PASADENA, Calif. - There no longer is any reason to debate whether Michigan deserves another shot at Ohio State. A couple of guys from New Jersey took care of that yesterday as USC finally got around to winning a game at the Rose Bowl, albeit one year too late.
The Trojans dominated Michigan in the second half and staked their claim as the nation's second-best team by defeating the Wolverines, 32-18.
Dwayne Jarrett, the brilliant wide receiver from New Brunswick, N.J., caught 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns and was named offensive player of the game. His teammate, quarterback John David Booty, deserved co-honors as he threw for 391 yards and four second-half touchdowns as the Trojans scored 29 points in the final two quarters.
"Dwayne had a memorable night," coach Pete Carroll said after USC finished 11-2. "He played like the great player he is."
Sophomore linebacker Brian Cushing was named defensive player of the game after recording 2-1/2 sacks and forcing a fumble in the third quarter that changed the momentum of the game. Cushing, from Park Ridge, N.J., attended Bergen Catholic.
It was a bittersweet ending for USC, which had lost the title game to Vince Young and Texas here last year and blew a chance to return to the BCS Championship Game by losing to UCLA at this same venue last month. Instead, USC likely will be the preseason No. 1 for 2007.
"I'm very proud of our team," Carroll said. "This is the Rose Bowl. This a great win for our program. Knowing we beat Michigan the way we beat them, we feel very strongly about who we are. We've taken a great step for the future."
Michigan, playing its first bowl game since the death of legendary coach Bo Schembechler six weeks ago, ended its season with two losses. The Wolverines (11-2) lost their chance to appear in next week's BCS title game by losing to Ohio State, 42-39, in their regular-season finale.
"I'm as disappointed as you can be," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, whose team lost its fourth straight bowl game.
Many believed that neither team would be emotionally attached to a game that did not have championship ramifications. Carroll dismissed such talk, saying beforehand, "The kids are jacked up. The coaches are. The fans will be."
Playing in front of a crowd of 93,852 that included "Star Wars" mogul and Rose Bowl parade grand marshal George Lucas, the Trojans played as if they had something to prove. USC dominated the line of scrimmage, holding Michigan to 12 net rushing yards and sacking quarterback Chad Henne six times. Michigan workhorse running back Mike Hart rushed for just 47 yards on 17 carries, while All-America wide receiver Mario Manningham caught six passes for 79 yards but never broke off a big play.
Rather, the day's most spectacular player was Jarrett, who is likely to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft.
"That's the question everyone is asking me," Jarrett said as USC fans chanted, "One more year." "I don't know yet."
After Michigan closed to within 19-11, Jarrett burned All-American cornerback Leon Hall down the sideline for a 62-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. Moments later, Jarrett used his 6-5 frame to outjump two Michigan defenders and pull down a 29-yard reception. That led to Booty's fourth TD pass, a 7-yard strike to senior Steve Smith, who caught seven passes for 108 yards. Booty completed 27 of 45 passes and did not throw an interception.
The Trojans scored on five consecutive second-half possessions and will spend the next week believing they could be facing Ohio State on Monday if only they had played this way against UCLA.
"It's a little disappointing because we can play with anybody and we knew that," Carroll said. "But to have this opportunity and to have a night like this for our fans, it's awesome."
Originally published on January 2, 2007