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Big mistake. Once USC abandoned the run, Michigan never had a chance.
"We're talking on the headsets," offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said of his conversation with quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian. "We said, 'We're not running the ball another play.'"
On the next 30 plays over five possessions, quarterback John David Booty threw 28 passes. The other two snaps? Quarterback sneaks for first downs.
The rest was history -- and so were the Wolverines. Those five possessions produced four touchdown passes and a field goal, and the No. 8 Trojans (11-2) pulled away to a 32-18 victory over the No. 3 Wolverines (11-2).
|John David Booty found Dwayne Jarrett in the end zone for two of his four touchdown passes.|
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Jarrett not only caught 11 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns but also made Michigan cornerbacks Leon Hall and Morgan Trent look as if they belonged on the USC scout team. That's saying something, since Hall made many All-America teams and finished the regular season as a Thorpe Award finalist.
Jarrett surpassed Keary Colbert to become the Trojans' all-time leading receiver (216 catches) in what might have been his last college game. He is expected to leave early for the NFL. As ESPN anchor Chris Fowler interviewed the Offensive Player of the Game, the Trojans' fans chanted, "One more year! One more year!"
Jarrett sounded as if he had one foot on the April stage with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I've been here three years. I've had great success here," Jarrett said. "It's not definite. There's nothing written in stone. I'll go back home with my family, talk about it, get all the facts and try to make the best decision."
In other words, so long.
"Dwayne had an absolute memorable night," USC coach Pete Carroll said.
Not to give short shrift to the Trojans' defense, which sacked Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne six times, forced two turnovers and limited tailback Mike Hart to a season-low 47 yards. But the game changed when USC changed its offense.
The Trojans scored only one touchdown on this same field a month ago in their 13-9 loss to UCLA. The first half against Michigan ended in a 3-3 tie. Once Kiffin and Sarkisian cut loose, the Trojans found their rhythm, thanks largely to Jarrett. The junior, who struggled with injuries over the first half of the season, finished with a career best in yards and tied his career best in catches.
Jarrett had an advantage of three inches and 31 pounds on Trent, and five inches and 22 pounds on Hall. He also proved he knows how to use his hands to get open, and to catch the ball once he does.
"If you don't have perfect position on him, he's going to catch it. That's all there is to it," Trent said.
Trent didn't have perfect position on him very often. Jarrett said the Wolverines had "a little bit of a weakness" in the secondary. He didn't use "weakness" and Trent in the same sentence, but later Jarrett said, "The times he was on me, we tried to exploit it for big plays."
|Dwayne Jarrett's Rose Bowl performance sent his NFL draft stock soaring.|
Jarrett beat Trent again on the next possession, shaking off his tackle and taking Booty's quick pass 22 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 16-3 (Mario Danelo missed the extra point, the first of his two misses).
Jarrett saved his best for the fourth quarter. Michigan had closed the lead to 19-11 with a snappy eight-play, 80-yard drive. On third-and-10 from the USC 38, Jarrett simply sprinted past Hall and safety Willis Barringer. He caught a strike from Booty near the Michigan 25, slipped out of a diving Hall's desperate grasp and glided into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown.
Barringer, speaking on behalf of frustrated Wolverines everywhere, laid a hit on Jarrett three or four steps into the end zone, earning a dead-ball personal foul.
"That was the backbreaker of the game," Jarrett said. "It started to open up more."
On the next possession, Booty needed four plays to take the Trojans 80 yards: a 26-yard fade to Steve Smith; a 29-yard jump ball on which Jarrett beat Trent and Barringer again; a 23-yard perfectly placed pass that tight end Fred Davis caught with his left hand; and a 7-yard scoring pass to Smith. The Trojans led 32-11 with 6:52 to play.
How big was the lead?
When USC got the ball back, it ran on first down.
"I felt like Texas Tech," Kiffin said. "It was kind of fun. [Michigan was] the No. 1 rush defense in the country for a reason. I was hoping it wouldn't come to that point."
In retrospect, should USC have abandoned the run sooner?
"I don't know that," Kiffin said. "They still are thinking we're trying to run the ball. We had play-action that was working because they were still honoring the run."
The Trojans, even without Jarrett, might be the preseason No. 1 next fall. Ten starters return on defense, as well as Booty and three starters on the offensive line. On the day that the Arizona Cardinals fired coach Dennis Green, it's noteworthy that Carroll said he would be back, too. He has made calls to friends in the NFL over the last month sounding them out about the Arizona job.
"No, there's no question" of his return, Carroll said. "I have no question."
On this New Year's Day, USC had only answers.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at email@example.com.