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Bruins, Trojans kickoff season victoriously

by Marquis McClure (writer), Los Angeles, September 04, 2006

It may have been difficult to tell, but they'd never done this before.

Before Saturday, neither Ben Olson nor John David Booty had much experience at the helm for UCLA or USC (respectively), much less started a game. By day's end, though, both had led their teams to impressive victories.

In his first start for the Bruins, Olson completed 25 of 33 passes for 318 yards and threw for three touchdowns in UCLA's 31-10 victory over visiting Utah Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl. Not only was it Olson's first start, Saturday was the first time he had taken a snap in a game since committing to the Bruins five years ago (two of those were spent on a Mormon mission, the others were spent on the sideline with injuries).

Despite his lack of experience, the Bruins had complete confidence in Olson, while the Utes were confident they would have their way with the young quarterback.

Well, Utah was proven wrong as UCLA dominated the contest from the opening kick. On the Bruins opening posession, Olsen led the team on an eight-play, 79-yard drive capped by a 16-yard pass to Ryan Moya which gave UCLA a 7-0 lead.

The Utes pulled even with a touchdown pass of their own in the second quarter, but that and a field goal late in the second were all the points they would muster against UCLA's defense.

The defense even did some scoring of their own, after Utah's Tommy Grady threw a pass that was intercepted by freshman Alterraun Verner, who ran 35 yards for a touchdown with 2:45 left in the second quarter.

The second half was all UCLA, with the Bruins scoring 17 unanswered points on touchdown passes to Matt Willis in the third quarter and Marcus Everett in the middle of the fourth. A Justin Medlock field goal early in the fourth quarter accounts for all of UCLA's scoring.

It seems that the Bruins' performance may have been motivated by some Utah players' comments. The Los Angeles Times reported that a few Utes were quoted in local papers and experessed little confidence in UCLA's quarterback or defense.

"They were talking a lot of trash and that kind of got under our skin," junior middle linebacker Christian Taylor told the Times. "They were talking as if they were going to run all over us and do whatever they wanted in our house and that didn't happen."

This home win was UCLA's 100th since moving to the Rose Bowl in 1982.

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Unlike Olson, John David Booty had taken some actual snaps in a game prior to Saturday. However, Olson didn't have the added pressure of having to take the reins of an elite program from a Heisman-winning quarterback like Matt Leinart. Nor did Olson have to do so in hostile environs.

But Booty proved himself equal to the task, leading the Trojans to a 50-14 win over host Arkansas Saturday night.

Over 76,000 raucous fans packed Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in one of the most anticipated matchups in Arkansas football history. And the Arkansas faithful all had one thing on their mind: revenge.

Revenge for the 70-17 roasting the Razorbacks suffered one year ago in Los Angeles, and they were hoping to return the favor Saturday.

They didn't, nor did the Trojans repeat their performance of a year ago, where they scored four touchdowns in their first eight plays. No, this time defense ruled the first half. The Razorbacks' swarming defense seemed to stymie the Trojans early on, and while they couldn't stop them from scoring completely, they did on three occasions deny them the end zone.

The lone touchdown came on a three-yard run by tailback C.J. Gable in the second quarter. Three field goals by kicker Mario Danelo account for USC's first-half scoring.

A one-yard run by Robert Johnson late in the second quarter was all Arkansas could muster against the USC defense, and the score was 16-7 at halftime.

The Trojans have traditionally played better ball in the second half in the Pete Carrroll era, and this game proved to be no exception. Booty connected with Patrick Turner and Fred Davis for touchdown passes in the third quarter and hit Ryan Powdrell for another one early in the fourth to extend their lead to 37-7. A nine-yard touchdown run by Emmanuel Moody extended the lead to 44-7.

Arkansas finally answered with a score of their own: a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mitch Mustain midway through the fourth quarter. But USC responded again with another rushing touchdown by Allen Bradford with 1:21 remaining in regulation, cementing the score at 50-14.

Booty finished with 24 completions in 35 attempts and 261 passing yards in his debut. Coach Carroll was impressed with his young quarterbacks performance.

"I thought he handled himself beautifully," Carroll told ESPN. "Got us off to a terrific start."

The win was USC's 46th in their last 48 games and their 53rd consecutive game scoring 20 or more points, extending their NCAA record. The crowd of 76,564 set a stadium record in Fayetteville, Ark.

The Trojans have a bye next week then will host Nebraska on Sept. 16 at the Coliseum; UCLA will take on Rice next Saturday at the Rose Bowl.


About the Writer

Marquis McClure is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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