Despite a season filled with turmoil and confusion, the USC Trojans have accomplished what many thought impossible; they defeated the nationally ranked UCLA Bruins, 40-21, on rivalry Saturday and Senior Day at the Coliseum. It was the 85th meeting between the cross-town rivals and it ended a four-year drought for the Trojans.
The Trojans rushed for 235 yards, with 103 of those yards coming in the fourth quarter and they committed zero turnovers. It was a game that that is now being touted as a return to ‘Trojan football’. The Trojans struck first, with an Alex Wood field goal, taking the lead, 3-0, with 7:54 left in the first quarter.
The Bruins would answer with a 19-yard Paul Perkins touchdown, the Bruins led, 3-7. With 12:04 left in the half, Trojan running back Tre Madden ran the ball up the middle giving the Trojans a first down at the one-yard line. USC quarterback Cody Kessler ran the ball into the end zone for a Trojan touchdown, 10-7.
The Bruins answer quickly with a touchdown pass to receiver Thomas Duarte, 10-14. With the clock winding down, the Trojans settled for a second Alex Wood field goal, trailing the Bruins, 13-14. But then…the much-maligned Trojan defense and special teams assassin Adoree’ Jackson decided that it was time to show the 83,602 in attendance, that Trojan football had indeed returned. With 2:47 left in the half, the Trojans pressured the Bruins, forcing a punt that landed in the hands of Jackson who took it to the house (42 yards) for a Trojan touchdown.
The Bruins would retake the lead in the third quarter but not for long. Lineman Claude Pelon would sack Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen, forcing a fumble, and defensive end Rasheem Green would take it 31-yards for another Trojan touchdown, 26-21. Cornerback Iman Marshall would intercept the first of two Rosen passes and wide receiver Darreus Rogers would extend the Trojan lead, 33-21. Bruins quarterback Rosen would finish the night with three sacks, two interceptions, and one fumble. “There are a lot of plays I wish I had back. I didn’t play like myself and that was really frustrating,” Rosen said.
The Trojans would continue to manage the clock behind the extraordinary running of tailback Justin Davis. Davis would rush for 130 yards on 25 carries. “Toward the end of the third, when I saw their D-line with their hands on their hips, I knew it was time to take over the game,” said Davis. Kessler would find tight end Taylor McNamara for a touchdown, giving the Trojans a 40-21 lead.
With 5:38 left to play, Trojan corner Iman Marshall would intercept his second Rosen pass as visions of roses began to dance in the heads of Trojan fans everywhere. But first…the Trojans will face the Stanford Cardinals in the Pac-12 championship game on Saturday, December 5. The two teams met earlier this season, in a game where the Cardinals prevailed, beating the Trojans, 41-31. The winner of the Pac-12 contest will earn a spot in the 102nd Rose Bowl game. “I think about the seniors and the roller-coaster ride they have gone through,” USC interim head coach Chris Helton said. “I am so proud and a little bit lost for words.”
The Trojans finished the season with an 8-4 overall record and 6-3 in conference play. “SC football is back,” said receiver Darreus Rogers. “We knew we were suppose to be here.” Kessler echoed those sentiments, “The guys really came together and made a decision. We weren’t losing this game.”
Live coverage of the Pac-12 Championship Game will begin at 5:45 PM/PST on ESPN or ABC. USC v. Stanford, Saturday, December 5, Levi Stadium, Santa Clara.