Brett Hundley will not only go down as one of the greatest Bruins of all-time, but he has sealed his spot in rivalry lore with a third win in three tries. "He played really well tonight," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "I thought Brett took advantage of things." Hundley used his diverse skill set to burn the Trojans with his arm (22/31 for 326 yards and 3 TDs) and legs (15-yard TD run).
Losing the Line
The Trojans offense never got out of the starting blocks because they lost the battle up front. "The thing that jumped out to me was the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," said Sarkisian. "Their defensive front was particularly effective in defending the run, and then when we got into some obvious passing situations, putting pressure on Cody [Kessler]." The USC QB was sacked six times and never found his rhythm.
The Trojans seized the moment early when Anthony Sarao started the scoring with his first career pick-six, but then a series of missed opportunities doomed the effort. On the second offensive play of the second half, Sarao jumped Hundley's throw again, but dropped a second potential score. "I just put that to the coaches. They had a great scheme the whole game," said Sarao about being in the right spot twice. "We fell short executing a couple plays and a couple busts." The other notable regrets include Nelson Agholor's muffed punt, coverage busts in the secondary and Kessler's interception.
Kessler's lone interception came at the end of the first half when the Trojans were on the move down 17-14. After the pick, which was a tremendous, although disputable, catch made by Eric Kendricks, the Bruins ran off three consecutive touchdowns with the Trojans only touching the ball once, a quick three-and-out. "When you look at the game, the 21 points are sitting right there when they had three possessions and we had one. That was a big factor in it," said Sarkisian.
Josh Shaw's return was the story of the week, but he had little impact on the game playing as a third corner. While Shaw has the versatility to play any secondary position, he did not have enough time this week to reintegrate as a safety. "The safety position in any system is pretty intricate. We felt like to be fair to Josh to give him the best chance to be successful and where he could help us the most was out at corner," said Sarkisian, who wanted Shaw to alleviate the depth issues at cornerback.
Notre Dame Next
The Trojans have responded to losses well all season, and now they will have to get off the mat one more time. "I was very proud of our guys' effort late in the game," said Sarkisian, who noted that many teams would have quit. "We're going to need to hang together because we have a big one next Saturday night against Notre Dame." As for this rivalry, birthday boy JuJu Smith knows there will be better days ahead. "As my first UCLA game, I learned a lot from it," Smith said. "I'm going to take this in very personally and get ready for next year."
By Jordan Moore on November 21, 2014 7:43 PM
The Trojans have been waiting all year to take back the Victory Bell at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. On the eve of the 84th installment of the legendary rivalry between USC and UCLA, here is your Friday Night Video:
Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena at 5 p.m. PT on ABC and WatchESPN
Bruin to Watch: RS Junior QB Brett Hundley
The Crosstown Showdown is not only going to determine city dominance, but it may also settle the debate about the best quarterback in Los Angeles. Hundley has worn out the Trojans in each of his first two rivalry starts with his dual threat ability. In 2012, he controlled the game with his arm (22/30 for 234 yards and 1 TD), and in 2013, he won it with his legs (13 carries for 80 yards and 2 TDs). This season, Cody Kessler has put up better stats, although Hundley has made crucial plays late in games to save the Bruins from some potentially embarrassing losses. He is also remarkably accurate (72.1% completions) and running more of late (89+ yards in four of the last five games).
Four yards per carry is the magic number. In conference play, only Utah has held the Bruins under four yards per carry over the course of the game. The Utes sacked Hundley 10 times, which is remarkable given his size and agility, in their upset of UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Since then, the Bruins' rush offense has surged up the Pac-12 rankings into second on the season. After being gashed by Boston College, the USC run defense has become one of the best in the nation, and no opponent has cracked 4.0 yards per game in that time. Given the "pick your poison" that Hundley represents, the Trojans would rather force him to beat them from the pocket and eliminate Paul Perkins.
If this game plays out like the rest of the season, USC will surge to a big early lead and then UCLA will come back to force a dramatic finish. The trend is typical of both teams. The Trojans are first in the nation in first quarter scoring margin (129-22), while the Bruins have trailed at some point in eight of their 10 games. No USC fan will feel safe with a lead, but the truth is that the Trojans need another fast start. They fell into huge holes in each of the last two years (24-0 in 2012 and 14-0 in 2013), which enabled UCLA to grind out victories with the run game. If Cody Kessler and the offense can find an early rhythm, the Trojans can dictate how the game will be played and put scoreboard pressure on the Bruins.
Put on for Your City
The nation will be watching, but this is a local feud. The Trojans admitted this week that they did not handle the emotions of the rivalry well last season. "Play with emotion, but don't let your emotions play you," said sophomore Su'a Cravens. The atmosphere will be second to none Saturday night, which is exactly why these players chose to come to USC and UCLA. Schemes and talent will play a major role, but the Victory Bell will go to the team willing to lay it all on the line.
By Jordan Moore on November 21, 2014 3:26 PM
On Friday, the public celebration of life was held for legendary USC men's swimming coach Peter Daland who died on October 20 at the age of 93. Hundreds gathered at the Uytengsu Aquatic Center to commemorate the coaching great who led the Trojans to nine NCAA team championships during his 35-year tenure (1958-92).
Here is Pierson Clair's photo gallery of today's celebration:
By Jordan Moore on November 21, 2014 12:12 PM
The Trojans are seeking their third consecutive MPSF tournament title this weekend in Long Beach and are off to a great start after defeating UC Irvine, 12-5, on Friday.
Senior Kostas Genidounias scored three goals in the match, bringing his career tally to 251, just three goals shy of the USC all-time record. Sophomore Nick Bell and freshman James Walters had two goals apiece and five other Trojans scored to send the team to the semifinal in dominating fashion.
USC advances to face the winner of Stanford/Pepperdine in the semifinal game on Saturday at 3 p.m. PT. A win on Saturday would place the Trojans in the MPSF Championship set for 3 p.m. on Sunday. At the very least, the Trojans need a strong showing this weekend to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament field and the right to defend their championship for a seventh consecutive year.
By Jordan Moore on November 21, 2014 12:12 PM
USC men's basketball evened its record at 2-2 on the season by coming back to beat Drexel 72-70 on day two of the Charleston Classic. The Trojans were led by sophomore Darion Clark, who had 15 points and 7 rebounds, and freshman Jordan McLaughlin, who scored 11 points with 8 assists and 4 steals.
USC has a day off to enjoy South Carolina before finishing the tournament on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT against the winner of Penn State and Cornell. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.com and 710 ESPNLA.