USC delivers BCS statement with sound beating of Irish

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Too much speed, too much defense, and too much Dwayne Jarrett.

Gene Wojciechowski's take

Gene Wojciechowski
So, USC or Michigan?

That's the only real question left to answer in a season where a national championship matchup will be determined by -- and how stupid is this? -- "style" points.

• For more of Gene Wojciechowski's analysis, click here.

With all that, Southern California didn't need last-second heroics to beat Notre Dame this year.

John David Booty passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns to Jarrett as USC overpowered the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish 44-24 Saturday night and likely leapfrogged Michigan in the race for the national championship.

No. 3 USC contained Brady Quinn, the Irish's Heisman Trophy contender, and put together a performance that should boost its Bowl Championship Series standing. The Trojans were a close third behind the Wolverines last week.

"I think we're a pretty good team right now," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We'll play anybody, anywhere."

Should the Trojans (10-1) beat UCLA (6-5) at the Rose Bowl next weekend, they'll probably face top-ranked Ohio State in the BCS title game Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz. USC has beaten its crosstown rivals seven straight times. And now the Trojans have won five straight against Notre Dame (10-2).

The Trojans played in the BCS title game the past two years -- winning one and losing one -- and earned a piece of the national championship three years ago after being bypassed for the title game.

"It was really a fun night of football," Carroll said. "For the most part, we felt in command in the game. The offense was ripping -- it was just an extraordinary night for Dwayne Jarrett. He made the plays great players make."

Booty, who completed 17-of-28 passes and was intercepted twice, watched from the sideline when the Trojans beat the Irish 34-31 at Notre Dame last year on Matt Leinart's 1-yard sneak with three seconds remaining.

Jarrett, whose 61-yard reception on a fourth-and-9 play kept that final drive in South Bend alive, caught scoring passes of 9, 5 and 43 yards from Booty, who succeeded Leinart as USC's quarterback. The 43-yarder came with 8:21 remaining and gave the Trojans a 37-17 lead.

Jarrett finished with seven receptions for 132 yards and USC freshman C.J. Gable rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries.

"I've seen him do that time and time again -- all the time," Booty said of Jarrett. "To me, it's not surprising at all. I'm just glad I have him on my team."

USC lost 33-31 at Oregon State on Oct. 28. Since then, they've outscored the opposition 144-43.

"I think it was kind of good for us in a way, it was kind of a wake-up call," Jarrett said of the loss. "We're so used to winning. It was a reality check for us, just to get our act together."

Quinn threw a 2-yard scoring pass to Jeff Samardzija with 3:39 left, but Brian Cushing returned the ensuing onside kickoff 42 yards to put an exclamation point on the victory.

"I told myself that if they kicked it to me, I'd take it in myself," Cushing said.

Quinn, playing his final regular-season game, completed 22 of 45 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for 74 yards -- most of it on a 60-yard scramble in the second quarter.

Rhema McKnight caught six passes for 109 yards and one touchdown and Samardzija had six receptions for 79 yards and one TD.

The three Notre Dame stars -- all seniors -- leave school having never beaten USC.

"This teams plays off one another. The offense just didn't do our part tonight," Quinn said. "We didn't make big plays when we needed to. It was frustrating at times. I'd try to find someone open, and there wasn't anyone there."

The win before a crowd of 91,800 at the Los Angeles Coliseum was the Trojans 55th in their last 58 games. They're 20-0 in November games under Carroll, and have won 33 straight home games.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for Notre Dame, but the Irish still figure to play in a big-money bowl game.

"We didn't win on special teams. We didn't win on offense. We didn't win on defense," Irish coach Charlie Weis said. "We're fighting an uphill battle most of the night. It wasn't very productive."

The Trojans moved 65 yards with the second half kickoff, scoring on a 2-yard run by Chauncey Washington for a 28-10 lead. Jarrett's one-handed catch for a 19 yards set up the score.

"I just stuck my hand out there and I just grabbed it," Jarrett said. "It's nothing new. It's just me being me, going out there and making plays."

The Irish drew within 11 points late in the third period on a 2-yard pass from Quinn to McKnight on fourth-and-goal. It was McKnight's 15th touchdown reception this season, tying the school record set by Samarzdija last season.

The Trojans extended their lead to 31-17 on Mario Danelo's 34-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

USC scored on its first three possessions and led 21-10 at halftime. It might have been closer had the Irish not failed to convert three fourth-down plays in USC territory.

Quinn threw a 38-yard pass to McKnight on the game's first play, but Quinn's pass to McKnight on fourth-and-9 from the USC 29 was incomplete. The Trojans then moved 71 yards, scoring on a 9-yard pass from Booty to Jarrett.

USC forced a punt, and Desmond Reed, who tore up his knee in last year's game at Notre Dame, returned it 43 yards to the Irish 26. Booty threw a 5-yard TD pass to Jarrett three plays later.

Notre Dame's Carl Gioia kicked a 27-yard field goal, but Booty's 1-yard run capped a 59-yard drive, putting the Trojans ahead 21-3. That made it an NCAA-record 63 straight games in which USC has scored 20 or more points.

The Trojans' next three possessions were as negative as the first three were positive -- a blocked punt and two interceptions.

Quinn threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Freeman on the first play after Steve Quinn blocked Greg Woidneck's punt.

Notre Dame leads the series 42-31-5.