In a season gone haywire for USC and UCLA, the Trojans found a landing spot, making their journey slightly more tolerable after last Saturday night’s 28-14 victory over the Bruins in a Pacific 10 Conference clash at a less-than full Rose Bowl.
With nothing at stake, each played for pride, and so UCLA’s three miscues proved more costly than USC’s two, which came on interceptions by Trojans’ quarterback Matt Barkley, who missed the Notre Dame game with a high ankle sprain the previous week.
Barkley wasn’t brilliant, but did locate senior running back Allen Bradford on a 47-yard screen pass with 11:17 left in the fourth quarter.
Barkley hit 15 of 26 attempts for 198 yards, and closed the campaign with just under 2,800 yards, along with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
If a star shined, it was Bradford, who gained a game-best 212 rushing yards on 28 carries, including a dizzying 73-yard burst and 3:31 left.
Bradford’s tally made it a three-touchdown edge for Troy in this 80th meeting between these crosstown city rivals.
Bradford had been slightly-used, and finished the season with 794 yards on 110 carries. One wonders if first-year USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin had employed Bradford more, would the Trojans have fared better?
Beside the turnovers, USC, which was slapped with a two-year bowl ban, and the loss of 30 scholarships over the next three years, and UCLA combined for 108 penalty yards.
Close, but no cigar, the Trojans (8-5 and 5-4 in conference) lost two games when Washington and Stanford each kicked last-second field goals, and were handed a 20-16 loss by the Fighting Irish.
The Bruins (4-8 and 2-7 in conference) were dealt three straight setbacks after beating Oregon State 17-14 on Kai Forbath’s field goal with one second on the clock.
USC led 7-0 when running back Dillion Baxter hit tight end Rhett Ellison with a five-yard toss and 4:39 left in the first quarter, capping a 67-yard, six-play drive.
UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin (109 yards on 13 carries) tied it at 7-7 when he broke off a dazzling 59-yard scamper down the right sideline with 3:47 showing in the same quarter, but also fumbled, which USC linebacker Malcolm Smith recovered and turned into a 68-yard touchdown as 2:31 remained in the second quarter to make it 14-7.
Franklin gained 1,127 yards on 214 carries, and topped the 100-yard barrier five times, becoming the first UCLA runner to eclipse 1,000 yards since Chris Markey in 2006.
If you prefer sharp and crisp games, this wasn’t your cup of tea. It was jagged and sloppy.
UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut, coming off a 321-yard, three-touchdown outing in a 21-point loss at Arizona State, nailed 20 of 35 passes for 230 yards, with one touchdown, an interception, and a fumble on a pitch.
Brehaut had a 10-yard scoring toss to tight end Joseph Fauria in the waning seconds, but it was too little, too late.
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel closed out his third season in Westwood, and has a 15-22 record. Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who held the same post at USC, has taken much of the blame for the poor output.
For now, it’s back to the drawing board for both.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and 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.