The Rose Bowl has been a very huge part of USC football history. There’s been plenty of memorable moments that involved the Trojans and the Rose Bowl Game both good and bad. With so many Rose Bowl appearances through the years, we’ll trim it down by sharing 5 Rose Bowl moments from 1996 to 2009. Some of these moments will make you smile and some will make you turn away, but all of them are forever etched into USC football history.
1996 Rose Bowl Game
USC returned to the Rose Bowl Game after a 6 year absence. The Trojans came into Pasadena with an 8-2-1 record to face a Northwestern team that was ranked third in the nation. This game turned into the Keyshawn Johnson show as he would haul in a record 12 catches for 216 yards, which would earn him Rose Bowl MVP honors. USC would just be too much for Northwestern to handle as the Trojans came out victorious, 41-32. This would also be head coach John Robinson’s fourth Rose Bowl victory.
Trojans pounce Penn State
The 2009 installment of the Rose Bowl game featured USC and Penn St, who both won their respective conferences with an 11-1 record. USC was also riding a 9-game winning streak heading into the game. The first quarter, USC and Penn St were tied at 7, however the second quarter would be all Trojans from there. USC would score 24 unanswered points to close out the 2nd half. USC would close out their third straight Rose Bowl victory with a 38-24 win over Penn State. Mark Sanchez would have a coming out party against the Nittany Lions defense, passing for 413 yards and 5 total touchdowns (4 passing and 1 rushing) and setting a Rose Bowl record with a completion percentage of 80%, earning him Rose Bowl MVP honors. The Trojans defense was also held the Penn State offense in check throughout the first half and third quarter. The Trojans once again displayed another dominant performance, strengthen their argument as one of the nation’s best team in 2008. This would also be USC’s last appearance in the Rose Bowl.
The Dwayne Jarrett and Brian Cushing show
The 2007 Rose Bowl featured two outstanding individual performances. After dropping their chance at another National Championship Game appearance, USC met with the Michigan Wolverines. In this game, USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett had an absolute field day against the Michigan secondary. Jarrett finished the day with 11 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns, however he wasn’t the only one to have the spotlight. Trojans linebacker Brian Cushing made life miserable for Michigan quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart. Cushing had 7 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The two earned Rose Bowl MVP honors in USC’s 32-18 victory over Michigan.
Juice Meets Maualuga
If there was any game where a team was completely outmatched from the opening kick on down, it’s the 2008 Rose Bowl. Illinois came in as a BCS at large team due to Ohio State playing in the National Championship game and the Rose Bowl is opting to keep it’s Big-10/Pac-10 tradition. The Trojans made themselves known to Illinois in the first half as jumping to a 21-3 lead. USC linebacker Rey Maualuga one upped Brian Cushing’s performance in the last years Rose Bowl by finding himself all over the Illinois backfield. Maualuga had 3 sacks and an interception in just the first half. USC would go on to win 49-17, the second most dominant performance by the Trojans in a bowl game during the Pete Carroll era.
2006 Rose Bowl Game
This is the ONE bowl game where all USC fans try to forget about. The Rose Bowl Game played as the National Championship game between the No. 1 USC Trojans and No. 2 Texas Longhorns. USC was bound to make history, looking to increase their 34-game winning streak and win their third straight national championship. Texas, led by Vince Young, had other things in mind that night. USC was leading Texas 7-0 in the second quarter and a screen pass to Heisman trophy winning running back Reggie Bush was well on their way to increasing the score, however an ill-advised lateral by Bush would give Texas the ball back. At the half, USC was trailing Texas 16-10. The 4th quarter, however was where things would take a dramatic turn of events. USC leading late in the fourth had a tough decision to make on 4th and 1. USC ran a dive with Lendale White to gain the first down and run out the clock, White was stuffed a yard short to give the Longhorns the ball back. Texas would drive down to the USC nine and would be faced with a 4th and 5 with only seconds left. Vince Young would score the game winning touchdown to reject USC from history. This game from the Bush fumble, to the failed 4th and 1, to the Vince Young touchdown will forever be a game that will make USC fans wonder “What If”. To this day it holds Rose Bowl records in multiple categories and is viewed by some as the greatest College football game ever.
2004 Rose Bowl
While some point out the 2003 Orange Bowl or the 2002 USC/Norte Dame game as the USC return to greatness, the 2004 Rose Bowl should be the official mark as the “Rise of Troy”. USC came into the 2004 Rose Bowl Game amidst some controversy. USC was ranked one in both the AP and Coaches poll, however was left out of the BCS national championship due to the computer rankings that ran the BCS at the time. The Trojans were out to claim a share of the national championship against the Michigan Wolverines. USC went out and showed the nation, why they should be national champions by putting out an impressive performance in their 28-14 victory. The one moment that will forever signify the return of the Trojans was a play where Trojans wide receiver Mike Williams threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Matt Leinart to put them up 28-7. USC would win the AP National Championship as LSU won the BCS National championship, giving us the first split national champions since 1997. 2004 would really jump start the Trojans decade of dominance.