UCLA wasn’t supposed to lose by a wide margin, as they’ve been tabbed to do so against USC. UCLA had earned some respect, finally, and some pundits were wondering if this Bruin team, this Jim Mora-coached bunch, could be the squad that finally tilts the long-standing Los Angeles football rivalry in UCLA’s favor.
Wonder no more, because these UCLA Bruins beat Southern Cal in a subtly dominating fashion.
The same UCLA team that lost to USC in 2011 by 50 points? That team’s been re-made, courtesy Jim Mora. This UCLA team has consistency.
Average-38-points-a-game-and-actually-score-38-points consistent. UCLA’s offensive production didn’t drop off a tad and the way they’ve been playing offense all season — via methodical drives, moving-the-chains type of mentality, and the occasional big play as well as a strong ground game — is the way they punished USC’s defense, which has been in the upper tier of the Pac-12 all season long.
And let’s not forget that this win was the most quietly dominating win you can imagine. Because while USC made it a game after scoring 20 unanswered points (after UCLA took a 24-0 lead), these Trojans never led. Even further, these Trojans never had the ball in their hands with a chance to take the lead.
Of course, UCLA’s only the second team to do that to USC this season (the other being Oregon; yes, Ducks fans, you’re next). The game was in doubt, and more so than Oregon’s win was, but UCLA never let up and didn’t allow the Trojans a potentially game-tying/go-ahead possession.
Defensively? This UCLA team excelled beautifully. Going into the contest, it was evident that Matt Barkley and his golden arm would only be hindered by bringing massive amounts of pressure. Easier said than done, considering USC has one of the best offensive lines in the country.
It didn’t matter, though, because that front-seven got a huge push all game against a much more seasoned USC offensive line. Matt Barkley was never comfortable in the pocket, scrambling constantly to extend the play — which, to his credit, he did damn well — or getting dragged down for a sack. (In fact, his final play of the game saw Anthony Barr drive him into the ground, thus separating his shoulder.)
Of course, we also do a fair share of moaning and whining about the secondary, an oft-maligned group that, if we’re being honest, is usually the cause of defensive breakdowns.
Today, though? Against the best wide-out tandem in the country, in Heisman contenders Robert Woods and Marqise Lee? Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester held their own. While you can’t expect to contain either of those, the ridiculed corners earned their UCLA stripes by keeping up with the Trojan wide receivers and prohibiting any yards after the catch. Sure, Lee and Woods combined for over 200 receiving yards off of 14 catches, but they’ve had better performances and didn’t wind up destroying UCLA by themselves.
These Bruins were still lit up for 500 yards, but this Trojan team averages around 500 yards of total offense per game. It was in the redzone that the Bruins locked down, with USC earning “just” three touchdowns on offense against UCLA, a team that lets up around 24 points a contest.
Of course, the defense wasn’t the biggest reason UCLA won; credit their offense, which was damn near unstoppable against an SC defense that’s been incapable of defending against hurry-up spreads all season. The stars on offense were Franklin and Brett Hundley — these are always the sexy picks, sure, but none of the wide-outs had a massive game and the offensive line forced Hundley to improvise on more than a dozen occasions — and it wasn’t even close.
Brett Hundley? This kid is a freaking animal, evading sack after sack after sack, stepping into throws and moving at angles that are advantageous to his blockers, all while keeping his eyes downfield. The arm, at the same time, was as accurate as its ever been, with Hundley converting on quite a few third-and-longs (and even a fourth-and-13 in the first half). He’ll be around to terrorize USC for another two years.
Overall, these Bruins played what we now like to call “UCLA football.” This game perfectly fits what the blueprint of this team is all about, which is playing opportunistic, aggressive defense (while letting up a ton of yards, unfortunately) and relying on the offense to drive down the field methodically.
And your UCLA Bruins are 9-2, have clinched the Pac-12 South and just beat the USC Trojans in football.
This Jim Mora guy isn’t too bad, eh?