UCLA Beats USC in the Coliseum for the First Time Since 1997
I was wrong.
This was my pregame prediction:
Today's final score in the Coliseum: USC 24, UCLA 20.— Jimmy Bramlett (@JimmyBramlett) December 1, 2013
Instead UCLA beat USC 35-14, the first time UCLA has beat USC in the Coliseum since 1997.
UCLA looked like a shadow of their former selves coming off of back-to-back road losses to Stanford and Oregon. They beat Colorado, Arizona and Washington, but they didn't look like the dynamic team they were particularly in Lincoln against Nebraska in Week 3.
Everything could have been forgiven with a win against Arizona State at the Rose Bowl last week. Instead we saw quarterback Brett Hundley do his best impression of Kevin Prince through stretches of their 38-33 loss to the Sun Devils.
That's the team I expected to show up to the Coliseum. Instead they seemed to be energized by the rivalry game, although having Caleb Benenoch ejected for punching after the play early in the first quarter was not something head coach Jim Mora had in mind. It was definitely bad news for an offensive line that was already a patchwork of backups and inexperience.
Hundley was as cool as the blue on his jersey. He threw to eight different receivers for 208 yards. The defensive stalwarts Myles Jack and Eddie Vanderdoes each scored a touchdown while Hundley ran in two scores himself. Paul Perkins added the icing in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
For the first time since USC lost to Notre Dame, USC was not the best team on the field.
When Lane Kiffin was fired, I hinted that it would be a while for USC to recover from scholarship sanctions. I figured it didn't matter who was the head coach, but when you could only dress about half the number of scholarship players than your opposition, things weren't looking good.
After that loss to Arizona State that put them at 3-2 with an 0-2 record in the Pac-12, USC looked to be in full Titanic mode. Coach Ed Orgeron took over, the Trojans had a bye week and on a nationally televised Thursday night game at home against Arizona, USC won.
They stumbled at Notre Dame the following week, but the players started getting healthier. Coach O fed the guys cookies. And they started winning. They took down Utah at home. Then they went up to Oregon State and got the rare win in Corvallis, again on a national television stage.
For the first time since the end of the Pete Carroll days, USC looked like they were having fun. They had fun in Memorial Stadium demolishing the horrible Cal team. Then on ABC's Saturday Night Football, they squeaked past the No. 4 Stanford team that just beat Oregon the week before.
The loss to UCLA shouldn't detract from the terrific job that Coach O did to gather his players together and fight for the dignity of the program. Orgeron should be on top of the list of coaches to take the permanent job especially since Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin agreed to a contract extension.
Of course UCLA has some questions next season as well. Brett Hundley could opt to go to the NFL, but from the various "experts" I've heard he would probably benefit for another season with the Bruins.