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Two late Trojan scores blunt Cougar rally

9/7/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Southern California Trojans got off to a
great start, stumbled badly, then came back strong.

After building a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, the
fourth-ranked Trojans (2-0) allowed BYU (1-1) to close within three
points with 7:05 left before closing out the 35-18 win with two
late touchdowns Saturday night.

"We expected it to be very hard and it certainly didn't
disappoint us. They just kind of pecked away," USC coach Pete
Carroll said.

Matt Leinart then threw his third touchdown pass -- and second to
Mike Williams -- with 4:41 remaining. Shortly after, the Trojans
recovered a fumble at the BYU 11 and Hershel Dennis scored on the
next play to seal the win in the first game between the schools.

"BYU played a great game defensively. It's tough to make
adjustments against them and I had some poor execution," said
Leinart, who went 19-for-34 for 235 yards, threw three
interceptions and was sacked for a safety.

"But we did what we had to do. We won and we'll move on to next
week."

Williams was wide open in the seam of the defense when Leinart
connected with him for the 18-yard score to help the Trojans win
their 10th in a row dating back to last year.

BYU coach Gary Crowton was encouraged by the comeback.

"It's hard to come back when you fall behind a team like this
21-0, but I think we're a good team, and I think SC would agree,"
Crowton said.

Dennis capped the scoring with his TD run with 1:40 remaining
after linebacker Matt Grootegoed recovered a fumble by the Cougars'
Naufahu Tahi.

Williams had 10 receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

"I thought Mike was just spectacular," Carroll said. "His
plays were just spectacular because they weren't easy plays; he
made some very difficult catches.

"It was great because we needed somebody to make some plays
tonight."

BYU's Matt Berry completed 27-of-39 for 297 yards, with one
touchdown and three interceptions. Daniel Coats had eight catches
for 114 yards.

"We just squandered opportunities. We beat ourselves," Berry
said. "At halftime, we felt like we had momentum and felt like we
could beat them."

Trailing 21-5 at halftime, the Cougars (1-1) got a 14-yard
touchdown pass from Berry to Coats and field goals of 26 and 52
yards by Matt Payne to close the gap to 21-18.

The Cougars put together their first sustained drive of the game
to pull within 21-12 early in the third quarter, covering 80 yards
in nine plays and capping the march with Berry's 14-yard throw to
Coats.

USC capitalized on BYU's mistakes to build the 21-0 lead in the
first quarter, but the Cougars took advantage of two poor plays by
the Trojans in the second quarter to trim the lead to 21-5 by
halftime.

After defensive lineman John Denney batted a pass by Leinart
into the air then intercepted and returned it 8 yards to the USC
45, Payne kicked his first of three field goals, a 53-yarder, as
time expired in the half.

Leinart also figured in the Cougars' first score, which extended
their NCAA record to 352 consecutive games without being shut out.
Leinart, throwing out of the Trojans' end zone, was dragged down by
linebacker K.C. Bills for a safety 2:51 before halftime.

USC scored twice in a 9-second span late in the first quarter.
Two plays after Colbert turned a quick slant pass from Leinart into
the 48-yard touchdown with 2:43 left in the quarter, Trojans
defensive end Omar Nazel snared a screen pass from Berry in the BYU
backfield and raced 16 yards to the end zone for a 21-0 lead.

A personal foul by BYU, a late hit on Leinart out of bounds,
kept the Trojans' drive alive, or USC would have been forced to
punt.

Southern California's first touchdown came after the Cougars'
David Christensen fumbled a punt and Melvin Simmons recovered at
the BYU 21. Leinart threw the 1-yard scoring pass to Williams 5
minutes into the contest.