In one of college football’s greatest crosstown rivalries, Southern California and UCLA took the field for its 89th meeting and bragging rights.
USC won the game going away, but more importantly may have found its quarterback of the future in true freshman Kedon Slovis, who set a school record for passing yards with 515, during the Trojans 52-35 victory over the Bruins at the LA Coliseum on Saturday.
Slovis threw four touchdown passes and saw four of his wide receivers surpass the 100-yard mark on the day. Michael Pittman Jr. caught two touchdown passes on 13 receptions, Amon-Ra St. Brown had eight for 128 yards and Tyler Vaughns and Drake London combined for 14 receptions and two touchdowns.
“It’s obviously an honor to be up on that list, (but) it’s just a testament to the players around me,” said Slovis. “Any of you (media) in here could probably throw for 100 yards with these receivers.”
“I’m proud of what he has become,” said USC head coach Clay Helton on his freshman quarterback. “Most importantly I’m proud of how coachable he is and learns from mistakes and gets better with each time.”
First year USC (8-4, 7-2 Pac-12) offensive coordinator Graham Harrell rolled out the perfect game plan and ultimately watched his offense total 643 yards, with the Bruins never having an answer defensively.
“They had very good quarterback play and many receivers that can beat you,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s a seasoned offensive football team.”
For UCLA (4-7, 4-4), sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson passed for 367 yards and connected with Chase Cota, Demetric Felton, Devin Asiasi for touchdowns.
Bruins tailback Joshua Kelley rushed for 45 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown but was unable to gain momentum on the ground while trailing throughout the game.
“It is frustrating, but we made a lot of mistakes,” said UCLA freshman receiver Kyle Philips, who had 12 receptions for 123 yards. “We didn’t take advantage of their mistakes. We put up a decent amount of points but left a lot on the table.”
Felton and UCLA started off the game strong with a nine-yard score in the first quarter, but USC responded right back when running back Vavae Malepeai capped off a five play 83-yard drive that ended with a one-yard rushing score.
The Trojans kept momentum rolling in the second when Slovis connected with Pittman Jr. for two scores, giving Southern California a 24-14 lead at halftime.
The Bruins controlled time of possession (16-13) but allowed 250 passing yards through two quarters.
“When your opportunity comes, you have to make the most of it,” Slovis said. There was no question that the true freshman was ready when his name was called, and UCLA had no answer.
Slovis connected with London for a 32-yard score in the third, followed by a 49-yard strike to Vaughns to put the game away for the Trojans in the fourth, ultimately resulting in a 52-35 victory for the Trojans.
With the win, USC secured at least a top 3 spot in the conference, still having hope to play in the conference championship with a Utah loss, while UCLA was eliminated from bowl eligibility with their seventh loss of the season.
When asked about the coaching change rumors and noise surrounding the Trojans, Helton spoke with optimism about his position with the team.
“USC is an extremely special place and always will be,” said Helton. “It doesn’t matter if I’m the coach or you’re the coach, USC is always going to be special. Always.”