By ANDREW BAGNATO
AP College Football Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Pete Carroll is an optimist. So even after his Southern California team lost twice, including an unimaginable upset by Stanford, the coach kept insisting the Trojans had a shot at the Rose Bowl. The 11th-ranked Trojans made that clear in a 44-24 rout of No. 7 Arizona State on Thursday night, reviving their bid for an unprecedented sixth straight Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth.
John David Booty threw for 375 yards and matched a career high with four touchdown passes, and the Trojans defense dominated.
``I've been ringing the bell for that in our locker room and our meeting rooms for a while,'' Carroll said. ``It ain't over yet.''
Southern California (9-2, 6-2 Pac-10) will win the Pac-10 if it beats UCLA on Dec. 1 and Oregon loses to UCLA or Oregon State.
The Trojans need help to earn a trip to Pasadena. They needed no help in dismantling the Sun Devils (9-2, 6-2).
``This was a really, really sweet win,'' Carroll said. ``I think it's a great statement for our guys. They know now what we're capable of doing.''
The Rose Bowl seemed an unlikely destination after then-No. 2 USC, a 41-point favorite, lost 24-23 to Stanford on Oct. 6 in one of college football's biggest stunners. But now, the talented Trojans are rolling again.
``People kind of counted us out, especially with the early loss to Stanford,'' said Booty, who also ran for a 1-yard score. ``We know what we're all about.''
USC's defense overwhelmed Arizona State, sacking Rudy Carpenter six times and briefly knocking him out of the game with a cut lip. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson had four sacks, most in a game by a Trojans player since 1989.
``They came to hit tonight,'' Carpenter said. ``I think tonight, we were overmatched.''
Southern California broke open a 17-all game with 10 points in the final 5 minutes of the first half, then pulled away from the Sun Devils with 17 more points in the third quarter.
Booty hit Joe McKnight for a 7-yard touchdown midway through the quarter, then connected with Fred Davis for a 34-yard score on fourth-and-2 to give USC a 44-17 lead entering the fourth.
Booty had missed three games with a broken finger and played inconsistently at times. But he was sharp and confident from the start on Thursday night, completing his first seven passes.
``The individual showing from John David was just perfectly timed,'' Carroll said. ``He's back now. He's ready to go. He comes up with a huge night.''
ASU has staged some stirring rallies this season but the Sun Devils had no chance against USC's defense, which allows 16 points per game - sixth in the nation. The Trojans limited ASU to 16 yards on 35 rushes.
It was USC's eighth straight win over Arizona State.
``We didn't play good,'' ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. ``It's sad.
``We just did not play like I thought we would in a game like this,'' Erickson said. ``No excuses. We just didn't do what we needed to do.''
Arizona State trailed 17-7 midway through the first quarter. It was the sixth time the Sun Devils have faced a double-digit deficit in the opening quarter, and they rallied to win four times.
The Trojans opened the game with a seven-play, 51-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a 4-yard pass from Booty to Vidal Hazelton. Booty was 6-for-6 for 45 yards on the opening drive.
ASU answered with a 98-yard kickoff return by Rudy Burgess to tie it 7-all. It was only the second kickoff return for a touchdown by a Sun Devils player at home in the past 21 years.
The Trojans scored the next 10 points, but then the Sun Devils woke up.
ASU cut it to 17-14 on a 4-yard pass from Carpenter to Michael Jones, and Thomas Weber's 25-yard field goal tied it at 17 early in the second quarter.
But USC reeled off the next 27 points, and the Sun Devils didn't score again until they blocked a punt at USC's 20-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
``We just happened to catch them when they played like one of the best teams in the country,'' Erickson said.
Source: ncaafootball.com; Photo Credit: Collegiate Images