Score by Quarters
If the 2007 Rose Bowl Game allowed USC quarterback John David Booty to step out of the considerable shadows of his predecessors – Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart – the 2008 Game enabled him to take a giant leap into the sunlight.
Booty validated his record-tying four-touchdown performance to beat Michigan in 2007 with a three-touchdown game in 2008 to trounce Illinois, 49-17. Offensive Player of the Game Booty’s seven total touchdowns in two years broke the Rose Bowl Game record for career passing touchdowns by two.
“For John to finish his career (like this), this is how we dreamed it,” said USC Head Coach Pete Carroll. “All of the great players and the great games and teams that have been here, to do that is really wonderful.”
But it wasn’t just Booty and his ever-talented receiving corps who beat the Illini in 2008, it was an all-around victory, on both sides of the ball.
Led by Defensive Player of the Game linebacker Rey Maualuga, who had three sacks, one forced fumble and an interception, the Trojan defense continuously forced turnovers to halt a high-powered Illinois offense led by running back Rashard Mendenhall and quarterback Juice Williams. The Trojan defense forced six fumbles – recovering two – picked off two passes, had five total quarterback sacks and 15 tackles for a loss of 60 yards.
Then there were the running backs. For USC, freshman Joe McKnight carried 10 times for 125 yards and a touchdown; Stafon Johnson also went over 100 yards, carrying nine times for 104 yards. In all, USC had eight players combine for 344 yards on the ground. This, when added to USC’s 289 yards through the air, combined for the highest total yardage by a team in Rose Bowl Game history. The Trojans’ 633 yards smashed their old record of 574, set in the 2006 Game. Their 49 points also tied for most ever in a Rose Bowl Game.
Illinois had a chance to stay within striking distance early in the third quarter. On the Illini’s previous drive, Mendenhall had broken open for a 79-yard touchdown run to cut USC’s lead to 21-10. After USC was forced to punt on its ensuing drive, Illinois advanced to USC’s 24-yard line. Williams completed a pass at the 1-yard line to Jacob Willis, who fumbled. Brian Cushing, the 2007 Defensive Player of the Game, recovered, giving USC a touchback and the ball. What could have been 21-17 stayed 21-10, and USC accelerated from there. Three consecutive USC scoring drives and an Illinois interception later, it was 42-10 and well out of the Illini’s reach.
At that point, USC put in its “Rudy.” Hershel Dennis started at tailback in 2003 but had been sidelined by continuous knee injuries. From 2003 until he petitioned for a sixth year of eligibility for the 2007-2008 season, Dennis remained as much a part of the team as he possibly could, sticking with the Trojans despite frustrating setbacks in recovery and rehab. And at the end of the 2008 Rose Bowl Game, he got his reward. He ran for 30 yards on six carries and put USC up 49-10 with a 3-yard score. The celebration that erupted resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Said Carroll: “We had some penalties I didn’t like tonight, but that one I didn’t care about. That celebration was worth it. That was a real moment.”
USC went to 23-9 all-time in the Rose Bowl Game. The Trojans’ 23 wins puts them far ahead of any other team in Rose Bowl Game history – Michigan is second with eight.
73 degrees, partly sunny
USC – Washington, 8-yard pass from Booty (Buehler kick good)
USC – Reed, 34-yard pass from Green (Buehler kick good)
USC – Washington, 3-yard run (Buehler kick good)
Ill – Reda, 28-yard field goal
Ill – Mendenhall, 79-yard run (Reda kick good)
USC – Davis, 2-yard pass from Booty (Buehler kick good)
USC – McKnight, 6-yard run (Buehler kick good)
USC – Ausberry, 15-yard pass from Booty, (Buehler kick good)
USC – Dennis, 3-yard run (Buehler kick good)
Ill – Benn, 56-yard pass from McGee (Reda kick good)
USC: Pete Carroll
Illinois: Ron Zook
John David Booty threw three touchdown passes for USC, giving him seven in two Rose Bowl Game appearances, the most in history by two.
Ill: Mendenhall 17-155; McGee 2-7; Weil 2-1; Dufrene 1-0; Williams 15-(-19)
USC: Mcknight 10-125; Johnson 9-104; Washington 12-75; Dennis 6-30; Adewale 1-17; Bradford 1-5; Havili 1-5; Booty 3-(-17)
Ill: Williams 21-35-245; McGee 1-1-56
USC: Booty 25-37-255; Green 1-1-34
Ill: Benn 5-80; Mendenhall 5-59; Willis 4-74; Cumberland 3-37; Warren 3-25; Gamble 2-26
USC: Davis 7-87; McKnight 6-45; Havili 4-63; Washington 3-12; Ausberry 2-28; Johnson 2-15;
Reed 1-34; Hazelton 1-5
Ill: Santella 6-268
USC: Woidneck 6-217