USC Sacks the Wolverines, 28-14

The game figured to be a shootout -- but in the end it was only the USC offense firing away, while the Michigan offense was stymied by a Trojan d-line sack attack.

Michigan took the opening kickoff and drove from their own 20 yard line to the SC 30. USC blocked a 48 yard Garrett Rivas field goal attempt. The drive was a fairly successful one, but included two USC sacks -- including the third down sack at the SC 30 yard line that stalled the drive. Those two sacks were a foreshadowing -- before the game was over the USC defensive line would have nine.

USC promptly took the ball and in four plays -- all pass completions -- went 70 yards for a touchdown. The scoring play was a 25 yard touchdown strike at the 8:08 mark of the first quarter to wide receiver Keary Colvert. 7-0 USC.

In retrospect, those two opening drives set the tone for the whole afternoon: Michigan having some success moving the ball but getting stopped by a sack, and USC scoring with a lightening passing attack.

The first quarter ended with the score still 7-0. In the second quarter USC added a second touchdown on a three yard drive started by a fluke SC interception on a ball that bounced up off Braylon Edwards' foot. In the meantime Michigan had two second quarter drives ended by sacks.

And so it was 14-0 USC at the half. The stats suggested the Wolverines were right in it (Matt Leinart was 11-15 for two touchdowns to John Navarre's 11-19 and one interception; Chris Perry led all rushers with 49 yards; Michigan had 9 first downs to USC's 6; Michigan had the ball 18:52 to USC's 11:08). But there were those sacks: a total of five by the USC defense to one by Michigan.

With a two touchdown deficit the Wolverines needed to dominate the second half. But every time the Wolverines tried to make a run SC answered. And their sack fest continued as well.

USC took the opening kickoff at their own 17 yards line and in five plays scored again on another pass to Colvert to make it 21-0.

Michigan took the kickoff and finally mounted a scoring drive, going 76 yards in 16 plays, culminating in a five yard pass to tight end Tim Massaquoi. That made it 21-7 with 5:49 left in the third quarter, and Michigan fans were hoping for a comeback.

However, USC took took the kickoff and in eight plays scored the coup de grace of the game on a trick play -- an end around/passback from receiver Mike Williams to QB Matt Leinart. 28-7 ...

Michigan got the ball to start the 4th quarter drove 85 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a two yard run by Chris Perry, to make it 28-14 with 11:06 to go. Again Michigan fans had hope. But that was all the scoring there was to be. USC mounted a long, time consuming drive of 75 yards. The drive ended in a fumble at the Michigan 5 yard line, but it ate up over seven minutes of the clock -- leaving the Wolverines with only 3:42 to go. And two more USC sacks ended Michigan's hopes. Game MVP Matt Leinart ended with 19-25 passing for 280 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. John Navarre finished his Michigan career with 19-34 for 172 yards, one touchdown (setting the all-time Michigan career record) and one interception. Chris Perry led all rushers with 84 yards. But USC out-gained Michigan 324 yards to 237 ... and there were those sacks: nine for the USC defense, one for Michigan's.

In the end the sacks were the difference -- they kept the Michigan offense from performing the offensive fireworks necessary to match the USC scoring.

Post-game quotes.

Coach Carr:

"Congratulations to USC. They played a great football game. Coach Caroll and his team will get a share of the National Championship, which they deserve."

"USC took us out of rhythm. We never got a rhythm going. With their defensive line pressure, we gave up too many sacks, too much negative yardage. My greatest fear going in was their extremely quick and athletic front four ... their speed coming after the quarterback off the corner. More than anything else I have to give credit to their defensive front four."

"In the second half USC put some drives together against man coverage. And we didn't knock their quarterback down to get the sacks we needed to help themselves."

"Our guys never stopped fighting. Navarre really took some shots and continued to fight."

"David Baas has indicated to me that he's going to come back next year. And I've spoken to Marlin Jackson about it."

Chris Perry:

"The sacks were the whole reason we lost. And I am responsible for that, me and the offensive line. I'm the last line of defense on pass protections, so I accept the blame. That was the biggest factor."

John Navarre:

"USC is a great team. But we're Big Ten Champs, we had a great season, a ten win season. I'm proud of our team."

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