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Carroll had axe to grind, Hogs to slaughter

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, June 18, 2017
Quarterback Matt Leinart celebrates after a score in USC's 70-17 win over Arkansas on Sept. 17, 2005, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo by Russell Powell
Quarterback Matt Leinart celebrates after a score in USC's 70-17 win over Arkansas on Sept. 17, 2005, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif.

Classical music wafted between each Mercedes and Lexus in the parking lot. There were a few Bentleys and Rolls-Royces blended in.

The clink of crystal could be heard as mimosas were sipped and shrimp cocktails were nibbled on.

That was tailgating Southern California style, or at least it was in the area around media parking.

A few hundred of the Razorback Nation had made the trip, in truth probably more to see a game in the Coliseum than to see a victory.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville was not expected to be good that year, and it wasn't.

By the time the Razorbacks got to Los Angeles the night of Sept. 17, 2005, they were 1-1 with a victory over Missouri State and a loss at home to Vanderbilt.

The mighty USC Trojans were ranked No. 1. They were coached by Pete Carroll, who was a graduate assistant at Arkansas in 1977 and called Athletic Director Frank Broyles about the head Hogs job when it came open after Danny Ford was fired in 1997.

Broyles was focused on Houston Nutt and Tommy Tuberville and didn't return the call. Eight years later, it might have been better if he had paid a little lip-service to it.

Because that night in Los Angeles, it was obvious from start to finish that Carroll wanted some payback.

And he had the team to do it. They were the defending national champions, and 11 Trojans would be drafted from the 2005 team. Two of those were Heisman Trophy winners.

The game kicked off at 6:15 p.m. Pacific time, and despite the late start for Arkansans, the game was over long before midnight tolled in a new day and a horrific loss for the Hogs.

It was 28-7 at the end of the first quarter, and it wasn't as close as the score. That swelled to 42-10 at the half, and Carroll and the Trojans were not finished, not by a long shot.

USC quarterback Matt Leinart, the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, completed 18 of 24 passes for 381 yards and 4 touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 263.4.

Arkansas starting quarterback Robert Johnson spent much of the time running for his life, as it seemed like the USC defensive line and linebackers were lined up in his face.

Johnson completed 8 of 16 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. All things considered, those were great numbers.

Reggie Bush, who would win the 2005 Heisman and was the second pick of the 2006 NFL Draft (Leinart was 10th), carried eight times but raced for 125 yards.

By the time the 70-17 train wreck ended, USC had gained 736 yards to Arkansas' 326. If there was a highlight, it was freshman running back Darren McFadden, who ran for 88 yards on just 13 carries. Fellow freshman Felix Jones had a 67-yard kickoff return.

USC led 56-10 as the fourth quarter began, and it had scored again by the time Arkansas' Alex Mortensen passed 5 yards to Marcus Monk to make it 63-17 with 10:58 to play.

Then, USC punted for the first time, and it looked like Carroll was going to show some mercy.

Nope.

On the Trojans' final drive, third-string quarterback Michael McDonald threw a 4-yard touchdown pass with 1:25 to play.

Few fans saw it, as the Coliseum had almost emptied by the end of the third quarter.

Arkansas finished the season 4-7, giving Nutt back-to-back losing records, and Southern Cal lost to Texas in the BCS Championship in the Rose Bowl.

Five years later, USC was forced to vacate all 12 victories from that season and was stripped of two victories from the 2004 season, thus vacating the BCS National Championship.

Bush, who was deemed ineligible those seasons, had to return his Heisman Trophy.

That September game, according to NCAA wisdom, no longer exists for USC, but it does for Arkansas, a 70-17 hammering by a team that cheated.

Sports on 06/18/2017

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