Rose Bowl redemption

Gerry Ahern
Yahoo! Sports

PASADENA, Calif. – John David Booty had heard enough about the past.

In the wake of USC's stunning upset loss to UCLA in its regular-season finale, right here in this stadium, the junior quarterback was blamed for costing his team a chance to play for the national championship.

The comments of fans and even some teammates after the loss to the Bruins indicated faith was lost. He was no Matt Leinart, no Carson Palmer. He was immobile. His job was in jeopardy. He didn't receive a vote of confidence as speculation simmered that backup Mark Sanchez would have a chance to compete to be the starter next spring.

You can forget about that.

In Monday's 32-18 domination of No. 3 Michigan in the Rose Bowl, Booty made a loud statement about the future – his and the Trojans'.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, who came to Southern California from Louisiana dreaming of national championships, enjoyed the next best thing before a crowd of 93,852 and a national TV audience. Deftly working off three-step drops, Booty completed 27 of 45 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns, as he rebounded from a slow start in the first half which ended in a 3-3 tie.

"I was in a low place [after the UCLA loss], and tonight I'm pretty high," Booty said. "I'm just so excited with the way the guys answered coach [Pete] Carroll calling us out and wanting us to play to our full potential tonight. And I thought we were able to do that.

"That's why I came to SC for nights like tonight."

All-America wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who may leave the Trojans for the NFL, was Booty's favorite target, grabbing 11 passes for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Senior Steve Smith added seven catches for 108 yards and a score.

Amazingly, all but 102 yards of the Trojans' aerial assault on the Wolverines defense was achieved after halftime.

Booty came out strong in the second half, completing his first five passes as No. 8 USC (11-2) turned an interception by Michigan quarterback Chad Henne into a lead it would not relinquish.

Marching the Trojans 38 yards on four plays, Booty capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Chris McFoy with 8:43 left in the third quarter. A little more than three minutes later, Booty threw a pretty 22-yard scoring strike to Jarrett for a 16-3 edge. A stalled USC drive resulted in a 26-yard field goal with 48 seconds remaining in the third.

Booty wasn't done. After Henne hit Adrian Arrington with an 11-yard TD pass, Booty hooked up with Jarrett for a 62-yard touchdown at 11:18 of the fourth. Smith was on the receiving end of a 7-yard scoring pass at 6:52, sending Trojans fans into ecstasy and many Michiganders into the parking lot.

"He came out today and started off a little slow in the first half," Jarrett said of Booty. "But in the second half, he just let it rip, and that's the caliber quarterback he can be when he just lets it rip. He did a great job and I'm proud of him."

The day did not just belong to Booty, Jarrett and Smith.

The Trojans' defense deserves credit for giving Booty a kick-start. USC turned a pressure hose on Michigan's high-octane running game, limiting the Wolverines (11-2) to 12 yards on the ground. Standout Mike Hart mustered just 47 yards rushing.

Henne was sacked six times and turned the ball over twice, USC turning the miscues into 10 points. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson made things happen, coming up with a fumble recovery and an interception.

The overwhelming performance likely catapulted USC into the preseason No. 1 spot next season, and Booty figures to be on more than a few Heisman Trophy candidate lists.

The quarterback said the Rose Bowl victory could serve as a springboard for his teammates, too.

"It's huge for our whole program," he said. "We have a lot of young guys on this team, so tonight was a big win for them to be a part of. It was a big-time environment."

USC partisans can let out a big-time sigh of relief over Carroll, who shrugged off postgame questions about NFL head coaching jobs. The coach said emphatically that he will be back next season.

"I have no question," he said.

Carroll's words put a ribbon on a red-letter day for the Trojans.

The powder-blue past be damned.

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