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September 16, 2006
No. 4 USC cruises past no. 19 Nebraska
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LOS ANGELES -The Southern California Trojans have a new starting quarterback and six new running backs.
But they look like the same old USC - with an even better defense than last year.
If there was any doubt, No. 4 USC declared itself a national title contender for a fourth straight season with a 28-10 victory over 19th-ranked Nebraska on Saturday night.
USC (2-0) won for the 36th time in 37 games, the lone defeat coming to Texas in the final seconds of last January's Rose Bowl. The Trojans' home winning streak is now 28 straight games.
Making his second career start, John David Booty was 25-for-36 for 257 with no interceptions and three touchdown passes for USC in a Leinart-esque performance.
All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett, the one holdover star from last year's record-breaking offense, caught 11 passes for 126 yards, including two touchdowns. He became USC's career touchdown receptions leader with 31, breaking Mike Williams' record of 30.
Freshman Emmanuel Moody ran for 70 yards on nine carries.
The bigger story on this day may have been the Trojans' defense, which dominated the Cornhuskers (2-1).
The Trojans' decisive victory rout came on a day that two teams ranked ahead of them didn't look like national title contenders. No. 2 Notre Dame absorbed a 47-21 whipping by 11th-ranked Michigan, and No. 3 Auburn struggled to a 7-3 victory over No. 6 LSU.
The Cornhuskers loomed as the first test for the retooled Trojans, who lost Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White from a team that won back-to-back national titles and played for a third.
It was the third meeting between two of college football's traditional powerhouses and the first since 1970. USC beat the Huskers 31-21 at Nebraska in 1969, and the teams played to a 21-21 tie in Los Angeles the following year.
The Cornhuskers have endured a drought since their last national title in 1995. But two easy wins over Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State following last year's strong finish fired hopes in Lincoln.
Thousands of red-clad Huskers faithful came west to witness Nebraska's revival. But what they saw was another convincing example of USC's might.
USC may have lost Leinart and friends, but it still has an enviable depth chart, starting with Booty, a fourth-year junior from Louisiana who played like a veteran Saturday. If Booty felt any pressure in his first home game as the 2004 Heisman Trophy winners replacement, he didn't show it.
Booty turned in the first half's biggest play. With USC leading 7-3 and facing a third-and-21 on the Nebraska 25-yard line, Booty avoided pressure and found Jarrett for 22 yards and a first down.
On the next play, Booty hit Steve Smith on a crossing route for a 3-yard touchdown that put the Trojans ahead 14-3.
After one quarter, USC had eight first downs. Nebraska had one.
Still, the Cornhuskers led 3-0 on Jordan Congdon's 38-yard field goal with 3:23 to go in the first quarter.
The Trojans made it 7-3 on the quarter's final play when Booty threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett.
Nebraska held USC on the first possession of the second half. But tailback Marlon Lucky dropped a handoff on the Cornhuskers' first offensive play and cornerback Cary Harris recovered at the Nebraska 31.
Four plays later, Booty threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to the 6-foot-5 Jarrett, who was covered by 5-foot-9 cornerback Cortney Grixby, to put the Trojans ahead 21-3.
The Cornhuskers pulled to within 21-10 with 12:44 to go in the fourth quarter. On fourth and goal at the USC 1, Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor scored on a one-yard run with 12:44 to go, capping a nine-play, 74-yard drive.
USC responded with a 14-play, 81-yard drive that ended in tailback Chauncey Washington's 7-yard touchdown run, his first career touchdown that made it 28-10.
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