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Orange Bowl QBs linked by success



Published: Tue, January 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The BCS title game will feature the last two Heisman winners.

MIAMI (AP) -- Matt Leinart is an easygoing Californian, who used an NFL-caliber left arm to win a Heisman Trophy for USC this season.

Jason White is a tough kid from small-town Oklahoma, who overcame two devastating knee injuries to become a Heisman winner for the Sooners last season.

Their most common trait is success.

Leinart and White will become the first Heisman winners to play each other in a college game when Southern California and Oklahoma meet in the Orange Bowl tonight for the national title.

"We don't want to make it a battle one-on-one because it's a team game," Leinart said.

The comparison

The top-ranked Trojans (12-0) are looking to become the first team since Nebraska in 1994-95 to win back-to-back Associated Press titles. It would be USC's fifth title overall, but first Bowl Championship Series title.

Second-ranked Oklahoma (12-0) is shooting for its second national championship under coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners won it all in 2000 at the Orange Bowl and played in the BCS title game last season, losing to LSU 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl.

Leinart and White lead offenses that take a slightly different approach, but produce similar stellar results.

"They both execute their offense in a great way," Stoops said. "Our offensive styles are a little bit different, but the quarterbacks do a great job of managing. They are accurate and they can both make all the throws."

Oklahoma outlook

The Sooners enter the BCS championship game in far better shape mentally and physically than they did last year.

Oklahoma had lost 35-7 to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game before the Sugar Bowl and White was aching.

The main difference between this year and last for White?

"I'm not spending as much time in the training room," he said.

Last year, he threw for 3,846 yards and 40 touchdowns. But in the final two games he didn't throw a TD and was picked off four times. After putting together one of the greatest seasons in NCAA history, White became a target for critics.

"I think the biggest thing that sticks in my head was the e-mails that I got last year after the Sugar Bowl, just saying that I need to give back the Heisman Trophy," he said.

White, from Tuttle, Okla., wasn't thrilled with all the attention the Heisman comes with, anyway.

Oklahoma freshman tailback Adrian Peterson has helped take the focus away from White on and off the field this year, much to the quarterback's delight.

"I'm not a guy who wants to be in the spotlight all the time," said White, who has passed for 2,961 yards and 33 TDs. "I've been able to enjoy this week a lot more."

Peterson has rushed for 1,843 yards, 20 shy of Ron Dayne's NCAA record for a freshman.

"Not too many people tackle him one-on-one," USC defensive tackle Mike Patterson said.

A look at Leinart

Coming into this season, Leinart was the Heisman front-runner. He and White chatted before the season about playing in the spotlight and White gave Leinart some more advice after he won it.

"He said my life is going to change," said Leinart, who has passed for 2,990 yards and 29 TDs. "He was right."

Leinart, a junior from Santa Ana, Calif., who replaced 2002 Heisman winner Carson Palmer, has seemed more at ease with the fame that comes with the big bronze statue.

"You know it's been fun, been kind of overwhelming at times, but it comes along with success and being at USC, and obviously I wouldn't change anything for the world," Leinart said.




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