USC Buries No. 25 La. Tech


Senior quarterback John Fox will never forget his final game at Southern California.

First, he guided the Trojans to a surprisingly easy 45-19 victory over No. 25 Louisiana Tech.

Then, moments after the game ended, he proposed to longtime girlfriend Nicole Barros on the Los Angeles Coliseum field, with the proceeding shown on the video scoreboard.

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  • She tearfully accepted, and the couple kissed with the USC marching band playing behind them and thousands in the crowd of 45,070 cheering.

    Fox said he planned the proposal three months ago. Little did he know at that time he'd be playing a key role with the Trojans as the season wound down.

    "I don't think she knew it was coming," Fox said. "To have my whole team behind me and congratulating me, it was incredible."

    Fox started USC's final four games at quarterback. He was the team's starting quarterback for most of the 1997 season, but lost his job late that year and played tight end in 1998 before moving to linebacker last spring.

    He moved back to quarterback after Carson Palmer broke his collarbone in this season's third game, and finally got his chance to play in relief of Mike Van Raaphorst on Oct. 30.

    Fox's statistics paled in comparison to those of Louisiana Tech's Tim Rattay. Fox completed 11-of-20 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown with one interception, while Rattay was 35-of-68 for 405 yards and three TDs all to James Jordan.

    "I'm not worried about trying to play up to his level passing the ball, we're just not designed for that," Fox said. "Wins and losses are all that count."

    Rattay also threw a season-high three interceptions, the last of which was returned 75 yards for a touchdown by freshman Kevin Arbet late in the third quarter, extending USC's lead to 35-13.

    The win was the third straight for USC (6-6), and snapped Louisiana Tech's eight-game winning streak. Six days earlier, the Trojans ended UCLA's eight-game winning streak against them by beating the Bruins 17-7.

    "The defense. I thought, rattled (Rattay) early," USC coach Paul Hackett said. "He looked very, very out of sorts. While that was happening, the offense picked up a 21-0 lead. I thought that set the tone."

    The loss likely cost the Bulldogs (8-3), who averaged 37 points in their previous 10 games, any chance at playing in a bowl game.

    "Right from the beginning, for some reason, I felt it was not going to be our day," Louisiana Tech coach Jack Bicknell III said. "I've never had that feeling before."

    Rattay, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior, moved into second place on the NCAA's career passing list, passing Louisville's Chris Redman.

    Former Brigham Young quarterback Ty Detmer (15,031 yards) holds the record, with Rattay at 12,746 and Redman in third place at 12,541.

    Rattay's three touchdown passes lifted his career total to 115 and into second place on the NCAA's all-time list. Detmer threw 121 scoring passes, and former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel threw 114.

    Rattay wound up passing for at least 200 yards in each of his 33 career starts, and at least 300 yards 27 times.

    "They had a good defense, but I should have been able to get us more scores," Rattay said. "Right now, all I can think about is the loss. It will take a long time for me to think about the records. I just wish we would have played better."

    The Bulldogs, ranked in The Associated Press poll this week for the first time ever, hadn't lost since being beaten by Florida State and Texas A&M in their first two games of the season.

    The Trojans, who were slight favorites, needed only 8:19 to take a 21-0 lead. Fox threw a 53-yard pass to R. Jay Soward to cap an 80-yard, eight-play drive, and Chad Morton scored on runs of 3 and 17 yards after punts of 34 and 15 yards by Caleb Price gave USC good field position.

    Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, had only two first downs on its first four possessions, both on pass interferenc penalties. Rattay completed just 2-of-12 passes for 10 yards with one interception during that time.

    Rattay threw a 36-yard pass to Allen Stark to begin Louisiana Tech's fifth possession, and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jordan three plays later, making it 21-7.

    Rattay's 3-yard scoring pass to Jordan on Louisiana Tech's next possession capped an 85-yard, eight-play march. Ennis Davis blocked Kevin Pond's conversion attempt, leaving the Bulldogs eight points down.

    Morton, who gained 84 yards in 18 carries before sitting out the fourth quarter, scored his third touchdown of the game and 15th of the season on a 10-yard run with 5:30 left in the second period to make it 28-13.

    The Bulldogs committed turnovers on their first three possessions of the third quarter all in USC territory. The third was the interception by Arbet, who scored with 2:23 left.

    The Bulldogs then lost the ball on downs at the USC 21-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter.

    David Bell's first career field goal, a 38-yarder with 9:11 remaining, and Jabari Jackson's 1-yard run with 3:15 left made it 45-13. Rattay threw a 10-yarder to Jordan with 22 seconds to play to complete the scoring.

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