Booty To Play Final Game For USC In The Rose Bowl

It's back to the Rose Bowl for Booty and the Trojans

Dec. 29, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - The expectations were great for Southern California quarterback John David Booty and his team - a Heisman Trophy and a national championship.

Both possibilities were eliminated with the crack of a finger.

So it's back to the Rose Bowl for Booty and the Trojans.

Nobody's complaining - at least not publicly.

"I'm not (disappointed)," Booty said Saturday. "Us getting here again, especially with what we've had to overcome, says a lot about our team."

The Trojans entered the season as a near-unanimous No. 1 pick, and Booty was among the leading candidates for the Heisman, an award won by USC's previous two starting quarterbacks.

Those expectations seemed reasonable considering the Trojans had 17 returning starters from a team that came within a victory over crosstown rival UCLA of playing for the national championship, and Booty was its leader.

The hopes of player and team were alive until Booty broke the middle finger on his throwing hand in the second quarter against Stanford on Oct. 6 when he hit another player's helmet after throwing a pass.

The fracture was confirmed at halftime, with the Trojans leading 9-0. Booty played on, but threw four interceptions in the second half as 41-point underdog Stanford rallied for a shocking 24-23 victory.

USC coach Pete Carroll has since acknowledged he should have replaced Booty at halftime.

"We had played well going into the game," Booty recalled. "The injury happened, we had a few turnovers, we lost. That was frustrating for me."

Booty would miss the following three games - the third a 24-17 loss at Oregon that appeared to eliminate the Trojans from Pac-10 contention, not to mention the national championship race. But No. 6 USC (10-2) won its last four games to earn an unprecedented sixth straight conference title and the Rose Bowl berth.



"Our goal every year is to be where we are right now," said Booty, who completes his collegiate career Tuesday against No. 13 Illinois as the fifth-leading passer in school history.

"The moment you become a quarterback for USC, there's a lot of pressure," offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. "You're going to be on the cover of magazines, you're going to be on SportsCenter. It's not just going out there and throwing curl routes. There are a lot of expectations that come along with that, and our players understand that."

Following Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at quarterback, Booty definitely understood what to expect.

"Nobody's ever had to do what I've done," he said. "In high school (in Shreveport, La.), I had to follow two national players of the year. It was the same thing I had dealt with before."

Booty said he learned patience - no surprise considering he watched from the bench while Leinart played for three years.

"I've had to have patience to maybe not lose my head," Booty said. "There's a lot of things that happened that taught me patience."

Booty said he never considered transferring.

"By the time I had been here a couple years, I loved USC," he said. "I knew I was getting some of the best coaching in America."

Booty passed for 3,347 yards and 29 touchdowns with nine interceptions as a junior last season, and 2,106 yards and 20 TDs with nine interceptions this season. He is 19-3 as a starter.

"If he's not hurt there for those middle games, he's sitting at 30 TDs and maybe we don't lose to Oregon and maybe it's a different situation," Sarkisian said.

And maybe Booty isn't hit with the occasional negative fan reaction.

"You expect to hear boos if you don't play well," he said. "I'll hear them again at the next level. I can tune stuff out pretty well.

"I'm not going to say it didn't bother me. Sometimes when you're playing great, people are going to boo."

Through it all, Booty has kept his composure.

"You've got to put it behind you, no matter what it is," he said. "I try to have a cool head."

Booty had his best game in last year's Rose Bowl, passing for 391 yards and four touchdowns in USC's 32-18 victory over Michigan.

"It was a big-time moment for all of us," Booty said. "To win in the fashion we did was very special."

Illinois (9-3) is aware of what Booty can do.

"I think everything except his mom's name," linebacker Brit Miller replied when asked what he knew about the USC quarterback. "He's a great leader, he's in charge of that team. They lost him for a little bit and they had trouble."

Illinois has 38 sacks this season to rank 12th nationally. USC allowed only 15 sacks.

"I think the key to him having success is his offensive line," Illinois defensive tackle Chris Norwell said of Booty. "He's pretty good at escaping pressure. Even though he's not a scrambler, we've got to maintain our pressure lanes."

Booty knows he'll be a target.

"They do a lot of things to give you problems," he said. "They do make it difficult on the quarterbacks. If you don't prepare, you can come out and have a long day.

"We know what we have to do."