Football   
    No. 4 Trojans Take Care Of BYU
    Mike Williams celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half.
    Mike Williams celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half.

    Sept 6, 2003

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    By KEN PETERS
    AP Sports Writer

    LOS ANGELES - 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.

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    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.

    Quarterback Matt Leinart gets set to hand off the ball during the first half.


    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.