Moments after the 66th Rose Bowl game had ended Tuesday, Paul Hackett, University of Southern California offensive coordinator, stood outside his team's locker room talking with friends.
He was excited and he was shouting. But in one sentence, he described the main reason for his team's pulsating 17-16 win over Ohio State.
"All day long, we fooled around and fooled around," he said. "Finally, we just took it right at 'em and did it."
When Hackett spoke of "fooling around," he was talking about the Trojans' second half play-calling, which included 17 passes on their first 29 plays. It also included three straight passes after USC had a second-and-four at the Ohio State 24 with eight minutes left in the game. All three were intended for Dan Garcia and all three were incomplete.
"After that drive, we just all looked at each other and said, 'We're passing too damn much,'" USC Coach John Robinson said. "The next time we got the ball, it was different."
The next time the Trojans got the ball, the clock was down to 5:21 and dusk was closing in on the Rose Bowl. Ohio State led, 16-10, and darkness was closing in on USC.
The Trojans were through fooling around. Starting from their 17, they marched 83 yards in eight plays on a drive that quarterback Paul McDonald later described as one that "people won't forget for a long, long time."
It was also a drive that would have warmed the cockles of deposed Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes' heart. It was straight-ahead, power football.
Heisman Trophy-winner Charles White had already carried the ball 30 times for 160 yards when he trotted onto the field with the offense. Weakened by the flu, he had vomited just prior to the game. He had also suffered a long cut across his nose in the third quarter as the Buckeye defense pounded on him.
But with his senior-laden offensive line and fullback Marcus Allen leading the way, White could not be stopped. On that scintillating march, he carried six times for 71 of the 83 yards, including the last yard on a dive and somersault over the left guard.
But it was the first two carries -- both audibles by McDonald -- that let Ohio State know that its superb effort was not going to be enough.
"He picked up 60 yards on two carries so fast it made your head swim," Ohio State Coach Earle Bruce said. "It was something."
It was enough to allow the Trojans to survive in spite of being passed silly by sophomore quarterback Art Schlichter (11 of 21, 297 yards) and in spite of coming away without points on four separate possessions on which they drove to the Ohio State 25-yard line or closer.
"Give Ohio State's defense credit," Robinson said. "They played tenaciously all day long. They made the big plays."
So did Schlichter, who threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Gary Williams, a 53-yard pass to Williams and a 58-yard pass to Doug Donley, against a defense that had not surrendered a pass longer than 46 yards (once) all season.
But as Pacific-10 teams have done here the last six years and 10 of the last 11, the Trojans came up with the final answer. That answer was White, whose 247 yards rushing smashed a 21-year-old record of 194 held by Iowa's Bob Jeter.
"This is the way I wanted to go out," said White, so exhausted at game's end that he needed almost 30 minutes alone before he could talk to reporters. "I'll cherish this day the rest of my life."
So will the 105,526 who jammed into the old bowl and shook it for three hours as this beautifully scripted drama unfolded.
It was a game of big plays and big mistakes on both sides with momentum constantly switching.
"The bottom line on this game was Charles White," Ohio State linebacker Al Washington said. "We hit him with everything we had. We swarmed him. But he kept coming back over and over. He's the greatest back I've ever seen."