PASADENA, Calif. - The loose balls? Southern California came up with them. Those crazy plays? They all went USC's way, too.
The Trojans were every bit as good as advertised and the Rose Bowl was even more lopsided than expected. Freshman tailback Joe McKnight finished with 170 of USC's 633 yards in a record-setting romp Tuesday, 49-17 over outmatched Illinois.
Sixth-ranked USC (11-2) tied a Rose Bowl record with the 49 points and the total offense was a record, too. The blowout gave the Trojans 11 wins for an unprecedented sixth straight season and made them 5-1 in their last six bowl games, all of them BCS affairs.
The game featured 1,078 yards of offense. Despite the margin, things were truly competitive for a brief moment. Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall broke a 79-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to trim what had been a three-touchdown deficit to 21-10.
Minutes later, Mendenhall scooted 55 yards with a screen pass from Juice Williams, and Ron Zook's 13th-ranked Illini (9-4) were looking as if they might really complete the impossible dream, from 2-19 over the last two years to Rose Bowl champions.
But two plays later, Kaluka Maiava popped the ball out of receiver Jacob Willis' hands and USC's Brian Cushing won a scramble in the end zone.
Then came the play of the game, when John David Booty threw a sloppy lateral to McKnight, who didn't catch it, but was able to scoop it up on the bounce and run 65 yards. McKnight was chased down by defensive back Vontae Davis - yes Zook is recruiting some speed to Champaign - but four plays later, Booty hit Fred Davis with a 2-yard touchdown pass and the rout was on.
Booty threw for 255 yards and three scores to set a Rose Bowl career record with seven TDs.
USC linebacker Rey Maualuga had three sacks and an interception for a defense that allowed only 79 yards in the first half.