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Orange Bowl Running Commentary

Rants and ramblings, live from the press box at Pro Player Stadium

Posted: Tuesday January 4, 2005 7:03PM; Updated: Wednesday January 5, 2005 5:18AM

Orange Bowl
USC 55, Oklahoma 19

SI.com's Stewart Mandel
The BCS title game was billed as a classic.
It turned into a classic mismatch.
Closer Look: Peterson hits a Trojan wall
SI.com's John Donovan
The Trojans were much more than Matt Leinart in Miami -- their win was a total team effort.
Closer Look: Bradley blunder opens floodgates
SI.com's Pete McEntegart
Running commentary from the press box
Sugar Bowl
Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13

SI.com's Kelley King
Auburn won't force a split national championship, but it still capped off an amazing season.
Rose Bowl
Texas 38, Michigan 37

SI.com's Stewart Mandel
So what if the Pac-10 wasn't there? Texas and Michigan played one of the top Rose Bowls ever.
Fiesta Bowl
Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7

Complete College Bowls Coverage

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For those who can't get enough Orange Bowl coverage, SI.com's Pete McEntegart will be sharing a running commentary on all the action in Miami.

For more from McEntegart, check out The 10 Spot Monday-Friday on SI.com.

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12:02 a.m.: OK, I'm signing off. Thanks for tuning in. Look for tomorrow's 10 Spot.

12:01 a.m.: So I guess the Heisman Jinx didn't hurt Leinart very much.

12:00 a.m.: Oops, it's 77,192. Hopefully nobody has a large wager on it.

11:59 p.m.: Attendance: 77,912.

11:55 p.m.: Folks, you will not see a better team this year than the USC Trojans. (Sorry, I couldn't resist doing a little Musburger.)

11:55 p.m.: I'll be heading down to the field in a few moments, so I'll be signing off. I hate to leave you without my insights as this game comes down to the crucial closing moments, but I'm sure you'll all make do.

11:51 p.m.: Actually, the Trojans are kicking off from the 10. This could really change field position.

11:48 p.m.: Well, the four flags were for a mere two separate penalties. Apparently the Trojans will be kicking off from Fort Lauderdale.

11:47 p.m.: TD for LenDale White. The refs threw four, count 'em, four, flags for excessive celebration. What kind of celebration can be excessive in a 54-10 game?

11:44 p.m.: I received the first three seasons of Seinfeld on DVD for Christmas. So far, it seems well worth the purchase, even if you've seen all the epsiodes many times. There is a little explanation about the creation of each episode, among many other extras. If you're a serious fan, you have to have it. Note that Jerry has a different guy playing his dad in season one.

11:40 p.m.: White throws his third interception, to Matt Grootegoed. Great name, Grootegoed. What is that, Dutch? Like Todd Gack?

11:38 p.m.: Speculation in the press box is that Jason White will try to return for a seventh season to handle unfinished business. This time, it's personal.

11:32 p.m.: End of the third quarter. 48-10. Plenty of good seats now available.

11:31 p.m.: If anyone has any ideas for the 10 Spot I have to write later tonight, please send them care of the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Marriott.

11:27 p.m.: I know one USC player I need to seek out in the locker room: RT Taitusi Lutui. I looked all over for him at Media Day but he didn't appear to be there. Otherwise, I simply missed a 6-6, 370-pound Tongan. Anyway, I'm supposed to pass along to Lutui the best wishes of my cousin, James Farrelly. James is an offensive lineman at Snow College, a top JUCO in Utah, and roomed with Lutui last season. So does that mean I am merely three degrees of separation from winning a national championship?

11:23 p.m.: The stands are starting to look like a Marlins game, except in the USC sections.

11:21 p.m.: This is already the most points allowed by a Bob Stoops team. And it's still the third quarter.

11:16 p.m.: 48-10. And to be honest, I don't eat Munchos. Sorry for the hyperbole.

11:15 p.m.: The press box just roundly ridiculed Brad Nessler's statement to the effect that, "I don't think there will be any argument who's No. 1 if USC keeps this up." You think, Brad? The No. 1 team is beating No. 2 45-10, and you have a good feeling that it might keep its ranking? Now that's insight.

Actually, I don't have a problem in general with Nessler. I'd much rather him do this game than Brent Musburger. It drives me crazy when Brent tells me, as an audience member, what to do or think. "Folks, you will not see a grittier player all year than Billy Joe Fullback." "Folks, you have got to watch this replay." Leave me alone, Brent. I just want to eat my Munchos and watch the game.

11:13 p.m.: That was a rather disturbing graphic used by ABC to show how Bush "breaks the ankles" of defenders with his moves. They actually ripped an animated ankle off a leg. What is this, Celebrity Deathmatch?

