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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

No. 19 USC Dismantled by No. 9 UCLA

The Trojans fell to the rival Bruins for the third time in as many years Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

Adoree Jackson and the rest of the Trojans struggled to maintain the Bruin attack (Harry How | Getty Images)
Adoree Jackson and the rest of the Trojans struggled to maintain the Bruin attack (Harry How | Getty Images)

Steve Sarkisian became the third different head coach to lead the USC football team onto the field against crosstown rival UCLA Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, but even with a change of command, the results remained the same. The No. 19 Trojans (7-4, 6-3) were all around mauled by the No. 9 Bruins, en route to a 38-20 loss in their final PAC-12 game of the season.

After a stalled opening drive for USC resulted in a punt from redshirt quarterback Cody Kessler downed at the UCLA seven yard line, it was the Trojan defense that provided the game's first momentum swing. With Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley dropping back for his first pass attempt of the game, redshirt junior linebacker Anthony Sarao jumped in front of intended receiver and took the UCLA slinger's pass 17 yards into the endzone to give USC a quick 7-0 lead. 

On the following possession, the Trojan defense held the Bruins at mid-field, but a high-arching punt escaped the hands of junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor and gave UCLA's offense another attempt, this time beginning just yards from the endzone. Just plays later, Hundley capitalized on the Trojan blunder and evened the score with a 10-yd touchdown pass to a wide open receiver after USC sophomore safety Leon McQuay III slipped in coverage. It would not be the last time McQuay would be targeted.

Another lackluster offensive drive for USC that displayed three straight incompletions by Kessler provided UCLA with more excellent starting field position, and it did not take long for them to strike. On the first offensive play since their last touchdown, the Bruin attack took advantage of a poor pursuit by McQuay and registered a 57-yd touchdown pass from Hundley to receiver Thomas Duarte.

The Trojan offense led by redshirt junior running back Javorius "Buck" Allen began to display signs of progress nearing the end of the first quarter, marching down into the Bruin redzone. Faced with a fourth down and two from the UCLA five yard line, Allen took the handoff attempting to surge through the pile of bodies, but was swung down at the line of scrimmage to turn the ball over on downs and close out the opening period of play, trailing 14-7.

Early in the second quarter, Kessler found some rhythm tossing the ball, using a big gain from freshman Juju Smith, celebrating his 18th birthday, to move the ball down within striking distance of the endzone. Kessler then found sophomore running back Justin Davis squirting out of the backfield for a 2-yd arial score to level the game at 14. 

With the Bruins able to combine a late first half 32-yd field goal and another Hundley touchdown pass to take a 24-14 lead into the locker room, the explosive offense showed no signs of letting up after intermission. Utilizing short completions to march down the field, Bruin running back Paul Perkins scampered past Trojan tacklers to sneak into the endzone and pull their advantage even larger.

Following a USC possession that culminated with Kessler being sacked for the second of six times on the day, UCLA's offense was able to move the ball deep into Cardinal and Gold territory behind two personal fouls by Trojan defensemen. Hundley, who has over 500 rushing yards on the season, called his own number on a quarterback keeper that fooled the USC defense as he walked untouched into the endzone for the 15-yd score to provide UCLA with a 38-14 lead.

Trailing by 24 halfway through the final period of play, the Trojan offense put together its first well-kept drive since early in the first behind a mixture of well timed rush and pass calls. Propelled just yards away from pay-dirt by a few clever escape-from-pressure throws by Kessler, Allen took the ball and this time was successful in surging through for the 3-yd score. After a failed two-point conversion and an onside kick attempt that was touched before going 10 yards, the UCLA offense made easy work of the USC defense and winded down the clock to secure the 38-20 victory.

USC, averaging 163.1 rushing yards per game, was held to just 62 in Saturday's contest as well as being held to its second lowest scoring performance on the season.

With the loss, USC is now eliminated from PAC-12 South championship contention and have loss three-straight to UCLA. The Trojans will return to action in their regular season finale Saturday when they take on the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 12:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Final Stats:


Brett Hundley: 22/31, 326 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Paul Perkins: 24 carries, 93 yds, 1 TD


Cody Kessler: 22/34, 214 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT

Javorius "Buck" Allen: 14 carries, 60 yds, 1 TD

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