Huskers Battle to Finish at USC
Los Angeles - The No. 19 Nebraska football team battled No. 4 USC to the end, but the Huskers came up short in a 28-10 loss to the Trojans at the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday.
Playing in front of a sellout crowd that included between 25,000 and 30,000 Big Red fans and an ABC national primetime television audience, the Huskers kept the Trojans within striking distance. Nebraska trailed just 21-10 after senior quarterback Zac Taylor went untouched into the end zone on a naked bootleg on fourth-and-goal inside the USC 1.
But the Trojans, who have played in the last three national championship games with titles in 2003 and 2004 and opened this season with a 50-14 victory at Arkansas, closed the door on Nebraska's upset hopes with a 14-play, 81-yard drive that consumed more than six minutes of the clock on the ensuing drive to produce the final result.
Nebraska slipped to 2-1 on the season with the setback, while the Trojans improved to 2-0.
Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan said he was proud of the Huskers' effort and determination against the Trojans, but added that Nebraska was unable to come up with any big plays offensively or defensively against USC.
"I want to congratulate USC on an outstanding game. We have great respect for them. You saw an effort by Nebraska that was outstanding in so many respects," Callahan said. "I thought our special teams were excellent. At times, we ran the ball physically. Our defense played well at times, but we didn’t come up with the big plays when we needed to.
"Our guys competed hard against one of the best teams in the country, but when you compete against teams like this, the margin for error is minute. We had critical penalties and mistakes."
The Huskers showed that they planned to be in the game until the end by opening the scoring with a 38-yard Jordan Congdon field goal with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
The spark for Nebraska's early 3-0 lead actually began one drive earlier, when punter Dan Titchener completed a 28-yard pass to wide receiver Todd Peterson on a fake punt to convert on fourth down and put the Huskers in Trojan territory for the first time.
That drive stalled, but Titchener made another big play with his 31-yard punt that was downed by the Huskers at the USC 5.
The Blackshirts forced USC into a three-and-out and on the punt, Terrence Nunn was bumped by a USC defender but still made the catch. The junior wide receiver then reeled off a 31-yard return that put the Huskers at the USC 23 to start the drive. The Trojans stiffened, before Congdon notched his first field goal of the season.
It appeared that Congdon's field goal would be the only score of the opening quarter, but John David Booty connected with Dwayne Jarrett for a 12-yard touchdown as time expired in the first quarter to send the Trojans to the second quarter with a 7-3 lead. Jarrett's touchdown capped a nine-play, 83-yard drive that took just 2:57.
The score remained 7-3 until the closing minutes of the first half, as a pair of long drives consumed nearly the entire second quarter. Nebraska opened the second stanza by maintaining possession for nearly six minutes, running 11 plays but gaining just 23 total yards, before being forced to punt.
USC then marched on an 11-play, 74-yard drive that lasted 5:42. Booty connected with Steve Smith on a three-yard touchdown pass with 2:52 left in the half to cap the drive.
The Trojans firmed their grip on the game early in the second half, capitalizing on one of the Huskers' few miscues in the game. On Nebraska's first play from scrimmage after halftime, Taylor fumbled a handoff to Marlon Lucky for the game's only turnover, giving USC the ball at the Husker 31. The Trojans capitalized with a four-play, 31-yard drive punctuated with Booty's second touchdown pass to Jarrett on the night. Jarrett's five-yard scoring reception with 12:05 left in the quarter put the Trojans up 21-3.
Nebraska refused to quit, keeping the Trojans' high-powered offense at bay, before the Huskers produced their only touchdown drive of the night early in the fourth quarter. The Huskers' impressive drive featured a 21-yard connection from Taylor to Terrence Nunn, and a 36-yard hookup with tight end Matt Herian that put NU inside the Trojan 5.
Taylor capped Nebraska's nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive with his one-yard run to make it 21-10 USC with 12:44 left.
Booty led USC on its final scoring drive of the night after the Huskers' touchdown drive, culminating with Chauncey Washington's seven-yard run with 6:32 remaining in the game.
For the game, Booty completed 25-of-36 passes for 257 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Jarrett led the Trojan receivers with 11 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, while Smith added six catches for 53 yards and a score.
Taylor completed 8-of-16 passes for 115 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. I-back Brandon Jackson led the Nebraska receiving unit with four catches for 36 yards, while Herian added one catch for 36 yards and Nunn picked up 31 yards on his two catches.
On the ground, Nebraska managed 68 yards on 36 carries, led by Kenny Wilson's 46 yards on 19 totes. USC picked up 142 yards on 31 carries, with most of its rushing yards coming late in the game, as USC maintained possession for 11:35 in the fourth quarter.
The Huskers managed 211 yards in total offense against USC, while the Trojans amassed 399 total yards.
Titchener led a solid performance by Nebraska's special teams units, punting five times for a 38.6-yard average, including one punt of 50 yards and one downed inside the USC 20. Titchener allowed just one USC return of four yards, while Nunn led the Huskers' punt return unit with his 31-yard return to set up NU's first score.
Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium next Saturday when the Huskers take on Troy. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. with an FSN Pay-Per-View telecast.
Scoring Summary (Final)
2006 USC Trojans Football
#19 Nebraska vs #4 USC Trojans (Sep 16, 2006 at Los Angeles, Calif.)
Nebraska (2-1) vs. USC Trojans (2-0)
Date: Sep 16, 2006 Site: Los Angeles, Calif. Stadium: LA Memorial Coliseum
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
Nebraska............ 3 0 0 7 - 10
USC Trojans......... 7 7 7 7 - 28
1st 03:23 NU - Congdon, Jordan 38 yd field goal
4 plays, 2 yards, TOP 0:59, NU 3 - USC 0
00:00 USC - Jarrett, Dwayne 12 yd pass from Booty, J.D. (Danelo, Mario kick)
9 plays, 83 yards, TOP 3:23, NU 3 - USC 7
2nd 02:52 USC - Smith, Steve 3 yd pass from Booty, J.D. (Danelo, Mario kick)
11 plays, 71 yards, TOP 6:00, NU 3 - USC 14
3rd 12:05 USC - Jarrett, Dwayne 5 yd pass from Booty, J.D. (Danelo, Mario kick)
4 plays, 31 yards, TOP 1:55, NU 3 - USC 21
4th 12:44 NU - Taylor, Zac 1 yd run (Congdon, Jordan kick)
9 plays, 74 yards, TOP 3:32, NU 10 - USC 21
06:27 USC - Washington, C. 7 yd run (Danelo, Mario kick)
14 plays, 81 yards, TOP 6:17, NU 10 - USC 28
Kickoff time: 5:13 End of Game: 8:18 Total elapsed time: 3:05
Officials: Referee: Jack Folliard; Umpire: Timothy Morris; Linesman: James Rinne;
Line judge: Blake Lozo; Back judge: John Freitas; Field judge: Mike McCabe;
Side judge: Aaron Santi; Scorer: Ned Miller;
Temperature: 74 deg. Wind: 7 west Weather: sunny