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Originally published January 1, 2009 at 6:06 PM | Page modified January 1, 2009 at 6:23 PM

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Rose Bowl | Mark Sanchez passes USC to 38-24 victory

Mark Sanchez passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns, USC dominated on defense and the fifth-ranked Trojans defeated the No. 6 Nittany Lions 38-24 Thursday

AP Sports Writer

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PASADENA, Calif. — Southern California made a strong case of its own to be No. 1.

JoePa certainly recognized what a talented team the Trojans were — and that was before they beat up Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

Mark Sanchez passed for 413 yards and four touchdowns, USC dominated on defense and the fifth-ranked Trojans defeated the No. 6 Nittany Lions 38-24 Thursday.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno watched from the press box, where he's been for most of the season following hip replacement surgery. He couldn't have liked what he saw — at one point in the first half, the TV camera caught him shaking his head as USC (12-1) rolled to a 31-7 lead.

Out of the BCS championship mix, the Trojans (12-1) could only wonder what might have been had they not lost at Oregon State 27-21 on Sept. 25.

What was thought to be a weak Pac-10 hurt the Trojans' chances to reach the national championship game in Miami — where Florida and Oklahoma will play next week. But the Pac-10 finished the postseason 5-0.

USC scored four touchdowns and a field goal on consecutive first-half possessions for a 31-7 halftime lead against a team that allowed only 12.4 points per game during the regular season.

With a No. 1 defense in the nation, there was no way the Trojans would blow that kind of lead.

The Trojans' 31 first-half points were the most they've scored in any of their record 33 Rose Bowl games. They spent most of the second half working the clock while their defense held Penn State in check until the fourth quarter.

The Nittany Lions scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to make the final score respectable, but fell far short of their 40.2-point average.

USC finished with 27 first downs and 474 yards of total offense. Penn State gained 410 yards, almost twice the average the Trojans allowed during the regular season, but it hardly mattered.

Paterno, whose won 383 games, including 23 bowls — both records — said several times in the days leading up to the Rose Bowl that he thought USC was at least as good as any team in the country, perhaps better.

Clearly, the 82-year-old coach knew what he was talking about. The Trojans (12-1) won 10 straight after losing to Oregon State, outscoring the opposition 380-80.

Sanchez, who completed 28-of-35 passes without being intercepted and finished the season with 3,207 passing yards and 34 touchdown throws, might have played his final game for USC. The strong-armed fourth-year junior, 14-2 as a starter for the Trojans, has said he will consider making himself available for the NFL draft. The deadline is Jan. 15.

Sanchez became the third player to pass for more than 400 yards in the Rose Bowl, joining Wisconsin's Ron Vander Kelen, who threw for 401 yards in the 1963 game against USC, and Oregon's Danny O'Neil, who passed for a record 456 yards in the 1995 game against Penn State. Vander Kelen and O'Neil were both on the losing side.

Damian Williams caught a career-high 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown and Ronald Johnson made four receptions for 82 yards and two TDs. Stafon Johnson gained 57 yards on 10 carries.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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