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Leinart throws five TD passes

12/7/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Having made their points on the field, the
USC Trojans stated their case for a trip to New Orleans and a shot
at the national title.

"We deserve to go. We're 11-1 and we've been playing well the
last couple of months. I think we've done as much as we can do. But
it's not in our hands," Matt Leinart said Saturday after throwing
for five touchdowns in the second-ranked Trojans' 52-28 victory
over Oregon State.

The Trojans (11-1, 7-1 Pac-10) find out Sunday whether they go
to the Sugar Bowl for the national title showdown, or stay home to
play in the Rose Bowl. The national championship picture was thrown
into chaos Saturday night, when top-ranked Oklahoma lost to Kansas
State in the Big 12 Championship and No. 3 LSU beat Georgia in the
Southeastern Conference title game.

Southern Cal was No. 2 behind Oklahoma in the BCS rankings
heading into the Trojans' regular-season finale against Oregon
State. The top two teams in the final BCS standings will meet in
New Orleans on Jan. 4 for the national championship.

"We have everything you want for a national championship
game," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "You have a big, exciting
offense and a tough defense."

Leinart believes the Trojans are in a no-lose situation.

"We get to go to the Rose Bowl; that's the worst that could
happen to us," the quarterback said.

Sugar Bowl chairman John Busenlener won't have any say in who
plays in the game, but he obviously wouldn't mind having the
high-scoring Trojans there.

"They're a team with a lot of talent," said Busenlener, at the
Coliseum to watch the win over Oregon State. "I'm really impressed
with their receivers, and their balanced offense, defense, and
tonight, special teams.

"We had a lot of people asking us today about hotel
reservations and places to eat in New Orleans."

Oregon State (7-5, 4-4) will play New Mexico in the Dec. 24 Las
Vegas Bowl.

The Trojans' depth and versatility on both sides of the ball
were more than the Beavers could handle.

"I do believe USC belongs in the Sugar Bowl," said Oregon
State coach Mike Riley, a former Trojans' assistant. "I'd love to
see them in it."

USC scored 40 or more points for the seventh game in a row and
finished the regular season with a Pac-10 record 506 points.
Leinart established a conference single-season mark with 35
touchdown passes.

Mike Williams had two touchdowns catches, one a leaping,
one-handed grab in the back of the end zone. He also got a hand on
an Oregon State field-goal try that fell short, and made a crushing
block on a run by Reggie Bush.

Bush, a freshman, also caught two touchdown passes. Steve Smith,
another freshman, had 136 yards on five catches, including a
73-yard touchdown.

Defensively, Will Poole made two interceptions, returning one 67
yards for a touchdown, and Lofa Tatupu had USC's other two
interceptions.

Leinart went 22-of-38 for 278 yards and threw scoring passes of
14, 30, 9, 3 and 73 yards.

In the first quarter, he threw his first interception in two
months, ending a Pac-10 record streak of 212 passes without being
picked off. He threw another interception in the third quarter,
which Brandon Browner returned 31 yards for a touchdown.

A redshirt sophomore who hadn't thrown a collegiate pass until
this fall, Leinart finished the regular season with 3,229 yards
passing, with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Carson Palmer
threw for 3,639 yards and 35 TDs, with 10 interceptions last season
when he won the Heisman.

Derek Anderson completed 34 of 60 for 485 yards and two
touchdowns, but threw four interceptions for the mistake-prone
Beavers. Mike Hass had eight receptions for 208 yards.

Steven Jackson, averaging a conference-high 121.3 yards rushing
per game, was held to 62 yards on 22 carries.

The Trojans led 28-14 at halftime, with the Beavers closing the
gap on Anderson's 22-yard scoring pass to Tim Euhus six seconds
before halftime to cap an 80-yard drive that took only 1:02.

Oregon State got no closer in the second half.

Leinart and Williams accounted for two of the Trojans'
first-half touchdowns. Williams made his leaping catch on a 9-yard
pass for a 28-7 lead with 1:08 left in the second quarter.

In the first half, the Beavers committed three turnovers, had
two field goals and a punt blocked in the first half.