Steve Sarkisian: USC has underperformed against UCLA

In two stints as an USC assistant coach, Steve Sarkisian saw the Trojans win six rivalry games with just one loss. As the program’s head coach, he’s 0-for-1 against UCLA — part of the Bruins’ three-win streak.

Asked about the factors that have tilted the rivalry to Westwood, Sarkisian traced the roots to Rick Neuheisel. Despite the his lackluster on-field record, the former UCLA head coach pulled in three top-15 recruiting classes from 2008-10. That gave Jim Mora some of the tools he needed to put the Bruins back atop Los Angeles football.

“They’ve recruited really well,” Sarkisian said on Friday. “I want to make sure I give Rick credit here too, because Rick brought in some really talented players: Brett Hundley, Owa (Odighizuwa), all these guys.

“I know Rick didn’t get to see it through, and Jim came in and continued upon that, recruiting good players. I think they’ve performed really well. The quarterback play with Brett really helped them. I think the first time around, their quarterback play struggled some.”

These are cogent points. As good as Mora has been, he needed Neuheisel recruits like linebacker Anthony Barr and defensive lineman Datone Jones to turn the program as quickly as he did. Having Brett Hundley — the first UCLA quarterback drafted in 15 years — was also crucial.

But like many coaches, Sarkisian also wanted to reestablish a sense of control. He did so by hinting at a familiar trope: They didn’t win; we lost. USC — favored to win the Pac-12 this year — has lost three straight games to UCLA by a combined 49 points because the Trojans haven’t played up to their potential.

“Probably the biggest difference is we haven’t performed, quite honestly,” he said. “We didn’t get it done, and that was unlike us, especially a year ago. We didn’t play the way we were capable of playing. A lot of those other games when I was here before, that only happened one other time. The rest of the times, we went out and performed really well against UCLA. That’s what it’s going to take to beat them.”

  • Tommy B Low Us

    Underperformed? Pff just admit it sark, you were out played and dominated. Get used to it. It is not going to be any different this year.

    • ProbationU

      Outplayed and outcoached. Simple as that.

      • gotroy22

        You peaked for the game against us but then had nothing left for Stanford the next week. Suggestion: make USC your last game.

        • ProbationU

          Yeah. but that’s an excuse. UCLA had plenty to play for and didn’t show up. SC gave up against UCLA. I couldn’t believe it. SC is our last game this year. It should be an interesting season.

  • bruinbiochem06

    We don’t mind not beating you, as long as you continue losing to us.

    • j metaphor

      Well said and well played, Bio.
      That being said, it’s also nice to plant their QB into the Rose Bowl turf like a tulip bulb to emphasize the concept of “beating”.

  • Richard

    Troys r a bunch of poorly conditioned, poorly coached, spoiled #1 picks at their position who think they can just mail it in. Always #1 in recruiting and #1 in players picked in the NFL, they do worse in college than they do in Hi Sch & the NFL.

  • jameskatt

    Bring it on, Sark! Bring it on! This year is going to be exciting for UCLA!

    Sark is at least humble. Cheaty Pete was full of himself. It was particularly entertaining to see UCLA beat USC when Cheaty Pete was on the helm grousing to himself on the sideline.

    • SonofWestwood

      49 – 14 BRUINS.