The Trojans are going to Miami to face the Sooners in the Orange Bowl. It's not LSU in the Sugar Bowl, but - hey - the BCS title game isn't overlooking Southern Cal this year.
It'll be a long trip out to Miami from Los Angeles, but just wait to see how many Trojans show up. After all, two years ago USC won the Orange Bowl behind Carson Palmer's Heisman performance.
But this isn't January '03. There is no more Carson Palmer, Keary Colbert or Mike Williams.
Fast forward two years.
Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett and LenDale White carry this offense. None more effectively than Bush. Yesterday against UCLA, he single-handedly beat the Bruins. In my mind, he was the obvious choice for player of the game. If I had to say who came in second, it would be Ryan Killeen (yes, the kicker) for his 5 clutch field goals.
Bush started things off on the second play from scrimmage breaking a 65-yard run, giving the Trojans a 7-0 lead before a minute ran off the game clock. But UCLA kept it close. Too close.
Reggie Bush speeds pasts the Bruins' defense en route to 204 yards rushing and 2 TDs in Pasadena. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)
This game was one of big plays. Bush had touchdown runs of 65- and 81-yards. UCLA's Craig Bragg took a 96-yard punt return to the house. 10-7, USC. Special teams played a big role in this game, setting up scoring opportunities. Even Desmond Reed had a big 49-yard kick return to set up a Killeen field goal.
Heisman-hopeful QB Matt Leinart congratulates kicker Ryan Killeen after one of his five field goals on the day. Killeen's 17 points helped the Trojans beat the Bruins and earn a spot in the BCS title game. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)
In a game of big plays, however, UCLA was able to keep Heisman-hopeful Leinart quiet. For the first time in his 25 career starts, he did not throw a touchdown. If USC is going to beat Oklahoma, Leinart needs to show flashes of how he played against Notre Dame last week (5 TDs).
While UCLA never actually led in this game, they did have plenty of moment for the majority of the game. Eventually, the Trojan's defense came through with an interception to help seal the deal and send the Trojans to Miami.
As I walked out of the Rose Bowl after the 29-24 win over our cross-town rival, my mind was filled with the idea of USC in the Orange Bowl and how I would get there (because - as a sports fan - I truly believe that there are some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that you must take advantage of. Watching my school play for a national title while you are a student is one of those opportunities I intend to make happen.) What I wasn't thinking about was just how close that game really was. USC did not come to play. That's it. Reggie Bush did. Ryan Killeen had a career day, scoring 17 points and being 5-5 on field goals. Other than an interception late in the fourth quarter, our defense kept letting the Bruins drive.
That can't happen against OU. Leinart has to be on fire. Bush can't fumble in the fourth quarter. Our receivers can't have nearly as many drops as yesterday. These problems need to fixed sooner rather than later.