Leinart tosses Orange Bowl-record five touchdowns

MIAMI (AP) -- Matt Leinart and his Southern California teammates

bounced around the end zone, then broke into a victory dance.

The celebration was on -- and it was only halftime.

Playing to perfection, the Heisman Trophy winner threw a record

five touchdown passes and the Trojans overwhelmed Oklahoma 55-19

Tuesday night in the Orange Bowl, ending the season just as they

started: No. 1.

"I think we proved tonight that we are the No. 1 team in the

country without a doubt," Leinart said. "No doubt."

"We didn't expect it to be this easy, but the game went our way from the beginning. I was a little surprised. "
-- Pete Carroll, USC coach

Even better, there's no one they have to share it with.

The much-anticipated battle of unbeatens, No. 1 vs. No. 2,

turned into a coronation for USC, which had to settle for a share

of the national championship last year after being left out of the

Bowl Championship Series title game.

"We didn't expect it to be this easy, but the game went our way

from the beginning," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "I was a little


That was no consolation for unbeaten Auburn, the odd team out of

the BCS title game this season.

The Tigers (13-0) stated their case with a 16-13 victory over

Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night and could have done

no worse than Oklahoma against USC. But they finished

second in the final Associated Press poll.

USC became the first team to repeat as AP national champions

since Nebraska in 1994-95 and joined Florida State in 1999 as the

only teams to go wire-to-wire -- from preseason to post bowls -- as

No. 1.

"I think they're great, and they sure proved it," Oklahoma

coach Bob Stoops said. "We just got whupped."

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was on hand to witness the rout in

a game he believed his team should have been playing in.

"It's a little empty feeling," said Tuberville, who was at the

game. "You want to have some kind of recognition. I'm going to

take my own poll.

"I'd like to play the winner of this game," he said at

halftime, trying to be kind because by then the winner was hardly

in doubt.

USC was shut out of last season's BCS title game, despite

topping both the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll at the end of the

regular season. The BCS computer rankings favored Oklahoma, even

though the Sooners lost the Big 12 title game 35-7.

Oklahoma then washed out in the BCS championship game, losing to

LSU in the Sugar Bowl 21-14 to give the Tigers the top spot in the

ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll.

The Trojans wrapped up their 2003 national title three days

before the BCS championship game by beating Michigan 28-14 in the

Rose Bowl.

They didn't have to wait for their trophy this season.

With the aid of four Oklahoma turnovers, the Trojans (13-0)

ambushed the Sooners (12-1) with 38 points in the final 20 minutes

of the first half.

The first meeting of Heisman winners couldn't have been more

one-sided. Leinart set an Orange Bowl record with his five scoring

tosses and Jason White spent another BCS title game running for his life.

Oklahoma's 2003 Heisman winner finished 24-of-36 for 244 yards with

three interceptions and two touchdowns.

"They were prepared to play and came out to play and we

didn't," White said.

Matt Leinart burned the Sooners for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
Matt Leinart burned the Sooners for 332 yards and five touchdowns.

Leinart was 18-of-35 for 332 yards and he had the USC band

playing "Fight On" all night. The laid-back Californian who

replaced Carson Palmer became the first Heisman winner to win a

national title since Michigan's Charles Woodson in 1997.

Leinart looked nothing like the overrated quarterback for an

average offense, as Oklahoma defensive end Larry Birdine described


"They were talking a lot of mess all month," USC defensive

Frostee Rucker said. "We heard it."

Leinart tossed four scores in the first half as the Trojans

turned an early 7-0 deficit into a 38-10 halftime lead.

And when the demolition had ended, the Trojans grooved in the

end zone as Outkast's "Hey Ya!" blared through Pro Player

Stadium. Meanwhile, the Sooners trudged off having already allowed

more points in a bowl game than any team in school history.

Leinart shrugged off Birdine's comment and played great in what

could be his farewell to college football. The junior could be a

top pick in the next NFL draft.

He also got plenty of help. The Trojans reached a season high

for points and turned the game into a USC highlight reel, with

Leinart making pinpoint passes and his receivers making spectacular


Steve Smith caught an Orange Bowl-record three touchdowns,

LenDale White ran for 118 yards and two scores and the USC's

defense smothered Oklahoma's freshman sensation Adrian Peterson.

Peterson, the Heisman runner-up to Leinart, managed just 82 yards on 25


Senior Mark Bradley made a freshman mistake that set off one of

those USC runs that have done in so many opponents during the

Trojans' 22-game winning streak.

The Sooners' most versatile player and the son of former

Oklahoma quarterback Danny Bradley tried to scoop up a punt that

had bounced inside the Oklahoma 5. Collin Ashton grabbed on to

Bradley, the ball squirted away and USC recovered at the 6.

Bradley trudged back to the sideline, where he received some

pats on the head and back.

His mood no doubt worsened on the next play, when LenDale White

reached the ball over the goal line to give the Trojans a 14-7 lead

late in the first quarter.

USC made it 21 straight points with the help of Oklahoma's

second turnover. Under pressure, Jason White heaved a deep ball into

quadruple-coverage and Jason Leach came up with USC's 20th

interception of the season.

Then the Trojans went to work on Oklahoma freshman cornerback

Marcus Walker with their own star freshman, Dwayne Jarrett.

The 6-foot-5 Jarrett went over the 5-11 Walker for an 18 yard

gain on third-and-8.

Walker ended up in no-man's land on the next play. He looked

like he wanted to blitz but stopped. Meanwhile, Jarrett ran

straight down the sideline and hauled in a perfect throw from

Leinart for a 54-yard score.

The USC deluge continued.

White was upended while throwing and was picked off by Eric

Wright deep in Sooners territory.

This time Leinart found Smith alone in the end zone from 5 yards

out, to cap a four-touchdown barrage.

In a span of 10:10, USC turned a 7-0 deficit into a 28-7 lead

that left the Sooners looking dumbfounded.

Oklahoma drove for a field goal on the next possession, but all

it did was give USC enough time to catch its breath.

Reggie Bush ripped off a 33-yard run to start the Trojans on

their way and Leinart again picked on a secondary that looked like

Oklahoma's soft spot much of the season.

Leinart went deep to Smith, who hauled in a 33-yarder while

hitting the ground to make it 35-10.

Carroll greeted Leinart with a hug after the left-hander's

fourth touchdown pass. Leinart gave a sly grin as he glanced up at

the scoreboard.

Oklahoma's season-high fourth turnover, led to Ryan Killeen's

44-yard field goal just before halftime.

An aching White trudged into and then limped through the Sugar

Bowl last year. But he was spry and agile against the Trojans at

the start.

He rolled out, scrambled and stepped up in the pocket while

completing four of his first five passes for 75 yards. He finished

the 92-yard TD drive by zipping a 5-yarder to Travis Wilson.

Leinart answered quickly, hitting four straight and finding

Dominique Byrd deep down the middle for a spinning, one-handed

33-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown the Sooners had

allowed in four games.

And it would only get worse from there for Oklahoma.