USC beats Iowa in Orange Bowl
Published: Friday, January 3, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 3, 2003 at 12:28 a.m.
MIAMI (AP) - Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer played keepaway from Brad Banks, and Southern California looked right at home playing in the Orange Bowl for the first time.
Palmer dominated his duel with Heisman runner-up Banks, helping the No. 5 Trojans to a 16-minute advantage in time of possession as they beat third-ranked Iowa 38-17 Thursday night.
Palmer led scoring drives of 79, 80, 99, 85 and 61 yards, helping USC blow open a game that was 10-all at halftime. He threw for 303 yards and a touchdown and was chosen the game's most valuable player.
Banks was limited to 204 yards passing and failed to lead Iowa's normally high-powered offense into the end zone until the final minute.
The Hawkeyes' biggest play came when C.J. Jones returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Southern California (11-2) beat a top 25 team for the seventh time this season. USC won its final eight games and snapped a nine-game winning streak by Iowa (11-2).
"We didn't think it would be this easy," said Mike Williams, who caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Palmer. "After the kickoff, they didn't do anything."
The Trojans outscored UCLA, Notre Dame and Iowa 134-51 in their final three games, a showing that may be impressive enough to vault them to second in the final rankings behind the Fiesta Bowl winner. It would be USC's highest finish since 1979.
Palmer completed 21 of 31 passes, feasting on a defense that ranked last in the Big Ten against the pass. His 65-yard bomb to Kareem Kelly set up Southern Cal's first score, but mostly Palmer made short throws to keep drives alive.
"He was the better quarterback tonight," Kelly said. "The Heisman showed up."
Banks, a Florida native playing with dozens of relatives in the stands, went 15-for-36 and threw his first interception since Oct. 19.
Iowa's muscle was a concern for Southern California coming into the game, but instead the speedy Trojans wore down the Hawkeyes. USC mounted long touchdown drives on each of its first three possessions in the second half and totaled 363 yards in the second half.
"They weren't used to our speed," Kelly said. "We're a second-half team, and we came out with a lot of fire."
The matchup was dubbed the Rose Bowl of the East because Pasadena is the more traditional postseason reward for both teams, but Southern California thrived in the unfamiliar setting. Justin Fargas rushed for 122 yards, including touchdowns of 4 and 50 yards. Williams caught six passes for 99 yards, including his 14th touchdown reception of the season to tie an NCAA freshman record.
Jones scored on the longest kickoff return in Orange Bowl history. But more than 40,000 Iowa fans in attendance had little to cheer about after that.
"USC is a great team with a lot of speed, and that's something we didn't handle too well," said Iowa receiver Maurice Brown.
While they sat mostly silent, such former Trojans stars as Keyshawn Johnson, Tony Boselli and Rodney Peete rooted from their team's sideline. There were no sightings of O.J. Simpson, who lives in Miami and showed up at a USC practice last week.
The Hawkeyes were hurt by 13 penalties, two turnovers and several missed opportunities. In the first half they had first-and-goal at the 2 and at the 1, but they came away with only three points from the two possessions.
A sack by Matt Grootegoed stymied the first threat, and Iowa settled for a 35-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding.
The Hawkeyes earned a first down at the 1 with 10 seconds left in the half, but after Banks overthrew Brown in the end zone, they sent in the field goal team. Consecutive false-start penalties pushed the ball back to the 11, and Bernard Riley then blocked Kaeding's 29-yard attempt, ending the half with the score tied.
Iowa never recovered from that deflating sequence. USC took the lead for good by driving 80 yards on the first possession of the second half and scoring on Williams' acrobatic catch.
A punt then pinned the Trojans at their 1, and on third down a scrambling Palmer was stopped short of a first down. But Bob Sanders was flagged for a late hit, sustaining a drive that ended with Fargas' long touchdown sprint.
Another Iowa punt was followed by another USC score on Sultan McCullough's 4-yard run.
Playing for the first time since Nov. 16, the Hawkeyes still managed a quick start. Jones took the opening kickoff at the goal, broke into the clear thanks to a block by Jermelle Lewis, and scored untouched.
The Trojans quickly came back. Palmer's first pass was negated by a penalty. His second was the long strike to Kelly, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by Fargas.
USC spent much of the second quarter in Iowa territory but couldn't score until the final 72 seconds, when Ryan Killeen kicked a 35-yard field goal after Lewis lost a fumble at midfield.
The game was sponsored by FedEx.
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