USC has had a stranglehold on the city’s bragging rights versus UCLA, having won 12 of 13 meetings [two were vacated], but this may be a thing of the past after the Bruins’ resounding 38-28 victory in a Pacific 12 Conference battle at the Rose Bowl last Saturday before 83,277 fans who braved a steady downpour in the second half.
The No. 17 Bruins, who will represent the South Division in the conference title match, led start to finish, and took a 24-0 lead before the No. 21 Trojans responded with two second-quarter touchdowns.
“I know this is going to be a cliché, but as coaches we take it one game at a time,’’ said first-year UCLA head man Jim Mora Jr. “If we don’t, we can lose focus of who we’re playing.”
One reason USC’s had the upper hand in this series that dates to 1929, is the high level at quarterback which includes Matt Barkley, who entered having defeated UCLA three consecutive times.
However, Barkley (20 of 38 for 301 yards with two interceptions), who exited late in the fourth quarter with a right shoulder strain after being sacked by linebacker Anthony Barr, was off.
“We have a lot of work to do as coaches,’’ said USC boss Lane Kiffin. “This is a tough one to swallow. I’m disappointed in the season. There’s too much talent here to have this many losses.”
Barkley’s first pass was picked off by cornerback Aaron Hester, which set up redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley’s one-yard keeper with 13:39 left that gave the Bruins (9-2 and 6-2 in conference) a 7-0 lead. Hundley’s three-yard scamper with just under 10 minutes showing in the third quarter made it 31-20.
“We started fast and when we do we’re hard to stop,’’ said Hundley, who hit 22 of 30 for 234 yards and no interceptions. “We’re a family.”
Tailback Johnathan Franklin’s 16-yard romp with 7:38 remaining in the second quarter pushed UCLA’s advantage to 24-0, and his 29-yard dash with 4:02 on the clock in the fourth quarter made it a 10-point spread.
“It’s a blessing,’’ said Franklin, who finished with a game-high 171 yards on 29 carries. “I was praying all week.”
Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 23-yard field goal made it 10-0 with 4:35 left in the opening quarter, and Hundley’s 17-yard toss to tight end Joseph Fauria (61 yards and four catches) extended the lead to 17-0 as 1:34 remained in the same quarter.
Hundley’s favorite target was Shaquelle Evans, who hauled in eight passes for 114 yards.
USC outshined UCLA statistically, but the Trojans (7-4 and 5-4 in conference) had three turnovers to the Bruins’ one, along with Andre Heidari’s missed extra point, missed 44-yard field goal, blocked 38-yard field goal, and Kyle Negrete’s blocked punt.
USC (513 total net yards) cut the UCLA (406 total yards) lead to 24-7 when Barkley hit Nelson Agholor with a 33-yard pass and 5:58 left before the half, and crawled within 24-14 on Barkley’s two-yard strike to tight end Randall Telfer with 1:07 showing.
Marqise Lee (158 yards and nine receptions) and Robert Woods (68 yards and five catches) were held at bay until Barkley found Lee with a 14-yard bullet and 7:22 left in the fourth quarter, and drilled Woods on the two-point try that got the Trojans to 31-28.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.