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Ronald Jones II getting tackled by Jacob Tuioti-Mariner after getting some of his 121 yards on the ground during USC’s 36-14 win over UCLA. Photo courtesy of reignoftroy.com
WRAPPING UP THIS SEASON’S CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE AS I OFFER MY THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS OF THE TROJANS’ 36-14 WIN OVER THE BRUINS
At least those Bruins proved me wrong for the first quarter and a half of Saturday night’s game!
Jordan Lasley, with his 55-yard touchdown catch on the fourth play of the game, and Fabian Moreau’s interception which led to UCLA taking a 14-7 lead, certainly did much to that effect.
Then reality struck as the Trojans woke up, realized that they were playing a rival that was bringing it, and pretty much proceeded to do whatever they wanted on both sides of the ball.
Three stats were particularly telling:
1. RUSHING YARDS – USC’s 260 yards on the ground nearly quintupled UCLA’s 55, which was expected. Ronald Jones II almost doubled the Bruin yardage by himself with his 121 yards, 60 of them coming on one play after Lasley excited everyone in blue and gold with his score.
2. FIRST DOWNS – The Trojans more than tripled UCLA’s total, getting 31 first downs to the Bruins ten.
3. TIME OF POSSESSION – UCLA had the ball for just 16 minutes and 13 seconds, which is what happens when the other team’s defense forces you to go three-and-out nearly every time you have the ball.
More than anything else, this game was a crystal clear illustration of where the two programs currently are.
While I saw that the Bruins were playing as hard as they could, USC’s players were simply bigger, quicker, and just plain better.
One thing I particularly noticed before kickoff was the size of ‘SC offensive lineman Zach Banner, who at 6′ 9″ and 360 pounds towered over everyone on the field and specifically the captains when they were flipping the coin.
During the game I saw that Banner manhandled UCLA’s best defensive guy, Takkarist McKinley, who dwarfed him and subsequently wasn’t able to do any damage in the Trojan backfield.
After the midway point of the second quarter, USC showed why their winning streak is now at seven games as Sam Darnold, who threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, was everything as advertised, eluding defenders and completing passes when other quarterbacks would have been sacked.
The fact that the Trojans’ recruiting classes were ranked higher than the Bruins, especially with the sanctions having ended, showed itself on the field in this year’s game as well as the second half of last year’s game.
Full highlights of the 86th edition of the Crosstown Rivalry, courtesy of YouTube.
A perfect illustration of that was when all-Universe receiver Juju Smith-Schuster hurt his hip and had to leave the game, I told a friend sitting next to me that ‘SC would be more than okay due to their depth – a depth that UCLA has always lacked.
As the second half progressed and as USC was toying with the Bruins, I honestly didn’t mind having to leave the game in the middle of the third quarter due to my ride home leaving as not only I had gotten what I needed for this analysis, I felt that some things – like getting home safely as without my ride I would have had to head home on the bus on the streets of Los Angeles after midnight,
Were more important than a Crosstown Rivalry game.
Especially one where the outcome was decided by the time I left the Rose Bowl.
Incidentally, my gratitude goes out to my friend who thanks to him, I was able to get home at a decent hour as personal safety supersedes a rivalry game.
The worst part of all this for UCLA and Bruin Nation?
In my view, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, as far as where USC’s and UCLA’s programs and the rivalry are at.
While Josh Rosen will be back next season (I don’t think he would have made a difference in this year’s game, by the way), the way things are going it’s still hard for me to see a big change in the Bruins’ fortunes.
Darnold will be the Trojan quarterback for at least the next two seasons, and with the five-star recruits continuing to sign with ‘SC, those Trojans are more than poised to return to the college football elite, having risen to 12th in the latest AP rankings with a chance to win the Pac-12 South if Colorado loses to Utah this weekend.
USC’s Stevie Tu’ikotovalu going after UCLA QB Mike Fafaul during Saturday night’s game. Photo courtesy of reignoftroy.com
Unless changes are made, namely in signing recruiting classes that match the Trojans’ classes as that hasn’t happened in a while, the Victory Bell will continue to be painted cardinal and gold.
That is especially the case as far as signing four and five-star offensive linemen and receivers, the source of the Bruins’ problems this year and why their season will likely end after their game in Berkeley against California this Saturday.
Effective coaching would also be a tremendous help, but that will be discussed in the season wrap-up of my alma mater’s football team.
As for the Trojan family, order has definitely been restored in the SoCal football community.
Which will be most unfortunate for the folks in Westwood unless something drastic happens to change things.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT DURING THIS YEAR’S CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE!
UNTIL 2017 AT THE COLISEUM…
Trojan quarterback Sam Darnold, who threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday night. He’ll be expected to lead the Trojans into elite status and playoff contention for (at least) the next two seasons. Image courtesy of video.espn.au