The Trojans hope a big victory over Oregon State is enough to reach the national title game.
By Associated Press
Published December 7, 2003
LOS ANGELES - Having made their points on the field, the USC Trojans made their case for a trip to New Orleans and a shot at the national title.
"We deserve to go. We're 11-1 and we've been playing well the last couple of months. I think we've done as much as we can do. But it's not in our hands," Matt Leinart said Saturday after throwing five touchdowns in the second-ranked Trojans' 52-28 victory over Oregon State.
The Trojans (11-1, 7-1 Pac-10) find out today whether they go to the Sugar Bowl for the national title game, or stay home to play in the Rose Bowl.
They were No. 2 in the BCS rankings, behind Oklahoma, heading into the regular-season finale against Oregon State. The top two in the final BCS standings meet in New Orleans on Jan. 4 for the national championship.
"We have everything you want for a national championship game," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "You have a big, exciting offense and a tough defense."
Leinart believes the Trojans are in a no-lose situation.
"We get to go to the Rose Bowl; that's the worst that could happen to us," the quarterback said.
Sugar Bowl chairman John Busenlener won't have any say in who plays in the game, but he obviously wouldn't mind having the high-scoring Trojans there.
"They're a team with a lot of talent," said Busenlener, at the Coliseum to watch the win over Oregon State. "I'm really impressed with their receivers, and their balanced offense, defense, and tonight, special teams.
"We had a lot of people asking us today about hotel reservations and places to eat in New Orleans."
Oregon State (7-5, 4-4) will play New Mexico in the Dec. 24 Las Vegas Bowl.
The Trojans' depth and versatility on both sides of the ball were too much for the Beavers.
"I do believe USC belongs in the Sugar Bowl," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley, a former Trojans assistant. "I'd love to see them in it."
USC scored 40 or more points for the seventh game in a row and finished the regular season with a Pac-10 record 506 points. Leinart established a conference single-season mark with 35 touchdown passes.
Mike Williams had two touchdown catches, one a leaping, one-handed grab in the back of the end zone. He also got a hand on an Oregon State field goal that fell short, and made a crushing block on a run by Reggie Bush.
Bush, a freshman, also caught two touchdowns. Steve Smith, another freshman, had 136 yards on five catches, including a 73-yard touchdown.
Will Poole made two interceptions, returning one 67 yards for a touchdown, and Lofa Tatupu had USC's other two interceptions.
Leinart went 22-of-38 for 278 yards and threw scoring passes of 14, 30, 9, 3 and 73 yards.
In the first quarter, he threw his first interception in two months, ending a Pac-10 record streak of 212 passes without being picked off. He threw another interception in the third quarter, which Brandon Browner returned 31 yards for a touchdown.
A redshirt sophomore who hadn't thrown a collegiate pass until this fall, Leinart finished the regular season with 3,229 yards passing, with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Derek Anderson was 34-for-60 for 485 yards and two touchdowns, but threw four interceptions for the Beavers. Mike Hass had eight receptions for 208 yards.
Steven Jackson, averaging a conference-high 121.3 yards rushing, had 62 yards on 22 carries.