In what was expected to be an offensive explosion—the crosstown rivalry for the Liberty Bell was more of an animated slow burn at the end of a “USC RULEZ” powder keg as the Trojans defeated the Bruins 28-23.
Sam Darnold didn’t have the big game he was expected to as he finished with 264 yards with one interception and zero touchdowns. It was once again Ronald Jones II who was center of the offensive attack as he finished what was likely his last regular season game at the Coliseum as a Trojan with 122 yards and two touchdowns.
The Trojans came out strong in the first quarter—getting things started with four consecutive carries. Following an excellent 12-yard snag by Tyler Vaughns on 2nd-and-15, the Trojans failed to convert a third down on a short carry. Following a strong defensive showing by USC, (the called-back 40-yard reception by Lasley notwithstanding) the Trojans called a trick special teams play on a shift that allowed Michael Pittman Jr. to go virtually untouched on the return for the game’s opening score.
The Trojan defense had many missed opportunities at the close of the first quarter. On a 4th-and-10, the UCLA offense rolled on as edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu hesitated on a clear sack on Josh Rosen and instead allowed Rosen to complete the pass for a new set of downs. Rosen and the Bruins answered USC’s special teams touchdown on their following drive that featured a 41-yard completion to Lasley and an 11-yard touchdown toss on an unsuspecting Jack Jones and USC defense off the heels of quick hurry-up call.
The Trojans’ next drive saw a heavy dose of Ronald Jones II. The star RB showcased everything he brings to the table—speed, agility and power as he ran four times for 37 yards and the touchdown to give the Trojans a 14-7 lead on their third drive of the game.
The closing minutes of the first half had both quarterbacks turn the ball over deep into enemy territory. On fourth down, Darnold threw an interception with 3:49 left in the half —not to be outdone by Rosen as he fumbled the ball away with 46 seconds left in the half as Malik Dorton came up big for the Trojans.
UCLA got the ball back to start the second half and Rosen once again turned the ball over—this time in the endzone as safety Marvel Tell III came up with an interception in the endzone to end the Bruins’ four-minute drive.
USC had excellent field position to bring their second drive of the half as Ajene Harris returned a one-bounce punt and took it down to the Bruins’ 44-yard line. A few big plays from Mitchell and Carr culminated with a Darnold one-yard touchdown run giving him five on the season.
The running game finally got on track for UCLA as junior RB Soso Jamabo broke off for a 21-yard run, opening things up more for Rosen and the Bruins offense. It only took a little over two minutes, but Rosen and Lasley hooked up yet again—this time on a wide-open nine-yard score to cut into USC’s 21-14 lead late in the third quarter.
The majority of the third quarter was not a pretty one for the Trojans. With the worst rushing defense in all off college football, UCLA was not making the carries easy for Jones and the other backs. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter the Trojans would once again score as a two-yard touchdown run by Jones capped of a 90-yard, five-minute drive by the Trojans.
Rosen responded yet again on the Bruins ensuing drive connecting with his favorite target Lasley for a 27-yard touchdown. Following a failed two-point voncversion and onside kick, USC ran out the clock to complete their sweep of the Pac-12 South.
UCLA really came ready to play on this one. The beaten up Bruin defense held their own against a Trojan offense that was predicted by many to mow them down. Josh Rosen had excellent showing in what could have been his final college football game throwing for 421 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Junior wide receiver Jordan Lasley had a career-high with 204 receiving yards and also ten receptions and three scores.
The Trojans finish the season with a 10-2 record while 8-1 in the Pac-12. USC finally gets a week to rest, as they receive their BYE week during the Thanksgiving break and await how the Pac-12 Title game will shake out as well as the College Football Playoff picture.