Southern Cal 66, UCLA 19
UCLA's Marcus Cassel was the last obstacle standing between Southern California tailback Reggie Bush and the end zone. Cassel stood his ground, so Bush jumped over the 6-foot cornerback and scored upon landing.
The second-quarter touchdown was Bush's most jaw-dropping run Saturday and also the most symbolic in USC's 66-19 victory. The performance of the Trojans' incomparable junior enabled top-ranked USC to easily clear its final hurdle en route to the Rose Bowl, where it will compete for a third consecutive national championship.
USC's margin of victory was not quite as one-sided as second-ranked Texas's 70-3 annihilation of Colorado in the Big 12 title game earlier Saturday. But the 92,000 fans who witnessed USC's rout at the Los Angeles Coliseum could argue the Trojans were equally dominant. As a result, USC (12-0) will take its 34-game win streak to nearby Pasadena for a much anticipated Jan. 4 matchup with the Longhorns, the nation's only other unbeaten team.
"People would kill to be in our shoes," Bush said. "To be on one of the most dominant teams in the history of football."
Bush rushed for 260 yards and two touchdowns, clearly establishing himself as the favorite to win this year's Heisman Trophy, which his quarterback, Matt Leinart, won a year ago. Before heading into the locker room, Bush climbed a few steps on one side of the stadium and directed the band in a crowning tribute to the season and probably his college career.
While Bush said he has not decided whether he will forgo his senior season, his stepfather, Lamar Griffin, said he believes Bush will turn pro. When asked where he will put the Heisman Trophy, Griffin said: "I've got a big house. I'll find a place."
When a reporter asked Bush what Saturday's performance did for his Heisman chance, Leinart chimed in first, saying loudly, "It won it for him."
Leinart also will be a Heisman finalist even though he did not start well in his last home game. He overthrew his first four passes and did not have a completion until his sixth pass attempt.
Leinart completed only 8 of 20 passes for 68 yards in the first half but even at halftime appeared well on his way to concluding his banner career undefeated at home. He finished with 233 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. As he expected, Leinart grew emotional during the pregame ceremony to honor the seniors.
"Matt was so emotional, tearing and crying," USC Coach Pete Carroll said. "He was a mess. He came out tight. He tried to maximize the moment and he did."
The person Leinart can thank is the player who lines up behind him wearing No. 5.
That Bush rushed for at least 100 yards for the eighth consecutive game was not entirely unexpected. The real problem for the 11th-ranked Bruins (9-2) was that Bush surpassed the mark just 11 minutes 30 seconds into the game. At halftime, Bush had far more rushing yards (228) than UCLA had total yards (135).
Bush's performance came one game after he recorded a Pacific-10 Conference record 513 all-purpose yards, including 294 rushing, in a 50-42 victory against Fresno State on Nov. 19.
Saturday, he feasted on a UCLA defense that ranked 115th nationally against the run. Bush accounted for 59 of USC's 70 yards during the Trojans' 16-play game-opening drive, which resulted in a field goal.
The Rose Bowl matchup much of the country craved since summer is now a reality. The Heisman race has a clear-cut leader as the finish line nears.
On both fronts, Bush helped clear the final hurdle.
"This game," Carroll said, "was an exclamation point for this 12-game run."