UCLA beats USC for trip to Pac-12 title game
Pasadena, CA (Sports Network) - Johnathan Franklin scored two touchdowns and the UCLA defense came up with huge stops, as the No. 17 Bruins downed the 21st-ranked USC Trojans, 38-28, to secure a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Franklin rushed for a game-high 171 yards on 29 carries for the Bruins (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12), who came in as losers in 12 of the previous 13 matchups with their crosstown rival.
"I tip my hat to USC. They did a nice job. They came in here and played hard, said UCLA coach Jim Mora. "I'm really proud of our team. I'm especially happy for our seniors that finally got a chance to win their last one against USC. It was a hard-fought game, a lot of back and forth. We knew it would be like that. When we got up, we knew they wouldn't go away easy. I'm really proud of our team and excited."
The Bruins' defense had two interceptions, recovered a fumble and blocked Andre Heidari's kick with 1:34 remaining in the game to seal the win.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley continued to impress, as he outdueled USC senior Matt Barkley. Hundley passed for 234 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-30 efficiency, while also adding two scores on the ground for the Bruins.
"You wouldn't think we would lose this game with a senior quarterback versus a freshman," said USC coach Lane Kiffin. "But then again, when you turn the ball over like we did and get a couple of kicks blocked, those are the things that take them out of the game."
USC (7-4,5-4) nearly rallied from a 24-point deficit and came within three in the fourth quarter, but came up short. Barkley completed 20-of-38 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns but threw two interceptions.
Marqise Lee caught nine balls for 158 yards and a score, while Nelson Agholor and Randall Telfer each hauled in touchdowns in the loss for the Trojans.
Trailing 31-21 with 9:21 left in the game, USC embarked on an 80-yard drive to pull within three.
Facing a huge 3rd-and-10, Barkley escaped the rush and fired a 39-yard strike on the run to Lee, who made the catch on the UCLA 28. Curtis McNeal, who led the Trojans with 161 yards rushing, sprinted for 14 yards before Barkley found Lee again, this time for 14 yards and the score, making it 31-26.
Robert Woods then made an incredible catch on the two-point conversion attempt to bring USC within a field goal with 7:22 left to play in the game.
But UCLA responded, as a huge third and long conversion sparked a Franklin 29- yard touchdown run to push the Bruins' lead back to 10.
Faced with 3rd-and-13, Hundley fired a 15-yard strike to Joseph Fauria to keep the possession alive. Two plays later, Franklin bounced to the outside and sprinted to the end zone to put UCLA on top 38-28 with 4:02 remaining in the game.
The Trojans marched down to the UCLA 24, but the wheels completely came off from there.
On 2nd-and-7, Anthony Barr sacked Barkley and injured him on the play, forcing him out of the game. USC nearly lost the ball on a bad snap, but McNeal recovered and picked up five yards before the kicking unit came out.
After a UCLA timeout, Sheldon Price got through and blocked Heidari's 38-yard attempt, clinching the win and year-long possession of the Victory Bell for UCLA.
The win also made coach Mora just the second in school history to win nine games in his first season, tying Terry Donahue, who also had nine in 1976.
"Terry Donahue had an unbelievable career," said Mora. "I've known him since I was a little boy. My dad coached with him and there couldn't be anybody who is more worthy of that honor. It will remind everyone when they come into this place that this is UCLA's home."
As a result of big stops and capitalizing on turnovers, UCLA jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first half.
Aaron Hester picked off Barkley on the first play of the game and returned it to the USC 17-yard line.
Hundley then completed two passes to Jerry Johnson to push the ball inside the Trojans' 5 and two plays later, he scored on a 1-yard rush to give the Bruins the early 7-0 lead.
The Bruins forced the Trojans to punt on their next touch and used up nearly seven minutes on an 18-play drive, but had to settle for three.
After Hundley found Shaquell Evans on 4th-and-13 for a first down, the UCLA offense stalled inside the USC 10, but Ka'i Fairbairn salvaged the long drive with a 23-yard field goal to put UCLA ahead 10-0.
The Trojans turned it over again on their next touch. Marqise Lee was stuffed for a loss and then lost the football just before hitting the ground. Owa Odighizuwa recovered for UCLA and the Bruins took over inside USC territory.
The Bruins needed just four plays to score, as Hundley found Fauria near the front left corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown and 17-0 lead near the end of the first quarter.
In an early hole, the Trojans decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the UCLA 25, but Barkley's pass sailed over the head of Elijah Steen and USC turned it over on downs.
Again, UCLA made the most of the opportunity, marching 74 yards down the field for a touchdown. Franklin broke through the line and scampered 16 yards for a score to give the Bruins a commanding 24-0 lead just over four minutes into the second quarter.
The Trojans' offense finally got rolling, needing just four plays to reach the end zone on their ensuing touch. Barkley began the drive with a 31-yard completion to Robert Woods and hit Agholor three plays later with a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bruins' lead to 17.
Barkley led USC to a touchdown on its next series as well. He completed 4-of-5 throws, finding Telfer in the end zone for a 2-yard score to make it a 24-14 game at halftime. McNeal's 15-yard rush two plays earlier set the Trojans up inside the Bruins' 5.
USC continued to ride the momentum into the second half, as George Uko recovered a UCLA fumble in the end zone on the third play of the quarter.
The snap to Hundley was a bad one, and in trying to recover the loose ball it squirted backwards even further, allowing Uko to pick it up in the end zone for the score. Andre Heidari missed the extra point, however, and USC remained trailing 24-20.
UCLA stole the momentum back, however, after Eric Kendricks blocked a USC punt deep in their territory with 10:45 to play in the third.
On the next play, Hundley tossed a 25-yard pass to Evans, who hauled it in inside the Trojans' 10-yard line. Two plays later, Hundley crossed the goal line on a 3-yard rush, extending the Bruins' lead to 31-20.
Before pulling within three at 31-28, Heidari missed a 44-yard attempt and Barkley was intercepted on consecutive possessions. The Trojans used five and half minutes of the remaining 7:02 in the third to get Heidari in field goal range, but his kick sailed wide left.
After driving to the UCLA 36 on the Trojans' next touch, Barkley was intercepted by Eric Kendricks with 11:49 remaining in the game.
The Trojans will need a win next week against undefeated Notre Dame in order to finish with eight wins for the 11th consecutive time ... USC fell to 33-19 at the Rose Bowl ... UCLA has won five straight games and will host Stanford next week.
11/17 20:51:55 ET