11:11 p.m.: Boy, I thought Bush was gone on that one. That could be a game-saving shoestring tackle by Brodney Pool. OK, maybe not.

11:08 p.m.: Without commercials, I don't even have the erectile dysfunction ads to keep me excited during breaks in the action.

11:03 p.m.: Good to see that Oklahoma is sticking with the run game. This is no time to lose patience.

10:56 p.m.: 45-10. Wonder if there will be a post-game dessert. Cookies? Brownies?

Matt Leinart
Frodo called ... he wants his hair back.

10:54 p.m.: Could Leinart make Grant Wahl's All-Hobbit team for his Frodo-esque mane? He has quite a mop on him. When he takes off his helmet, he's a white version of Gene Washington.

10:53 p.m.: Great throw by Leinart down to Smith at the 7, a cool 50-yard gain. "Mr. Leinart, how do you feel about being the No. 1 pick of the NFL Draft?"

10:50 p.m.: Speaking of Phil Rizzuto, I once saw him in an Italian restaurant in 1993 in Scranton, Pa. We were there for my sister's college graduation. I believe the Scooter had a grandchild doing the same. Seemed like a nice fellow. ... Wait, are they still playing this game?

10:45 p.m.: If this was a Yankees game, the Scooter would be on the GW Bridge by now.

10:43 p.m.: Memo to LSU fans: Tuberville's ears aren't unusually large in person. Sorry.

10:41 p.m. Oklahoma actually has 197 total yards at halftime, which isn't bad at all, but the four turnovers have been killers. But something that Tommy Tuberville said before the game started has turned out to be prescient. He mentioned that he wouldn't want to face a Norm Chow offense when the USC coordinator had a month to prepare a game plan. That, and the Trojans have loads of talent. The TD catches by Byrd and Smith were especially pretty.

10:37 p.m.: Back now from the hot-dog line in the press box. Simpson's appearance on TVs overheard spurred the predictable flurry of lip-syncing jokes. Though as Stewart pointed out, her performance tonight was better than Oklahoma's so far.

Ashlee Simpson
Superstar Ashlee Simpson

10:19 p.m.: If I am doing my math right, country music's Trace Adkins is the only performer at tonight's game who has not appeared on a reality show of some kind. I believe the rest of the lineup is JoJo, Simpson, and Kelly Clarkson. Clarkson was American Idol's first winner, of course, and I believe JoJo was on Fox's American Juniors. (The fact that I know that frightens me.) Simpson has her own MTV show in addition to cameos on Newlyweds.

10:16 p.m.: They just called Ashlee Simpson a "superstar." I'm not sure if it was the PA announcer that said it, or if he just moved his lips to a pre-recorded message.

10:14 p.m.: 38-10 at the half. Have we mentioned that this has gotten ugly? (As my editor Drew Packham points out, I have in fact mentioned that very phrase more than once.)

10:12 p.m.: SI.com's Stewart Mandel wants me to ask, when did Jason White turn into Chris Rix?

10:02 p.m.: Keiwan Jones fumbles! Fourth turnover. This is getting ugly.

10:01 p.m.: OU defensive end Larry Birdine's name was called in the press box on the play before the TD for helping make the tackle on a running play. That was the first we've heard of the chatty Mr. Birdine tonight. Birdine, remember, is the one who called USC's offense "average" and Leinart "overrated." Oops!

9:57 p.m.: Leinart's last three completions have gone for TDs. USC has 306 total yards. This is getting ugly.

9:57 p.m.: Grizzled vets are comparing this to the national title game in which Florida and Steve Spurrier were smoked by Nebraska and Tom Osborne. That was back when the Huskers ran the option and played in bowl games.

Steve Smith
Things were starting to get ugly after Steve Smith's TD catch.

9:56 p.m.: Wow, great adjustment by Steve Smith on that touchdown pass. 35-10.

9:55 p.m.: Bradley was featured in USA Today on Tuesday because his dad, Danny, was Oklahoma's starting QB in the 1985 Orange Bowl. The Sooners lost that game 28-17 to Washington. Nice story, by Kelly Whiteside. It also featured USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu, whose dad, Mosi, played for USC.

9:50 p.m.: Wow, Bradley is having a tough game. He completely whiffed on a block on that bubble screen on third down, allowing Clayton to get creamed as soon as he caught the ball.

9:49 p.m.: Hey, the freshman kicker hit his first career field-goal attempt. 28-10.

9:38 p.m.: Maybe this isn't the Game of the Century.

9:38 p.m.: 28-7 USC. Chatter in the press box: "Can we get Auburn here by halftime?"

