Few colleges were interested in running back Joshua Kelley when he was a senior at Eastside High in Lancaster.
The only school interested was UC Davis, which really isn’t a major football program.
This was their mistake as Kelley showed why last Saturday at the Rose Bowl when he churned out a personal-best 289 yards on 40 carries and scored two touchdowns as UCLA defeated USC 34-27 in a Pacific 12 Conference match before 57,116.
UCLA’s triumph in the 88th edition put an end to a three-game losing streak to USC (5-6 and 4-5 in conference).
When Kelley, a junior, ripped off a 55-yard run and 10:39 left in the fourth, the Bruins (3-8 and 3-5 in conference) glided ahead 28-27 and capped a 97-yard trek.
“If somebody told me I have to sleep in this jersey, I would,’’ said Kelly, who had 92 yards in the opening quarter. “I’m gonna make sure I embrace every moment. You know, make the best out of it.’’
Kelley’s 289 yards is the third most ever by a Bruin behind Maurice Jones-Drew (322) and DeShaun Foster (301) and the most in a USC-UCLA game.
UCLA had 313 yards on the ground compared to USC’s 112 and it was a key.
Junior J.J. Molson’s 19-yard field goal with 6:19 showing made it 31-27 and Molson’s 48-yarder with 2:36 left pushed it to 34-27.
USC (449 total net yards) still had a chance to win or tie, but J.T Daniels, a true freshman, had his fourth-down pass miss the target.
After sophomore Michael Brown converted a 46-yard field goal with 11:27 left in first, UCLA graduate transfer, Wilton Speight (13 of 22 for 166 yards and one pick) rifled a 33-yard laser to junior receiver Theo Howard (76 yards on five receptions) with 7:53 left to make it 7-3.
Speight’s four-yard run with 3:38 left ended a 76-yard march as UCLA pulled ahead 14-3.
When Daniels (20 of 34 for 337 yards and two picks) unloaded a 44-yard pass to freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (98 yards on six catches) it cut the lead to 14-10 with 22 seconds left in the first as USC marched 75 yards on six plays.
USC bolted ahead 17-14 after freshman Devon Williams returned a blocked punt five yards early in the second frame.
The Bruins (479 total yards) answered when Kelley barreled into the end zone from a yard out and 8:10 left before the half as UCLA leaped ahead 21-17.
When Daniels hit sophomore receiver Velus Jones Jr. with a short pass, the speedster raced 45 yards for his only catch and scored with 5:54 left as USC led 24-21.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.