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UCLA’s Tahaan Goodman butting helmets with USC’s Adoree Jackson during Saturday’s Crosstown Rivalry clash at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

OK SOCAL, AFTER BEING DISAPPOINTED (sorry, I have to be honest, being a UCLA alum and all) IN WHAT TRANSPIRED AT THE COLISEUM, HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND ANALYSIS OF THE GAME BETWEEN THE BRUINS AND THE NOW PAC-12 SOUTH CHAMPION TROJANS. 

CONGRATULATIONS TO USC, BY THE WAY – AND TO CLAY HELTON FOR GETTING THE “INTERIM” REMOVED FROM HIS JOB TITLE AND BEING HIRED AS THE PERMANENT HEAD COACH.

 

During my high school days, I was in the marching band.

Whenever anyone made a mistake during rehearsal, or anywhere else, my drill sergeant-like band director – who was almost exactly like former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight in his temperament and toughness, only he didn’t throw chairs across courts – would stop everything and angrily scream at the top of his voice while looking like he was going to turn into the Incredible Hulk:

“YOU STINK! YOU CAN’T MARCH!! YOU CAN’T PLAY!!! YOU STINK!!!! I HATE YOU!!!!”

And then he would make us all do push ups.

That was precisely what I felt like doing with UCLA’s football team after they got manhandled (particularly in the second half) and lost the 85th rendition of the Crosstown Rivalry game to USC, 40-21.

Of course I would have changed “march” and “play” to “block” and “tackle”, but I’m sure anyone in Bruin Nation, especially those who were at the Coliseum that Saturday afternoon, can understand what I mean.

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A bright spot for the Bruins: Paul Perkins running for a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com 

 

I followed the game on-line, posting updates and video clips on SoCal Sports Annals’ Twitter page.

Here’s the link, by the way; I encourage you to check out and follow the page…

SoCal Sports Annals’ Twitter Page

As the Bruins were being manhandled on the ground, the Trojans’ Justin Davis getting the bulk of his 130 rushing yards in the fourth quarter as he and the rest of the ‘SC offense did what numerous teams did to UCLA all season – take advantage of the Bruins’ vulnerability against the run with two of their best players, Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack, injured and out,

I posted this on Twitter:

“IN ANY RIVALRY GAME, YOU ALWAYS NEED TO PLAY PERFECT BALL. AND UCLA IS NOT DOING THAT!”

 

Crosstown Rivalry, USC vs UCLA, 2015 Game Highlights – Trojans defeat Bruins 40-21

 

That sums up the day that Jim Mora’s team had as the Coliseum as I reckon the Victory Bell has already been painted a bright shade of cardinal by now.

From about midway through the second half, when Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen was stripped of the ball by Claude Pelon and Rasheem Green did the honors in returning that fumble 31 yards for a score, they played as far from a perfect game as any college football team could play.

Not to put the blame on the freshman QB in his first rivalry experience – I want to make that crystal clear – but not only was that strip and TD run the turning point in the contest, giving those Trojans the lead for good, but Rosen was a big factor in the sounds of “Conquest” loudly raging through the Coliseum after the game with ‘SC defensive back Iman Marshall intercepting two of his passes (and getting the Jack in the Box “Trojan Of The Game” honors from USC’s Facebook page for his efforts) and his getting sacked three times.

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Trojan running back Justin Davis getting some of his game high 130 rushing yards. Photo courtesy of ReignofTroy.com

 

Those Trojans were as motivated as I said they were going to be, and although it was a close battle for two and a half quarters, as the second half progressed it was more than obvious that Clay Helton’s cardinal and gold squad wanted it so much more than UCLA’s blue and gold bunch.

In another case of them doing what I said they would do, ‘SC brought the house often enough on defense to get those three sacks, and their quickness in the secondary was a bit too much for the Bruin receivers.

What the whole thing essentially came down to was the level of desire and motivation shown on the field.

If UCLA had lost while playing at a top-notch level and matching USC’s motivation play-by-play – particularly in the last quarter and a half – and still lost, much like Joe Frazier in the legendary “Thrilla In Manila” fight against Muhammad Ali when he lost despite giving absolutely everything he had, I would have better been able to accept defeat.

But it is a pathetic crime to lose because the other team wanted it more and when you don’t play your best.

Especially in a rivalry game.

Which, sorry to say, was the case in my view with regards to those Bruins as they more or less gave that game away.

And which is the thing that should upset Bruin Nation more than anything else.

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UCLA coach Jim Mora walking off the field at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of gojoebruin.com

 

Despite what I just stated, there IS a silver lining in Westwood going forward:

This game against ‘SC was the first time that Rosen really played like the true freshman he is, but you know what?

I will bet anything…

No, I will almost guarantee that the Rosen will have a wicked huge day against the Trojans around this time next year when the rivalry is renewed at the Rose Bowl, for these two reasons:

1.  He will remember this year’s game and the bad feelings that went along with losing to your hated rival, and…

2.  He has too much talent not to bounce back as this loss will more than motivate him.

There is even a precedent from the other side as I remember the 1998 clash, when longtime NFL quarterback Carson Palmer made his rivalry debut under center for USC, and bombed as like Rosen, he was sacked numerous times and threw two picks in the Bruins’ 34-17 romp, their 8th straight win over Troy.

I should know, because I was there that day.

That was the last time Palmer lost to UCLA as after he was injured in 1999 and couldn’t participate in that year’s clash, he went on to beat the Bruins three straight times, all of them by a rout.

Except for the injury, I won’t be one iota surprised if that’s what Rosen ends up doing for the next three years – his upside is that good.

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I don’t think it’s pleasantries that UCLA’s Thomas Duarte and USC’s Su’a Cravens are exchanging in this shot. Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com

 

As for the Trojans, who I in the spirit of good sportsmanship once again congratulate for winning this Crosstown Rivalry game:

They have a return date with the Stanford Cardinal, who they lost to 41-31 on October 15th, in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game on December 5th in Santa Clara.

If ‘SC wins that, they will earn a trip to the Rose Bowl on January 1st for the 34th time in their history, more than any other school.

After beating UCLA, they clearly have the momentum and the motivation for avenging that Stanford loss.

However, over the course of this season the Cardinal has proven to be the best team in the Pac-12, complete with a running back/return specialist who I consider to be the best player in all of college football: Christian McCaffrey, who has been a human highlight reel with his long runs from scrimmage and on kickoffs.

I’m not saying that he’ll win the Heisman Trophy, but if McCaffrey doesn’t get invited to New York for the presentation, then nothing makes sense in the sports world.

It will all come down whether or not Stanford’s desire and motivation will match USC’s at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Because if it does, I don’t see the Trojans winning.

do give them credit for their resilience after the Steve Sarkisian drama, as Helton more than saved their season.

That is something the Trojan Family should feel good about, regardless of what happens down the road.

 

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Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler celebrating with the USC fans after his team’s triumph over the Bruins. Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

 

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