Saturday, November 17, 2012
Grades: UCLA 38, USC 28
By Arash Markazi
PASADENA, Calif. -- The UCLA Bruins jumped out to a 24-0 lead in their crosstown rivalry game against the USC Trojans on Saturday before hanging on to win 38-28. It is UCLA's first win over USC since 2006 and the Bruins' second victory since 1998, with the last three wins in the rivalry coming at the Rose Bowl.
With the win, the Bruins (9-2, 6-2) will play in the Pac-12 Championship Game for the second year in a row with a berth in the Rose Bowl on the line. UCLA has not played in the Rose Bowl Game since 1999.
Here's how the Bruins graded out after their biggest win in the Jim Mora era:
Brett Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards and one touchdown and rushed for two touchdowns. He began the game with 10 consecutive completions and showcased how much confidence he had and that the team had in him when he hit Shaquelle Evans for a 21-yard strike on fourth-and-14 at the USC 30-yard line in the first quarter. Evans finished with eight receptions and 114 yards as UCLA shredded USC's pass defense.
Johnathan Franklin had 171 yards rushing on 29 carries and two touchdowns as UCLA's passing game set up the Bruins' running attack. Franklin put the finishing touches on UCLA's win with a 29-yard touchdown run that gave UCLA a 38-28 lead with 4:02 left. The Bruins finished with 172 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns, with Hundley showing his scrambling ability by eluding USC's pass rush and scrambling for a couple of first downs.
The talk heading into the game was that UCLA's secondary was no match for USC's potent passing attack. UCLA had made strides this season, but Matt Barkley was going to carve up the Bruins by playing catch with Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Nothing could be further from the truth. UCLA cornerback Aaron Hester picked off Barkley on the first play of the game and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks intercepted Barkley in the fourth quarter, while UCLA's pass rush pressured Barkley into poor decisions all day.
The one player on USC's team who had a game above his season average was Curtis McNeal, who finished with 161 yards on 21 carries. With 33 of those yards coming on a run in the first quarter, UCLA was more than fine with that output. As a team, USC finished with 172 yards, and Silas Redd had only three carries for eight yards.
UCLA put the exclamation point on the win when Sheldon Price blocked a Andre Heidari field goal attempt in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game, UCLA blocked a USC punt that led to a touchdown. In addition to pressuring every field goal try and punt, it neutralized Lee and Woods in the return game. The tandem combined for only 29 yards on four returns.
Whenever a new coach, and certainly one with little college football experience, takes over a major program, there will be plenty of questions. In his first year at UCLA, Jim Mora has answered most questions and proved he is the right person to finish what Rick Neuheisel promised but couldn't quite deliver -- ending the football monopoly in Los Angeles.