, only to see it land in the hands of Jackson.
Booty then threw four consecutive completions that led to the game's first touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
After a three-and-out, Booty moved the Trojans 70 yards, capping it with a 22-yard pass to Jarrett, who easily made the catch over Morgan Trent and celebrated by pretending he was shooting hoops.
Cushing got another sack and Jackson recovered the ensuing fumble on the next drive, which led to a field goal and 19-3 lead.
From there, the teams went back and forth, trading touchdowns and giving Jarrett the chance to pad some stats and impress the NFL scouts, who saw him fashion a resounding finish to what had been a frustrating and injury-plagued season.
"We've been working so hard all week to get this thing right," Jarrett said. "We wanted to go out on a good note, and we came out and performed well."
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