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Booty, USC beat Cal to win Pac-10 title

Nov 19, 2006 - 4:38 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- John David Booty prevented California from ending its Rose Bowl drought at Southern California's expense.

Booty threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns as the fourth-ranked Trojans defeated the 17th-ranked Golden Bears, 23-9, to claim at least a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for a record fifth straight season.

It was the Trojans' 32nd consecutive victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum and 23rd straight Pac-10 home win, both league records.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of this moment tonight," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Normally I don't stop for moments, but tonight was special. A long time ago all the coaches, we put together an idea of how to do this, and to get our fifth consecutive conference championship and to hang with the concepts, I'm just really proud of it all."

Booty completed 18-of-31 passes for 238 yards without an interception for the Trojans (9-1, 7-1 Pac-10), who will do no worse than play in the Rose Bowl for a third time in four seasons.

USC, which hosts No. 6 Notre Dame next week, is ranked third in the Bowl Championship Series standings and figures to move up after No. 2 Michigan lost at No. 1 Ohio State earlier Saturday.

The Bears (8-3, 6-2), who have not been to the Rose Bowl since the 1958 season, would have ended their funk with a win here. But they surrendered 17 unanswered points in the second half to fall to the Trojans for a third year in a row.

"Of course we're disappointed (about not clinching the Rose Bowl), we work long and hard," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "The players work hard for the chance to win a conference title. To be this late in the year and play for one, I give credit to the players."

USC tied the game, 9-9, on a 49-yard field goal by David Buehler with 4:09 to play in the third quarter. It was the junior college transfer's first career kick.

The Trojans took the lead, 16-9, with 13:01 to play on Booty's 25-yard pass to Dwayne Jarrett, who held on to the ball after getting crunched between two defenders. It was Jarrett's 36th career TD grab, extending his Pac-10 record.

After Cal went three-and-out, USC drove to the Bears 37 and called a timeout before a 4th-and-2 play with 8:31 to go. Booty found Steve Smith wide open behind the defense and he coasted into the end zone for a two-score advantage.

"It was fourth down and I kind of had three options, and (Smith) came down and bluffed a block and kind of got lost in there and was able to come out the back door without anybody seeing him, and basically just walked in," Booty said. "I was totally surprised (that he was so wide open), he was actually the third read in the progression."

Nate Longshore went 17-of-38 for 176 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for Cal.

USC opened the scoring on a 19-yard field goal by Mario Danelo with 4:01 left in the first quarter. In the final minute of the period, Trojans freshman safety Taylor Mays intercepted Longshore at the USC 3, but Brandon Mebane tackled Chauncey Washington in the end zone for a safety on the next play.

The Trojans took a 6-2 lead on a 32-yard field goal by Danelo with 5:56 left in the half, but Longshore gave the Bears the lead entering the break with a six-yard TD toss to Lavelle Hawkins.

"Give USC credit. They're a great team," Tedford said. "We didn't put together two halves. Just to hang in there was not what we were shooting for."

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