UCLA’s dominating 35-14 Pacific 12 Conference victory over USC in front of 86,037 fans last Saturday night was the second in a row, the first at the Coliseum since 1997, and may have marked a change in how the football program in Westwood is perceived.
“This is our city right now. This white shirt looks great in Bruin blue,’’ said second-year UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. after getting drenched with Gatorade by his players. “We came out and played great tonight in all phases. We showed mental toughness. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
The Trojans (314 total net yards, but two fumbles) entered the 83rd meeting with a five-game winning streak including a three-point decision over highly-ranked Stanford under interim coach Ed Orgeron, but fell behind 14-0 and never came closer than seven points.
UCLA redshirt sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley was instrumental as he scored two rushing touchdowns in the second half.
Hundley’s five-yard dash with 3:18 left in the third quarter propelled the Bruins (9-3 and 6-3 in conference) in front, 28-14.
“Look what we accomplished,’’ said Hundley, who ran for a team-high 80 yards on 13 carries and threw for 208 yards on 18 of 27 attempts without an interception. “We’ve been through some highs and lows and to do this at the Coliseum. Wow, it’s unbelievable. This is great, but we have one more game left.”
USC (9-4 and 6-3 in conference) struggled to find its offense and had to punt on its first three series, while UCLA kicked the ball away twice before linebacker/running back Myles Jack dented the end zone with a three-yard burst that made it 7-0 and 4:09 left in the opening quarter.
The Bruins’ lead was extended to 14-0 with 12:36 showing in the second quarter when defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes blasted his way straight ahead from a yard out that capped an 80-yard, eight-play march.
The Trojans’ most effective offensive weapon was running back Javorius Allen (game-best 123 yards on 20 carries) and his 11-yard sprint with just under seven minutes left before the half reduced UCLA’s lead to 14-7.
USC quarterback Cody Kessler was sacked six times and dropped twice by defensive end Cassius Marsh in the opening half. Linebacker Eric Kendricks led the Bruins with 11 tackles and had one sack, while linebacker Anthony Barr had two sacks, one forced fumble and a tackle for a loss.
Kessler seemed flustered at times because of the heavy rush the Bruins applied, but completed 17 of 28 for 174 yards and wasn’t picked off.
Kessler’s 22-yard strike to tight end Xavier Grimble with 6:12 remaining in the third quarter got the Trojans (140 yards rushing) within 21-14, however the Bruins tallied the next two touchdowns.
Hundley’s 12-yard bootleg with 9:50 showing in the third quarter climaxed an 85-yard, nine-play drive that made it 21-7.
“Our guys up front [offensive line]fought and helped Brett make good decisions,’’ said Mora, who saw his team finish with 396 total yards and 188 on the ground.
Running back Paul Perkins, who had 34 yards on six carries, and three receptions for 79 yards, found his way into the end zone from eight yards out and 3:50 left in the final quarter as the Bruins took a commanding 21-point lead.
USC receiver Marqise Lee was limited to 69 yards on six catches, while Nelson Agholor had four catches for 35 yards.
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.