9:35 p.m.: And this guy wanted to win two Heismans? (That should be said in the same tone that Jerry Seinfeld used for George Costanza: "And you want to be my latex salesman?")

9:33 p.m.: Overheard crack on White's pick: "Give back the Davey O'Brien." Tough crowd.

9:32 p.m.: Wow, another White interception. But it's hard to say if the fact that Bradley slipped made the pass look worse than it was.

9:27 p.m.: The consensus here is that the freshman cornerback, Marcus Walker, blew that one. He let Jarrett run off the line unfettered, seeming to think he was supposed to blitz. Jarrett ran right by the safety. That was too easy. 21-7.

9:26 p.m.: Nice throw by Leinart, but Dwayne Jarrett was wide-open on that score. The Oklahoma writers in the press box are grumbling; they have seen these secondary breakdowns before.

9:23 p.m.: LenDale White's ankle looks pretty healthy. I guess whatever prayer Pete Carroll's wife said last Thursday when she laid her hands on it worked.

Will Ferrell and Shaquille O'Neal
Will Ferrell graduated from USC with a degree in Sports Information.

9:21 p.m.: Come to think of it, Bradley's play was very Frank the Tank-esque, as was White's thrown-up-for-grabs interception. Maybe Bradley and White have other things on their minds. Like, they joined a new gym, and, well, there's other things. Like Frank, they've been busy. But remember: We can't lose our composure!!

9:16 p.m.: Well, we know that Will Ferrell is here (he was just interviewed on ABC). I'm almost embarrassed to admit how many times I've watched Old School in the past six months. Probably 12+, and I don't even own it on DVD. That's mostly just late-night random cable viewing.

9:14 p.m.: I haven't spotted O.J. in the stands yet. I wonder if they've shown him on TV. He might not be in his seat right now. I hear he uses TV timeouts to comb the stadium in seach of the real killers.

9:10 p.m.: What was Bradley thinking throughout that play? Let's recap: He let the ball bounce when he probably could have and should have fielded it. Then it takes a series of Trojan bounces, until it's inside the 5. Then Bradley decides maybe he should have picked it up after all, so he pushes a USC guy away (is that even legal?) and grabs the ball now that he's in the shadow of his goal line. Then he quickly fumbles, but this time he wasn't out of bounds first as he was earlier tonight.

9:06 p.m.: TD, Trojans, LenDale White!

9:05 p.m.: I guess that would be termed a bonehead move on Mark Bradley's part.

9:03 p.m.: Speaking of Vegas, I am heading there next weekend for a fourth-annual MLK Day weekend trip with some college buddies. I'm sure that's what Dr. King really had in mind when he said, "I have a dream," that me and my similarly moronic pals could live it up in Vegas each year during the national holiday in his honor. Also, for those of you readers who attend Abington Friends in suburban Philadelphia, please tell your athletic director, Mr. Jeff Bond, that we'd really like him to make the Vegas trip.

Dominique Byrd
Dominique Byrd's touchdown catch will make the highlight reels.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

8:56 p.m.: Is it too late to take the over? I thought about that last night, because I do think it will be a high-scoring game. Then again, those oddsmakers are no fools; it was set at 54 points the last I checked. I would consider, say, 34-20 or 28-26 a fairly high-scoring game, so that's a steep price. They don't build those giant casinos because they lose a lot of money to gamblers.

8:53 p.m.: We're sitting behind the end zone in which Byrd scored. It looked like he had no chance to catch it because he was trying to spin around while running at full speed, a sure recipe for a pratfall. But he grabbed it with one hand while completing a 360.

8:49 p.m.: Wow, what a TD catch by Dominique Byrd. Oohing and aahing in the press box.

8:47 p.m.: Nice stick by Antonio Perkins on Bush. Better catch and throw between Leinart and Steve Smith.

8:44 p.m.: There are no commercials in the press box, so I can only imagine what's on ABC right now. My guess would be another promo for Super Nanny. Didn't Fox already run a virtually identical show a few months back, called something like Nanny 911? And didn't ABC run a Wife Swap show after Fox aired basically the same show earlier? Just asking.

8:39 p.m.: Touchdown, Sooners! White to Wilson. White a solid 4-of-5 for 75 yards and a TD. Hey, did I pick the Trojans? I meant Sooners.

Travis Wilson
Travis Wilson (left) and Vince Carter celebrate the Sooners' first TD.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

8:38 p.m.: Good call by the refs that Mark Bradley was out of bounds before he fumbled. Still, wasn't that an odd fumble? It looked like he threw the ball into the end zone because it was too hot.

