FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Jan. 5 -- Pete Carroll's cell phone started ringing with congratulatory calls even before the bus loaded with jubilant Trojans had pulled away from Pro Player Stadium following Southern California's 55-19 rout of Oklahoma in Tuesday's Bowl Championship Series title game. Four messages were left by high school prospects he's recruiting for next season.
"It was awesome," Carroll gushed Wednesday morning after celebrating USC's second consecutive national championship with his team until sunrise. "We know what we're doing; we know how we want to do it. The biggest deal is to continue to bring in the talent."
With many hot new recruits on the way and a fine stable of returning starters, Southern California head coach Pete Carroll has plenty to smile about.
(Marc Serota - Reuters)
The notion of Southern Cal adding to its prodigious talent is no doubt unsettling to the other 116 Division I-A coaches, who have watched Carroll's Trojans compile a 25-1 record over the last two seasons and cap their 2004 campaign in breathtaking fashion in the Orange Bowl, rolling up 525 yards of offense against Oklahoma's vaunted defense and forcing five turnovers.
Their dominance more than justified their claim on sole possession of the national title (the 11th in school history), and Associated Press voters made it official shortly after midnight by awarding 13-0 USC the No. 1 ranking with 62 of 65 first-place votes. Auburn, which also finished 13-0 by defeating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, finished second, claiming the remaining first-place votes. Oklahoma (12-1) was third, followed by Utah (12-0) and Texas (11-1).
Virginia Tech was 10th, Virginia 23rd and Navy 24th, marking its first appearance in the season-ending poll since 1979.
Southern Cal dominated Oklahoma in every facet. Junior quarterback Matt Leinart passed for 332 yards and an Orange Bowl-record five touchdowns. The rushing tandem of LenDale White and Reggie Bush combined for 193 yards and two touchdowns, while USC's defense held Oklahoma's freshman phenom Adrian Peterson to fewer than 100 yards for only the second time this year.
Oklahoma's downfall was triggered when Mark Bradley tried fielding a punt that was dribbling to rest inside the 5-yard line, only to fumble it and cringe as White scored one play later to give USC a 14-7 lead. Sooners Coach Bob Stoops called it "as bad a play as there is."
The Trojans took a 38-10 lead into halftime, and the shell-shocked Sooners, who hadn't surrendered a touchdown in their previous three games, never recovered.
It was the second consecutive year Oklahoma had lost the BCS title game, and Stoops faces a major task in rebuilding his team in the offseason with the departure of sixth-year quarterback Jason White and the core of his veteran offensive and defensive lines.
The Trojans, by contrast, are much younger, projected to return 15 of 22 starters.
The status of Leinart, who likely would be the top pick in April's NFL draft if he declares himself eligible, is uncertain. With back-to-back national titles, a Heisman Trophy and Orange Bowl MVP honors, Leinart has little left to prove at the college level in the eyes of NFL scouts. But Carroll, who coached 16 seasons in the pro game, is trying to balance the lure of the NFL's millions with the merits of staying at USC another year.
"It's going to take a lot for me to leave," Leinart said. "To have a chance to do a third national championship in a row -- and at the Rose Bowl next year in our backyard. . . . I can't answer right now. But it's going to take a lot for me to leave."