Tuesday, January 4, 2005 Updated: January 5, 12:31 PM ET
Aerial attack overwhelms Sooners
MIAMI -- Dominique Byrd's sprawling one-handed touchdown
catch opened the scoring for Southern California in spectacular
fashion. And the Trojans just kept the highlights coming.
Their 55-19 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday night in the Orange
Bowl was one for the record books, with no shortage of marks being
set in the rout that few expected to see in the national
Byrd, though, said USC coach Pete Carroll indicated beforehand
that such a result was possible.
"Coach Carroll told us that if we believed in the Trojan way
and the way we finish, it'll come easy," said Byrd, who hauled in
a 33-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 7 -- and start USC on
its way to its second straight national title.
Start with Matt Leinart, the game's MVP who threw a record five
touchdown passes -- three going to sophomore Steve Smith, who became
just the third receiver to catch that many in an Orange Bowl.
Leinart finished with 332 yards -- the second-most by any
quarterback in the bowl game's history, trailing only the 369 yards
Tom Brady finished with for Michigan five years ago.
"He's so poised in a game like this, just poised the whole
time," offensive lineman Sam Baker said afterward, as confetti
rained down on the field and with Leinart lobbing oranges to
teammates. "He's always trying to keep us light and in a game like
this you can get real tight, so it's great when he keeps all of us
The Trojans finished with the second-largest margin of victory
in Orange Bowl history, scored more points than any Sooners team
ever allowed in a bowl game -- and 15 more than Oklahoma yielded in
its last four season-ending games combined.
Smith and Dwyane Jarrett became just the second receiving duo to
finish an Orange Bowl with more than 100 yards apiece; Jarrett had
five catches for 115 yards, Smith seven for 113.
Only Florida's Taylor Jacobs and Jabar Gaffney -- who combined
for 289 yards in the Gators' victory three years ago -- ever teamed
"Steve really stepped up his game tonight," Leinart said.
"Three touchdowns, he was amazing. ... I'm just so proud of the
way he played -- and he's so young, it's scary."
Celeb sightings When Oklahoma opened the scoring with a
touchdown Tuesday night, fans sitting over the corner of one end
zone immediately turned their backs to the field.
No, they weren't USC supporters in disguise -- they just wanted
to see Brad Pitt's reaction.
Pitt, an Oklahoma native, sat in a suite on the stadium's second
level and was among many celebrities at the Orange Bowl. His
presence was quickly noticed by fans, many of whom pointed cameras
or photo-capable cell phones in his direction for snapshots and
screamed in valiant tries to get his attention.
As usual in star-studded Miami, the celebs turned out in droves.
Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal did the pregame coin-flip,
Yankees teammates Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield hobnobbed on the
field along with hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Miami
Dolphins safety Sammy Knight drew cheers and catcalls when he
entered wearing a USC sweatshirt (he's an alum), and actor Will
Ferrell cheered on the USC sideline.
Title history The game marked the 16th time in the last 50
years that the national championship was decided at the Orange
Oklahoma has now been in six title-deciding games in South
Florida, losing twice. The Sooners beat Florida State for the 2000
championship, Penn State for the 1985 crown, Michigan for the 1975
title and Maryland to close the 1955 season. They lost to Miami
after the 1987 season, then on Tuesday to USC.
The Trojans had played in the Orange Bowl only once before,
beating Iowa 38-17 two seasons ago.
Honored soldiers Former prisoners of war Jessica Lynch and
Shoshana Johnson were introduced before the game and were on the
field for the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," next to a
giant flag unfurled for the occasion.
Johnson, a former Army Specialist who was awarded the Bronze
Star, the Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War Medal for her
service in Iraq before being honorably discharged, was a cook for
the 507th Maintenance Company when it was ambushed in March 2003.
"How can you be from Texas and not like football," said
Johnson, an El Paso native.
She was shot in both ankles and captured with five other
soldiers, including Lynch, who suffered two spinal fractures, nerve
damage and a shattered right arm, right foot and left leg. Nine
U.S. soldiers died in the attack.
Lynch also appeared at last year's Gator Bowl, but confessed
that she's not exactly a football aficionado. The West Virginia
native saw her Mountaineers play once this season -- they lost.
"I watched it, but I didn't understand it," said Lynch, who
still walks with a cane.
No problem USC celebrated Mike Williams' 21st birthday by
winning another national title.
To his chagrin, they did so without him.
Losing the All-America receiver, who caught 176 passes and 30
touchdowns in two seasons with the Trojans, didn't slow USC's march
to the championship.
Instead, USC speeded the development of freshman Dwayne Jarrett -- who led the Trojans with 55 catches for 849 yards and 13
touchdowns this season, including one Tuesday night against the
"It's fun to think how it could have been -- but we wouldn't
have won any more games," USC coach Pete Carroll said.
Williams tried to turn pro after his sophomore season when a
court ruled in favor of Maurice Clarett, saying the league did not
have the right to exclude players until they were three years out
of high school.
The NFL appealed the decision and won, keeping Clarett, the
former Ohio State star, and Williams out of last year's draft.
Williams tried to return to USC but was denied by the NCAA, and
eventually withdrew from school to focus on getting ready for
April's draft -- where he's expected to be a high first-round pick.
Through his representatives, Williams declined interview
requests from The Associated Press.
Notables JoJo, the 14-year-old pop star whose debut single
"Leave (Get Out)" topped Billboard's singles sales chart last
summer, performed the national anthem. Pop star Kelly Clarkson,
country star Trace Adkins and singer Ashlee Simpson took the stage
for the halftime show; Simpson, who made headlines with a botched
lip-synching on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in October.
Traveler VII, USC's equine mascot, is being shipped home by FedEx -- the Orange Bowl's title sponsor. It's just a coincidence, said
Traveler's owner, Joanne Asman. USC improved to 6-2-1 against
the Sooners. Brent East, 23, was driving Oklahoma's Sooner
Schooner -- the covered wagon on the Sooners sideline -- for the
final time, and didn't go out the way he planned. It was the first
loss he'd been on-field for in his four years with the school's pep
group, the Ruf/Necks.