Trojans dominate Illini 49-17 in Rose Bowl

By Jason Grodsky

PASADENA, Calif. – The start to the 94th Rose Bowl wasn’t how the Illinois football team wanted to begin the team’s first trip to the “Granddaddy of Them All” in 24 years.

Illinois trailed the No. 6-ranked USC Trojans 21-3 at halftime, resulting from the Illini inability to get their offense on track. But running back Rashard Mendenhall was able to get his team a quick six points to start the second half with a 79-yard run to cut USC’s lead to 11.

The No. 13-ranked Illini could muster only 79 yards in the first half and sophomore quarterback Juice Williams found it difficult to escape the pressure from USC junior linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Maualuga and the Trojan defense halted the Illini spread attack well and held the Illini to 24 rushing yards while sacking Williams four times for a loss of 23 yards. Maualuga counted for three of USC’s sacks and intercepted Williams in the first quarter setting up a Trojan score.

Illinois was just 2-of-9 on third downs in the half and their only score came on a 28 yard field goal by senior place kicker Jason Reda with 38 seconds left in the half.

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The Illini were unable to capitalize on a first quarter interception by senior safety Justin Harrison that gave the Illini the ball at the USC 20 yard line. Reda wound up missing his first field goal attempt of the game from 29 yards away. It was only Reda’s second miss of the season.

While offense sputtered in the first half the Illini defense suffered a few bad breaks and was suspect to a trick play by the Trojans that allowed USC to take a 21-3 halftime lead.

USC senior quarterback John David Booty finished the first half with 87 passing yards and a touchdown on 11-of-16 passing, and the Trojan’s offense racked up 73 rushing yards in the first half. Trojan senior running back Chauncey Washington scored twice for USC on an eight yard touchdown catch and a three yard touchdown run.

Booty connected with tight end Fred Davis in the third quarter to extend USC’s lead to 28-10. On the ensuing possession, Trojan running back Joe McKnight scored on a six-yard run.

For complete Rose Bowl coverage, check back with after the game.