LOS ANGELES — The discussion during USC-Nebraska week often turned to similarities between the teams' offenses.
But when they played, they seemed two time zones apart.
Southern Cal mixed the run and pass, made big plays and didn't turn over the football Saturday night in a 28-10 victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Nebraska, well, let's just say it couldn't quite match the Trojans before a crowd of 92,000, which included about 25,000 Husker fans wanting to see how their West Coast offense worked on the West Coast.
"It was a game we wanted to take into the fourth quarter,'' NU coach Bill Callahan said. "We felt very strongly about that until we had the turnover at the beginning of the third quarter, and they separated from us a little bit.''
On "Separation Saturday, '' as ESPN was billing it, No. 19 Nebraska showed it hadn't caught up with teams like the second- and fourth-ranked Trojans.
The most obvious difference was offensively as NU (2-1) managed 211 total yards after gaining more than 1,000 combined against two undermanned opponents. After running for 250-plus yards against Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State, the Huskers apparently thought they could travel that route again.
The result? Just 68 rushing yards and 1.9 per carry, even though Nebraska ran it 36 times and threw it only 17. And before quarterback Zac Taylor ran off three straight completions to finish the third quarter, the Huskers had attempted two passes on their previous four series.
Callahan testily answered questions about the two-to-one ratio of runs to passes, saying, "We did what we planned to do to win the football game.''
"We knew that we could come in and run the football,'' he said. "That's why we attempted the runs that we did. A hostile crowd, and on the road, you're going to need to run the football to win championships. Again, let me be very clear, we wanted to run the football, and in a tough environment like this it's a real challenge to do that.''
Southern Cal counter-punched with 399 total yards in John David Booty's second career start at quarterback. The junior completed 25 of 36 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns, but most impressive was his knack for finding receivers like All-American Dwayne Jarrett at important times.
"We were playing against a good defense,'' Booty said. "It seemed like we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple times. Otherwise, we might have been able to put the ball in the end zone a few more times.''
The Trojans (2-0) found the end zone enough to score 20-plus points for the 54th consecutive game.
Want more? They improved to 47-2 in their last 49 games, and won their 28th straight home game and 34th consecutive regular-season game.
"They're a good football team,'' NU cornerback Cortney Grixby said. "They had a better day than we did. They were hitting on all cylinders.''
Southern Cal pulled ahead 14-3 with an 11-play, 71-yard drive that Booty capped by throwing a 3-yard scoring pass to Steve Smith. On the play before the touchdown, Booty stepped up in the pocket and found Jarrett for a 22-yard gain on third-and-19.
With 2:52 still left before halftime, NU chose to run the football four times.
"We didn't go into no shell,'' Callahan said.
After a defensive stop to start the third quarter, the Huskers went back to the run. Only Taylor didn't get a handoff to I-back Marlon Lucky, and Cary Harris recovered the fumble on the Huskers' 31.
"That was a huge play,'' Taylor said. "I really don't know what happened.''
Four plays later, and helped by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Barry Cryer, Booty delivered a 5-yard TD pass to Jarrett for a 21-3 lead.
The NU secondary could not contain the 6-foot-5 Jarrett, who caught 11 passes for 136 yards to answer a challenge from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin after the Arkansas game two weekends earlier.
"I think every game you've got to look to find ways to get No. 8 the ball, '' Booty said. "You saw why tonight.''
Nebraska gave itself some late hope when Taylor scored on a 1-yard bootleg run with 12:44 left. But the Trojans came right back with a 14-play, 81-yard scoring drive that chewed up 6:17 -- and spit out the Huskers.
NU still hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road since No. 23 Notre Dame in 2000. The "statement game'' will have to wait.
"To come in here and get a victory, it was going to take a great effort,'' Callahan said. "I thought our team gave that effort. We just didn't maximize our opportunities.''
Asked how far Nebraska remained behind teams like USC, Callahan just said, "I'll leave that to you'' before disappearing into the West Coast night.
|Yards per carry||4.6||1.9|
Nebraska is 0-4 all-time against USC.
|Louisiana Tech||Sept. 2|
|Nicholls State||Sept. 9|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Sept. 23|
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Kansas State||Oct. 14|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 11|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 16. See them all »
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