PASADENA, Calif. – If Michigan fans have a hard time putting their team’s play calling into words, maybe they would like Southern Cal’s Lawrence Jackson to give it a try.

“They’re a traditional straight up offense,” said the defensive end following his team’s 32-18 win against Michigan. “If they line up one way, if they’re in certain formations, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to pick out what they were going to do.”

By season’s end, premier teams are expected to know their own playbooks like the back of their own hands.

Execution should be flawless, routes should be crisp and everyone should be on the same page.

But when your opponent is just as familiar with that playbook as you are, things could get ugly.

During Monday’s Rose Bowl, Michigan found that out the hard way.

Exhibit A: The game’s first play.

As the Wolverines lined up in their typical two-wide formation, Southern Cal stacked its defense to the right.

Michigan started almost every game this

season with a rush to its left – the defense’s right – to running back Mike Hart behind the strength of its line: guard Adam Kraus and tackle Jake Long.

But Southern Cal knew what was coming, and quarterback Chad Henne had to audible to the other side on the game’s opening play. Even though Hart gained 11 yards (just one less than the team’s total for the game) on that carry, the Trojans’ opening formation foreshadowed what was in store for the rest of the game.

Outside of that initial rush, the Wolverines struggled mightily to establish a ground game. Hart rushed for a season-low 47 yards, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying.

While Southern Cal had completely abandoned the ground game, executing 29 consecutive second-half plays without handing the ball off to a tailback, Michigan continued trying to remain balanced, rushing a total of 27 times.

But in this case, repetition didn’t translate into success.

Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord maintained it was the right decision following the game, and said he’d continue running if he had the chance to change things.

“I’d run the ball again,” he said. “When you’re getting sacked, tell me how you’re going to keep throwing the ball if you’re going to make improvements. So no, I’d run the ball.”

The Wolverines were sacked a total of six times, including five sacks in the game’s opening half.

Michigan’s failure and Southern Cal’s willingness to make adjustments may have been the game’s determining factor, considering it was deadlocked at halftime. But Michigan coach Lloyd Carr echoed sentiments similar to DeBord’s.

“We felt like we had to have good balance,” Carr said. “We had to be able to run the football some to be successful against (Southern Cal), and to be able to run the ball effectively, we’ve got to have a quarterback under center.”

Carr defended his decision to opt out of calling many plays from the shotgun, claiming the team’s shotgun packages are designed almost exclusively for two-minute drill situations.

Michigan had many possible ways to adapt to Southern Cal. Whether it was going to shotgun more often, turning to more three-step drop plays or giving up on the run altogether, there were many alternatives to staying the course with its original strategy.

Although there was no consensus on how the Trojan defense should’ve been countered, if Michigan’s fatal flaw wasn’t its predictable playcalling, it could very well have been the Wolverines’ failure to abandon the game plan early enough.

But those in the Wolverine camp didn’t share that thought following the game.

“We had a really good plan going into the game,” DeBord said. “I still believe that coming out of it. We tried to make adjustments throughout the course of the game. Some helped us and some didn’t.”

Tactical questions weren’t offense-exclusive. After giving up 32 points to a team that scored just nine in its regular-season finale against UCLA, Michigan’s defense brought on a lot of questions as well.

Two days prior to the Rose Bowl, Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll hinted that his team knew it could exploit a predictable Michigan defensive squad, just as the Trojans’ front seven did to the Maize and Blue offense.

“Michigan doesn’t have (Leon) Hall shadow receivers like a lot of the other top corners in the nation do,” Carroll said during the Rose Bowl’s Media Day on Dec. 30.

Southern Cal quarterback John David Booty, who threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns, took advantage of favorable matchups all day long in his Rose Bowl debut.

“We thought with the coverage they were playing, we could get some quick routes and get the ball in the hands of our playmakers,” Booty said.

That’s exactly what the Trojans did in the second half. After an uneventful first half, one that Offensive Player of the Game Dwayne Jarrett admitted was “too conservative” for his team, Southern Cal came firing out of the blocks following halftime adjustments.

“We really felt like we could throw the ball on them,” Booty said. “We weren’t running the ball extremely well, or the way we wanted to, so we just felt like we had to put the game in the hands of me, Dwayne and Steve (Smith) and make plays, and we did.”

Southern Cal tallied four touchdowns and a field goal in a span of 29 plays, 27 of which were passes. The only two runs were both quarterback sneaks by Booty in short yardage situations.

Most of the time, the Trojans went right after sophomore cornerback Morgan Trent.

As Carroll expected in the days leading up to the game, Michigan didn’t match its All-American cornerback against Jarrett, and Jarrett made the Wolverines pay for that.

He exploited the overmatched secondary for a total of 205 yards on 11 catches and two scores.

But Jarrett’s final touchdown came on a 62-yard pass where he burned Hall, proving the Wolverines’ secondary woes weren’t limited to Trent.

“Sure it’s frustrating, of course it is,” Trent said of the Trojans’ repeated passing attempts in the second half. “But it’s our fault. If we stop the pass, they’ll stop passing on us, but we didn’t. It’s on us.”

By the numbers

0: Bowl wins for the senior class in four attempts

6: Times that Southern Cal’s defense sacked Michigan quarterback Chad Henne

12: Total Michigan rushing yards

29: Consecutive plays that the Trojan offense didn’t hand the ball off to a tailback

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