8:34 p.m.: Oklahoma did well to withstand USC's first-play punch and force the punt. The Sooners are definitely trying to establish Adrian Peterson, which is no surprise. If AP does start rolling, then the play-action will be a terrific weapon. I guess it's nice to have a Heisman Trophy-winning QB to fall back on. Sweet third-down strike to Travis Wilson.

8:25 p.m.: Wow, that was a big-time open-field cut by Bush on the first play.

8:24 p.m.: Big surprise, OU is kicking away from Reggie Bush. Oops, out of bounds by the freshman. They'll probably take that.

8:22 p.m.: Shaq is tossing the coin. Does anyone else think it's odd that an active NBA player is handling the coin toss at the college football national championship game? Still, more people will see Shaq's 15 seconds tonight on ABC than saw Kazaam. One press box wag noted that it would have been more fun to watch Shaq flip Kobe.

8:19 p.m.: JoJo just finished the national anthem. The most common reaction when her name was announced in the press box: "Who?" One writer turned to me and said, "Am I supposed to know who she is?" I told him he would if he was 15. Or if he occasionally watched TRL, as, sadly, I do.

8:15 p.m.: The Trojans take the field!

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8: 14 p.m.: The Trojans are about to come out. The Song Girls are sticking with their long-sleeve white sweaters. Do they ever wear short sleeves? Still, their classic look is far preferable to that of the male cheerleaders, who wear white pleated shorts and a white V-neck sweater. Very Little Lord Fauntleroy. 

8:13 p.m.: And the Sooners are on the field!

8:12 p.m.: I'm not sure if Bruce Springsteen was aware that Born in the USA would be appropriated for an odd pregame show here. About 100 generic cheerleaders, not belonging to either school, dressed in blue tights, red tops and waving white pom-poms just formed "U-S-A" on the field. Strange.

7:55 p.m.: Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville just poked his head into the press box. ABC has asked him to come on at halftime, presumably to make his case for Auburn to steal the AP poll's top spot and split the championship. He warmed up with the writers.

Actually, Tuberville is one of those coaches that will try out new lines and then re-use the ones that work. Nothing wrong with that, especially given the media obligations of a big-time coach. Tubby's best line tonight was, "Somebody's going to put us No. 1. It might be Golf Digest, but ..." Then he confesses that he had first used the line after the Sugar Bowl last night. Later, a Golf Digest writer told him he had earned a free lifetime subscription.

Tuberville did try to lay out the scenario by which Auburn could do what USC did last year and split the title. He is rooting for an Oklahoma win (since Oklahoma is No. 2) in a close, sloppy game with a lot of turnovers. "I was hoping we'd get a monsoon," Tuberville said. Unfortunately for Auburn, the night is clear and 69 degrees. Frankly, there's basically no way that Auburn will earn a split because the AP writers have mostly bought into the conceit that the Orange Bowl will decide the national title.

Auburn would have needed to clobber Virginia Tech to have any chance, and it didn't. Though at least Tuberville has a fat new contract rather than clandestine meetings to replace him. In fact, last year at this time, Tuberville says, "I was trying to get in line at Wal-Mart to be a greeter." The crack got a satisfying chuckle from the writers here in the box, though I heard the same line from the ABC announcers during the Sugar Bowl, so it's another recycled one.

7:25 p.m.: This game definitely has a vibe. I recently overhead one grizzled sportswriter tell another that he was excited for the game, and that he didn't get excited often anymore. It really does seem like a closely matched game between two teams with a lot of stars. Let's hope it lives up to its billing, especially since it's pre-empting the last season of NYPD Blue.

7:19 p.m.: Both teams are now on the field. Oklahoma fans are likely paying particular attention to how freshman kicker Garrett Hartley looks. Hartley won the starting job late in the year after the Sooners could no longer wait for Trey DiCarlo to get out of his slump. 

Tommy Lasorda
Tommy Lasorda
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

That was one of the subplots of Media Day, with writers asking the Sooner players what they were telling Hartley. Most of them said the logical thing, that they don't and won't say anything to him because they don't know anything about kicking. Freshman kickers are lucky if the upperclassmen even know their first names.

7:05 p.m.: Strange moment on the way to the game. As the press shuttle inched through traffic and pedestrians just outside Pro Player Stadium, I looked out my window and saw Tommy Lasorda standing directly under it. I was tempted to pull a Fletch, by pounding on the glass and saying, "Tommy Lasorda? I hate Tommy Lasorda!" Alas, I didn't think of that until later.

7:02 p.m.: This is Pete McEntegart for SI.com from the Orange Bowl. I will be with you from now until very late in the game, when I will head down to the field and locker room. In the meantime I will be perodically sharing whatever inane thoughts pop into my head. Kickoff is now a little over an hour away. Glad to have you with us.