Nov. 12, 2005
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - It's been so long since Southern California's last loss that Matt Leinart claimed he couldn't even remember how he felt on that strange night at Memorial Stadium.
Two years and 32 victories later, Leinart turned any lingering memory of that exasperating triple-overtime defeat into cool vindication - and the site of USC's last failure became just another routine stop on the Trojans' victory tour.
Leinart passed for 246 yards and ran for two touchdowns, and LenDale White ran for three more scores in No. 1 USC's 22nd straight Pac-10 victory, a 35-10 rout of slumping California on Saturday.
Reggie Bush ran for 82 yards for the Trojans (10-0, 7-0), who replaced drama with dominance while tying Cal's 1947-50 record for consecutive conference wins. With every businesslike drive and aggressive defensive stop, USC smoothly buried its most competitive conference rival in recent years.
"That's a great win for us against a team that we've struggled with for the last couple of years," Leinart said. "I don't think we really thought about (2003). We just wanted to make a statement today that things are changing, and that they're going to have to bring their best shot."
The USC defense intercepted Joe Ayoob four times and kept Cal out of the end zone until 1:34 remained, while Leinart was nearly flawless in his latest impressive argument for another Heisman Trophy - though he failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the fourth time in 36 career starts.
Leinart, White and receiver Dwayne Jarrett all surpassed 1,000-yard statistical milestones for the season during an easy second half. USC had its second lowest-scoring game of the season, but few wins have been more satisfying.
"It seems like California has been right behind us for a while, and we talked about kind of separating a little bit," coach Pete Carroll said. "For all the right reasons, it's good to come up here and get a win."
The Trojans haven't lost since their 34-31 defeat at Memorial Stadium in 2003. USC avenged that loss last season at the Coliseum, though Cal's Aaron Rodgers fell one last-minute pass shy of an upset in USC's 23-17 victory.
USC is even better now - and mistake-prone Cal (6-4, 3-4) is plummeting, with four losses in its last five games. The Bears took their largest loss in coach Jeff Tedford's four seasons, also losing on Senior Day for the first time in his tenure.
"Our passing game was futile," said Tedford, who has sent eight quarterbacks to the NFL in his last 12 seasons of coaching. "That's as good as any defense has played against them this season ... but if you're one-dimensional, you can't beat USC."
USC, which clinched at least a share of another Pac-10 title, has the sixth-longest winning streak in Division I history, matching Miami's 32-game run from 2000-03 and an identical streak by a 19th-century Pennsylvania team.
The Trojans have all but sewed up another Bowl Championship Series bid, though two tough games remain. They'll host 8-1 Fresno State next weekend, followed by Dec. 3's regular-season finale against UCLA.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 87 yards for the Bears, who have lost to each of the Pac-10's three ranked teams in recent weeks. A once-promising season has been ruined partly by the ineffectiveness of Ayoob, who threw three of his interceptions in the first half before finishing 9-of-19 for 98 yards.
"The hardest part is your home fans booing you, but it comes with the territory," Ayoob said. "The guys have still got confidence in me. I just have to get confidence back in myself."
But the game already was decided, because the Trojans made none of the mistakes that cost them in Berkeley two years ago. USC got ahead early after playing from behind in 2003, and Leinart was practically perfect after throwing three picks in the last loss.
White ran for 90 yards and surpassed 1,000 yards rushing this season, giving USC two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in school history and just the second time in Pac-10 annals. Leinart surpassed 3,000 yards passing - and Jarrett, who caught five passes for 69 yards, went over 1,000 yards receiving.
On the game's opening drive, USC safety Darnell Bing intercepted Ayoob's first pass. The Trojans quickly drove for White's 1-yard TD run, with Leinart going 7-of-7 for 50 yards along the way.
Leinart capped two second-quarter drives with scoring runs of 6 and 3 yards, pointing at USC's fans in celebration after both.
"He took a page out of me and Reggie's book," White said. "People think that Matt is just a drop-back passer. He showed that he can run the ball. He got in the end zone a couple of times, and they weren't easy runs. That's what big-time players do in those situations."
White added a short scoring run in the third quarter and another in the fourth to put USC up 35-3.
Both teams accused the other of dirty play in the rivalry game, with USC complaining about Cal's personal fouls in the fourth quarter.
"That's the best defense we've played all year, but by far the cheapest," Cal guard Aaron Merz said. "I got spit on. I make a good block, and the guy spits on me. I saw that too many times today. It's disgusting. I got poked in the eye. They had their hands in our facemasks all day."