Game coverage roundup

- UCLA 38, USC 28: Bruins defeat Trojans in battle of L.A.

A dance party erupted in the UCLA locker room, one filled with primal screams and sprayed Sprite streams. The team rule, as it has been all season, allots 24 hours for celebration. Coming off their biggest win in years, the No. 17 Bruins were going to use each and every one of them.

- UCLA beats USC to end college football monopoly in Los Angeles:

UCLA can say the monopoly is over, and now it’s really true. Jim Mora didn’t want to go there, but he doesn’t have to because it goes without saying. When asked point blank, Mora paused, smirked, said he didn’t know and glanced in another reporter’s direction so he could answer something else. He wanted to say it, but he didn’t. We know.

- USC vs. UCLA: Fans support their teams while tailgating in the rain

Clint Hamblin said he went to Lowe’s, bought a chunk of sod for $3.50, flung it over his shoulder, had his fiancé, Kara, spray paint the UCLA script logo into it, and then tacked it to a piece of plywood.

- Photo gallery, featuring sad Xavier Grimble on slide No. 12.

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If you want to relive that victory …

Here’s the running score summary from UCLA’s 38-28 win over USC:

UCLA 38, USC 28 – 4:02 remaining in fourth quarter:
Johnathan Franklin with an absolute dagger of a touchdown, taking it 29 yards to the right corner of the end zone as the Rose Bowl erupts. The Mayor now has 162 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but certainly worth the celebration for him as well as UCLA fans. Continue reading

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UCLA vs. USC: Preview

Johnathan Franklin probably said it best: “Whoever wins, that’s who you’re talking about all year. It’s for the city. It’s for bragging rights. It’s for everything.”

UCLA offense vs. USC defense: USC’s rush defense isn’t outstanding, though it limited ASU to 71 yards last week. Hard to see Johnathan Franklin coming up with anything less than triple-digit yards, though that depends on how well the youth on the offensive line perform. When not facing Oregon, the Trojans’ front four can pressure as well as any team in the conference. Here’s betting that Brett Hundley shows off enough savvy to escape sacks when necessary in the biggest game of his young career. Edge: UCLA

UCLA defense vs. USC offense: Jim Mora has talked up Marqise Lee and Robert Woods all week long, and with good reason. USC’s greatest offensive strength lines up with UCLA’s questionable secondary; if the Bruins give Matt Barkley time, deep throws will find either capable hands or a shower of yellow flags. The onus is on the front seven — which has performed well lately — to alleviate pressure on the defensive backfield. UCLA has defended the rush well, and the Trojans don’t have much depth at tailback behind a banged-up Silas Redd. Edge: USC

Special teams: UCLA needs Jeff Locke to limit Marqise Lee, whose 29.43 yards per kick return leads the Pac-12. The Bruins counter with Damien Thigpen, fully healthy after a minor knee sprain. Freshman kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has been reliable for the Bruins from short range, but has yet to make a field goal from beyond 35 yards. If UCLA needs a game-winner on the final drive, well … Edge: UCLA, slightly.

Players to Watch: Lee, for the aforementioned reasons. Also, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week has been on a mission lately. Last week’s line: 8 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a safety. USC will protect better than WSU, but Barr is a future NFL talent that is a guaranteed weekly highlight reel. It’ll be fun to watch what the conference’s leader in sacks does against a team that has allowed 14 sacks — not impenetrable, but still good for second best in the Pac-12.

X-factor: How much will the coaching staff matter? Lane Kiffin is a crack recruiter, but has failed to prove his mettle at any stop he’s made across the country. Hard to see him out-strategizing Mora, who was apparently tailor-made to head this UCLA squad. Still, USC has more talent, and it’s not a game that requires much added motivation from up top.

Prediction: USC 38, UCLA 35. The Bruins are trying to end a five-year losing streak, but Southern Cal needs this win to avoid a spectacular crash of a season.

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USC vs. UCLA: Rivalry quotables

— Defensive end Datone Jones’ first offer came from USC, but he waited out for UCLA. He had always been more of a basketball fan growing up in Compton, and didn’t notice the intensity of the football rivalry until later in high school.

“When it really hit for me was when Reggie Bush was there,” Jones said. “I was around 10th or 11th grade. That’s when I was like ‘OK, cool.’ That’s when I really started noticing how big it was. I started watching from then on there and I was like, ‘I wanna be a Trojan.’ Then I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t wanna be a Trojan, I wanna be a Bruin. I wanna help their program win championships. I don’t wanna be a bandwagoner.’”

— Johnathan Franklin wasn’t recruited by USC, and was even thought by most to be a better fit at safety than, y’know, eventual UCLA career rushing leader. As a recruit, he was present at UCLA’s 2006 win, one that convinced him the Bruins were headed “to the top.”

“It means everything,” Franklin said. “It’s my last shot at it. I haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. It’s a big rivalry. One of the biggest in college football.”

— Tevin McDonald will play his brother T.J. in the rivalry game for the last time, but he said they have remained cordial this week. The two spoke on Monday to before giving each other space to work on their own preparation. “We just don’t have time,” he said. T.J. apparently hasn’t talked too much trash since last year’s loss.

— Jim Mora has tried to downplay the rivalry as best he could, saying that the week of prep has been identical to the past 10 — even “down to the second.” Still, he acknowledged how unfamiliar the experience has been.

“It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever seen whether it be pro sports or college sports,” he said. “(Thinking back to the pros), I don’t know that there was ever one of the significance of what we have vs. USC. I thought back to when I was with the University of Washington, our main rivals were Washington State and Oregon, but they were hundreds of miles away. It’s so unique to have such a division in a city like we have here. It’s pretty special.”

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UCLA vs. USC: HC & QB edition

Try Jim Mora and Lane Kiffin

They own big personalities, perfect for staying relevant in Los Angeles. They like to talk, which adds to the drama of this rivalry. Or any old regular week in the season.

Or Brett Hundley and Matt Barkley, freshman edition …

“Brett plays with a lot of poise,” Mora said. “He’s able to put a good play or bad play behind him and move on. I don’t know Matt Barkley personally, but when I watch him play and watch him on TV, he’s probably a similar type of guy. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he’s a great quarterback who’s got a tremendous future in the NFL.”

Or if you’d rather stick with just UCLA, John Barnes’ unbelievable heroics from two decades back.

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No more swords

USC won’t be stabbing the UCLA logo at midfield this year, but Jim Mora said he was more focused on the game.

“I have nothing to do with that,” Mora said Wednesday. “All that stuff, that’s periphery stuff.”

Mora had said earlier this week that he wasn’t concerned with stopping the USC tradition: “We’re going to be in the locker room. I don’t think I’ll be out there laying down on the UCLA logo or anything like that.”

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Bruins escape Pullman, stay steady at No. 17

UCLA held off a two-win team to stay on top of the Pac-12 South, but Saturday night’s 44-36 victory (game story here) was one of the ugliest games the Bruins had played all season. The team — which held on to the No. 17 spot in the AP poll — generally stuck to the line of “We’re just enjoying this win for the next 24 hours.” Few players looked particularly overjoyed while saying it.

Some thoughts: Continue reading

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Bruins back in Top 25

UCLA’s thrilling comeback win over ASU yesterday afternoon bumped the Bruins back into the AP poll. Now ranked at No. 25, Jim Mora’s squad has ranked teams slated for three of its remaining four games. As of now, it looks unlikely that Brett Hundley and company will sweep the rest of the way, but it’s not completely impossible either.

Here’s a quick look at the remainder of the schedule: Continue reading

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