Matt Leinart and Southern California played as though the Orange Bowl never ended.
The Heisman Trophy winner threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns, and top-ranked USC started its quest for a third consecutive national championship with a 63-17 victory over Hawaii on Saturday in Honolulu.
The Trojans’ 23rd straight win went a lot like their 22nd – a 55-19 demolition of Oklahoma in the national title game in January that featured five TD passes by Leinart.
Dwayne Jarrett caught three touchdown passes for USC, including a 28-yarder that helped Leinart break Carson Palmer’s USC record of 72 touchdown passes. Leinart now has 74. His only hiccup in the game was a timing pass intended for the 6-foot-5 Jarrett that was intercepted by Hawaii’s 6-foot cornerback Kenny Patton in the end zone.
Leinart, who sat out the fourth quarter, looked poised and sharp, going 18 for 24 with scoring passes of 22, 28 and 67 yards. The big lefty, who shocked the football world by passing up a chance to be the first pick in the NFL draft to return for his senior season, is now 26-1 as a starter.
The Warriors kept it respectable until the Trojans erupted for four touchdowns in the third quarter, including two scores in 10 seconds, to take a 49-10 lead.
Reggie Bush’s 1-yard touchdown run gave USC a 42-10 lead before 50,000 sun-baked fans at Aloha Stadium, the first sellout since 2002. On the ensuing kickoff, returner Mikhail Kafentzis was stripped and Desmond Reed picked up the ball and ran 15 yards for another score that gave USC the 39-point cushion.
Bush rushed 12 times for 86 yards and two TDs.
Steve Smith had seven receptions for 185 yards and a TD for USC.
(19) California 41, Sac St. 3
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 147 yards and a score, and the Golden Bears beat the Division I-AA Hornets in Berkeley, Calif., despite a tumultuous afternoon for three quarterbacks.
Heralded freshman DeSean Jackson caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from Nate Longshore on Cal’s opening drive. Jackson also returned a fourth-quarter punt 49 yards for a score as the Golden Bears finally turned the mismatch into a blowout.
But the Bears’ traditionally powerful offense struggled against the Hornets even before Longshore went down with a serious ankle injury late in the first half.
Longshore, a redshirt freshman who beat out junior college transfer Joe Ayoob for the starting job, was 8 for 11 for 131 yards with an interception. But Cal led just 7-3 when he sprained his ankle and went to the locker room on a cart.
Ayoob took over, but looked terrible while throwing 10 straight incompletions.
Third-stringer Steve Levy, a junior, then threw an interception on his first play from scrimmage. But Levy threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Noah Smith moments later, then led another scoring drive culminating in Chris Manderino’s 3-yard TD run.
Oregon St. 41, Portland St. 14
Matt Moore debuted with 367 yards passing and four touchdown passes, leading the Beavers over the Vikings in Corvallis, Ore.
Mike Hass had nine catches for 155 yards, while Alexis Serna kicked field goals of 19 and 24 yards for Oregon State, which had 479 yards of total offense against the Division I-AA Vikings.