AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Southern California used a smothering
defense and ball control offense to turn a much-hyped matchup with
sixth-ranked Auburn into an ugly mismatch.
The eighth-ranked Trojans -- in their first game without last
season's Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer -- looked less showy
but every bit as dominating in beating the Tigers 23-0 Saturday
"We didn't do a lot of fancy things or anything like that,"
said USC coach Pete Carroll, whose team won eight straight to
finish last season. "We just played ball."
Matt Leinart passed for 192 yards in his first start and the
Trojans set up 17 points with three turnovers.
The Tigers hadn't been a preseason Top 10 team since 1995, but
were shut out at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time since a
19-0 loss to Virginia in the 1998 opener. They never got past USC's
33-yard line and were outgained 315-164.
"We couldn't sustain any drives," Auburn coach Tommy
Tuberville said. "When you turn it over three times against a team
like that, you're not going to have much chance to win the ball
"There's no excuses, they just beat us up front."
The Trojans physically dominated on both sides of the ball.
USC only allowed four of 13 opponents to rush for 100 yards last
season and limited the Tigers to 43 yards on 36 carries.
The performance took the stress out of Leinart's starting debut.
"Our defense is by far the best in the country," said Leinart,
a sophomore who didn't throw a pass as Palmer's backup last season.
He was 17-of-30 and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mike
Williams, making few mistakes in his starting debut and getting
nice protection from his line. Williams had eight catches for 104
Hershel Dennis ran for 85 yards on 21 carries in his first
start. His 14-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter sent a few
thousand Auburn fans scurrying for the exits after watching the
Tigers turn in a listless performance. Daniel Urquhart set up that
score by knocking the ball loose from Campbell on the previous
Auburn was a popular pick to win the Southeastern Conference,
but it was USC that looked more likely to live up to its preseason
billing as the Pac-10 favorite.
The Tigers aren't ready to give up on their season yet, though.
"Our goal is to win the SEC," Auburn defensive end Reggie
Torbor said. "This game has nothing to do with that. If we lose
this one and win the rest, nobody will remember this game."
USC took a 13-0 lead when Ryan Killeen made a 42-yard field goal
to cap the opening drive of the second half. Leinart hit wide-open
tight end Dominique Byrd for a 42-yard gain and Dennis converted a
fourth-and-1 on the drive.
Auburn's troubles started early.
Freshman Darnell Bing picked off Campbell on the third play of
the game, giving USC the ball 20 yards from the end zone.
"It set the tone for the rest of the game," Bing said. "We
used it as a motivator and never looked back."
Three plays later, Leinart found Williams in the end zone.
Killeen, who kicked three field goals, added a 28-yarder with
3:21 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers had just eight yards on their first three
possessions, and weren't able to get their passing game going.
"We hoped to discourage them in the running game so that they
would have to throw the football, and I know they would have loved
to run it if they could," Carroll said.
Campbell was 12-of-26 for 121 yards and often was forced to tuck
the ball and run when he wasn't being sacked. He was sacked six
times for minus-46 yards and had 10 carries, mostly after getting
forced out of the pocket.
"He didn't have a chance, he was running around for his life,"
Tuberville said. "We just couldn't get any rhythm going. You could
just feel our offensive line didn't feel good about being able to
block those guys."