The USC Trojans should not have won this game against the UCLA Bruins, but they found a way to pull it together to defeat their rivals 43-38 after a two-play, 43-yard game-winning drive to senior Tyler Vaughns for 35 yards, then to junior Amon-Ra St. Brown for eight yards.
The Trojans are going to the Pac-12 Championship to face the 3-1 Washington Huskies as the only undefeated team left in the conference.
They probably shouldn’t be 5-0 but they finished perfect nonetheless.
This game wasn’t perfect, to say the least, but there are a few things to take away from the win.
USC Does Not Give Up Despite Adversity
The Trojans didn’t lead until the fourth quarter, and they were down by as many as 18 points.
They couldn’t get anything together and didn’t score until midway through the second quarter — the only touchdown they scored in the first half.
The Trojans were being outworked in the first half, trailing in total yards 234 to 203.
The second half was different — they figured their air-raid wasn’t working so they started to hand the ball off to Malepeai, who finished the game with 110 yards on 19 carries; he is the first Trojan running back to rush for 100 yards this season.
After going down by 12 points towards the end of the third quarter, the Trojans found a way to score two unanswered touchdowns to go up by a point. After forcing a turnover on downs but unable to march down the field themselves, they allowed the Bruins to kick a 43-yard field goal with less than a minute left.
Two plays later, they retained the Victory Bell.
The moral of the story needs to be that a passing game is good and all, but without a running game, it’s not very useful.
Slovis has 13 touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season, which should count for something.
The Defense Came Up Big When Needed
The defensive statistics don’t tell the story that needs to be written. The defense allowed 549 total yards to the Bruins, but those yards were earned in every play.
Junior defensive backs Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao came up big with an interception a piece, but they did more than just catch the ball. Hufanga also had a team-high 13 total tackles — some of which were for a loss on key plays to force 4th down. Sophomore cornerback Chris Steele had nine total tackles and Pola-Mao had seven total tackles.
The Trojans were only able to get to UCLA junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson once for a sack, but they forced him out of the pocket quite a bit.
Though the Bruins’ running game had 185 yards combined — 140 of which were courtesy of senior running back Demetric Felton and Thompson-Robinson — they turned it over on downs twice after getting stopped on running plays. The Bruins turned the ball over five times in the game — two interceptions, two turnovers on downs, and a fumble on a failed punt attempt.
It happened for the Trojans on both sides of the ball. No one side deserves more credit than the other.
The Trojans have holes they need patching, and it might be a problem for them against Washington, but they’re going into that game the same as they always do — hungry.
USC is hosting the Pac-12 championship at the LA Memorial Coliseum on Friday, Dec. 18 at 5 p.m., and since the game is closed to the public, you can watch it on FOX like the rest of us.