UCLA Rules Los Angeles on a Wild Saturday
For the first time since 1961 raindrops were spotted during the annual USC-UCLA game. It seems like it has been just as long since the Bruins beat the Trojans. But as the rain was pouring onto the Rose Bowl turf on a day with bizarre results, the scoreboard left no room of incredulity in the Bruins 38-28 victory over the Trojans giving them the Pac-12 South title.
It took one play from scrimmage to dictate what kind of game it was going to be. Matt Barkley dropped back and tried to make a short pass to Marqise Lee. Instead Bruins cornerback Aaron Hester saw the ball drop right into his hands, and he returned the ball 14 yards to the USC 17-yard line.
There was the game boiled down to one play: USC screws up, UCLA makes the play but can't quite capitalize fully.
Of course when UCLA took a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter, it looked like they would run away with the game. But the Bruins have had a tendency of taking quarters off this season. The best example came last weekend in Pullman when they scored 30 points in the second quarter that gave them a 37-7 halftime lead. They went on to barely cling on to a 44-36 win against the Cougars.
It started to happen again. On the ensuing drive Barkley took four plays to go 75 yards that culminated in 33-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor to get things started for the Trojans. Then after holding UCLA back in the next drive, Barkley made eight plays to go 56 yards for make it 24-14 at the half.
It got worse with the weather after halftime. With the rain pouring, a fumbled snap by the Bruins on their own 20-yard line was retrieved by USC tackle George Uko in the end zone. A missed extra point try cut the Bruin lead to 24-20.
At this point in the past, the Bruins would collapse under the avalanche of misfortune. You could smell USC notching three or four touchdowns down this stretch to make a complete mockery of the home crowd that had all of that hope for a legitimate win. Let's be real. That 13-9 win in 2006 was more of a fluke than anything else, the big blemish in the John David Booty era.
But with Jim Mora pacing the sidelines for UCLA, he did not allow them to collapse. Instead they pressed on scoring two touchdowns while holding USC to only one. Meanwhile USC just kept shooting themselves in the foot. Two missed field goals and another interception left points on the field for the Trojans.
I wrote yesterday that UCLA had to prove they weren't the frauds they have been for the last 15 years. They did it.
Last year after a 50-0 loss at the hands of USC, UCLA was given the Pac-12 South title by virtue of USC being ineligible for postseason play. There was no charity this season. The Bruins outhit the Trojans. The Bruins made more plays than the Trojans. The Bruins took care of the ball better than the Trojans.
UCLA still has one more regular season game to go, against Stanford next Saturday at the Rose Bowl, before the Pac-12 Championship Game against an unknown opponent in an unknown stadium.
Meanwhile USC has some questions. Barkley left the game with an injured shoulder after being sacked by Anthony Barr late in the fourth quarter. It was reported that Barkley had his arm in a sling after the game which makes one wonder if he will play against Notre Dame next week.
But to look beyond that, what happens to head coach Lane Kiffin? It's clear that this season has been a huge disappointment, a failure of a coaching staff that had BCS Championship hopes at the start of the season. What of defensive coordinator and Kiffin's father Monte Kiffin whose defense gave up 406 yards of offense to the Bruins?
As much as fans want to see a clean sweep of the coaching staff, the brunt of the scholarship reductions really take hold next season. Perhaps athletic director Pat Haden will want to keep Kiffin in place during the sanctions. It needs to be said that Haden did give a vote of confidence to Kiffin that extends to next season.
Now UCLA has the attention of the city and the country. Mora will do his best to make sure his team doesn't wilt in the spotlight, and next week's test against a Stanford team that beat the high powered Oregon Ducks team 17-14 in overtime will go a long way in seeing just how good UCLA is.
It was a crazy day in college football. BCS No. 1 and AP No. 2 Kansas State got trounced by Baylor 52-24 on the road while AP No. 1 and BCS No. 2 Oregon was tamed by BCS No. 13 and AP No. 14 Stanford 17-14 in overtime. That means Notre Dame will most likely be ranked No. 1 heading into their game at the Coliseum next week while Alabama will probably move up to No. 2. Notre Dame hasn't been ranked No. 1 since 1993.
It's not as crazy as when South Florida was ranked No. 2 back in 2007 in their seventh season in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but the environment in college football is wild nonetheless. Hell. UCLA is sitting on top of the football world in Los Angeles.