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OUTMUSCLED

A game for the ages it was not. Heck, it wasn't even much of a game, period.

The Southern Cal Trojans couldn't care less, of course.

They rolled to a 55-19 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday night at the Orange Bowl, making a mockery of all the "Game of the Century" talk while embarrassing the Sooners in the process.

"We really didn't think it could happen like this," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

Who did?

USC quarterback Matt Leinart threw an Orange Bowl-record five touchdowns before 77,912 at Pro Player Stadium, and the No. 1 Trojans won for the 22nd straight time, denying the Sooners in their second straight Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Trojans (13-0) shared last year's national championship with LSU, which defeated Oklahoma at the Sugar Bowl.

But this one will be theirs alone, the second in a row for a storied program that had gone 25 years since its previous national championship.

"This is something you dream of," said Leinart, the Heisman Trophy winner who completed 18 of 35 passes for 332 yards and was named the game's most valuable player. "It's been such a fun ride the past couple of years, and to finish the season off being in the championship game, there's really no other feeling like it."

Leinart said that before the game, so imagine how he feels now.

Two years ago, he stood on the same Pro Player sideline, a backup to Heisman winner Carson Palmer, unsure of his future. He had yet to throw a pass in a college game. All he has done since is lead the Trojans to victory in 25 of 26 games. A junior, Leinart has a year of eligibility remaining, but he could be the first quarterback chosen in the NFL draft if he decides to leave early.

"I think we proved we are the No. 1 team in the country without a doubt," Leinart said.

Indeed, the only lingering question was whether undefeated Auburn or Utah would have put up a better fight against the Trojans, who had essentially put the game away in the first half, when Leinart threw four touchdowns.

"We just got whipped," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "The ultimate responsibility comes back to me. We didn't get it done. When you turn the ball over four times in the first half, it's very difficult to win."

This was billed as one of the finest bowl matchups in recent memory, a game between teams so evenly matched it was difficult to pick a winner.

Both teams had been atop the polls all season; both had a Heisman Trophy winner as well as running backs who were finalists. Both had defenses allowing fewer than 15 points per game. And both had claimed a national championship this decade.

Stoops had said: "This feels like one of those games people could remember for a long, long time."

For Stoops, the task now will be to try to forget after a second straight season ended with a thud.

OU quarterback Jason White was picked off twice in the first half, and the Trojans turned both into touchdowns. He was 24-of-36 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

"We turned the ball over and it killed us," White said. "We were playing catchup the rest of the time. And they made the plays."

The Sooners allowed 38 points in the first two quarters, more than they had given up in any game all season. In fact, they were fifth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 13.7 points. The Trojans had more than that in the first quarter.

And when they got so far behind, their most effective weapon, tailback Adrian Peterson, was rendered useless. Peterson had rushed for 100 or more yards in 11 of the 12 previous games but finished with 82 on 25 carries.

The game started beautifully for Oklahoma, which after forcing a punt went 92 yards in 12 plays, with White hitting Travis Wilson with a 5-yard touchdown pass.

USC came right back, going 75 yards in six plays and exposing a weakness in the OU secondary, which had trouble with the deep ball all night. Leinart completed consecutive passes of 17 and 33 yards, the latter for a touchdown to Dominique Byrd to tie.

And then things started getting ugly for the Sooners.

Mark Bradley inexplicably tried to field a punt inside his 5 while surrounded by Trojans. He never got a handle on the ball and fumbled, and it was recovered by USC's Josh Pinkard at the 6. LenDale White, who rushed for 118 yards on 15 carries, scored on the next play for a 14-7 lead.

The Trojans scored on their next two possessions, both after interceptions.

And they just kept on scoring, all of it going against conventional wisdom.

"We just went out and played football the way we wanted to play it," Carroll said. "We didn't expect it be this easy, but the game went our way from the beginning. I was a little surprised, but we controlled all phases of the game."

CONSECUTIVE

AP CHAMPS

USC is the 10th team to win consecutive Associated Press national championships.

Minnesota 1940-41

Army 1944-45

Notre Dame 1946-47

Oklahoma 1955-56

Alabama 1964-65

Nebraska 1970-71

Oklahoma 1974-75

Alabama 1978-79

Nebraska 1994-95

USC 2003-04

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