|#1 USC vs. #8 Louisville||FINAL: Louisville 35-28 (BOX SCORE)|
College football fans across the nation got the Christmas present they wanted Saturday in Pasadena with an epic contest and astounding upset. While Pittsburgh may have been the CPSí Cinderella with its first round upset over #3 Auburn, 8th ranked Louisville has proven to be the true unsung, unheralded team in college football with three consecutive victories over top 10 teams, #10 Boise State, #6 Utah and now #1 USC at the Rose Bowl to advance to the first ever CPS National Championship game. Cardinalsí senior quarterback Stefan LeFors, who was hurt late in the game against Utah, returned to garner his third straight player of the game honor with a gritty performance against the Trojans vaunted defense. After stopping Louisville on the gameís first possession, USC actually took the 7-0 lead on a picture-perfect one yard play-action pass from Heisman Trophy winning junior quarterback Matt Leinart to sophomore standout Steve Smith. The Cardinals responded quickly though, utilizing the rushing tandem of junior Florida State transfer Eric Shelton and sophomore Michael Bush to march 70 yards for the score. The teams battled back and forth from then on, seeing two lead changes and three ties before the Cardinals opened up an ultimately insurmountable 14 point lead on another Bush touchdown with 11:15 remaining in the game. A late USC TD was answered by a failed onside kick and 17 yard third down run by Shelton that sealed the fate of the highly touted Trojans. In what may have been his last collegiate game, Leinart looked impressive for most of the game with 305 yards and four touchdowns on 27-43 passing, but a late fourth quarter interception cost USC a prime scoring opportunity. Michael was the best Bush on the field with 105 total yards and two TDs, while Leinartís fellow Heisman finalist, sophomore running back Reggie Bush was only able to muster 66 yards from scrimmage for the game. In the end though, as it has been throughout the tournament, it was LeFors who kept his team in the game and made the difference. The nationís leading passer finished the CPS semifinal game with 181 yards passing and 49 yards rushing for a total of 3 TDs and no turnovers. Louisville will now advance on to the Orange Bowl in Miami for a New Yearís Day clash with #2 Oklahoma and a chance at an undisputed national championship.
Player of the Game: Stefan LeFors (17-22, 230 total yards, 3 TDs)
|#11 LSU vs. #2 Oklahoma||FINAL: Oklahoma 21-7 (BOX SCORE)|
Saturdayís second CPS semifinal game featured a pairing of the best teams from two of the nationís top conferences as #2 Oklahoma of the Big 12 traveled to the SEC country to face the 11th ranked LSU Tigers at the Superdome in a rematch of last seasonís BCS Championship Sugar Bowl won by LSU. This year, despite a partial, rambunctious crowd, the Sooners easily overcame the Tigers en route to the victory and a berth in the CPS National Championship game. Oklahoma again got a phenomenal day out of one of its receivers as senior Mark Claytonís two first half touchdowns from former Heisman Trophy winner and fellow senior quarterback Jason White put the Sooners up early and for good. In reality, due to an efficient, well-balanced Oklahoma offense and an even more impressive, tough and physical defensive showing, this game was not even as close the scoreboard would indicate. Overall, the Sooners out-gained the Tigers 465-262, allowing a meaningless 80 yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, and controlled the clock with over 36 minutes in time of possession. Clayton finished with 118 yards on 11 receptions from White who accumulated 279 yards on 23-31 passing. Most valuable for Oklahomaís offense though, were the 186 yards on 32 carries gained by freshman All-American Adrian Peterson. Unlike previous CPS contests however, the Sooners struggled with third-down conversions, just 4/12 on the day, and penalties, nine for 50 yards. With its weaknesses exposed, Oklahoma will test its defense and discipline as it advances on to the Orange Bowl in Miami for a New Yearís Day meeting with #8 Louisville and a shot at an undisputed national championship.
Player of the Game: Mark Clayton (11 receptions, 118 yards, 2 TDs)