December 8, 2008
News and notes from UCLA
There was never a sense of déjà vu Saturday at the Rose Bowl. It never was the USC-UCLA game from two years ago.
This time, with the Pac-10 championship and BCS berth on the line, the Trojans played focused football led by their best-in-the-country defense.
"The defense played just great," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We really only gave up one play on the day that was of note."
That play, a double-pass for a touchdown, came early in the first quarter and gave the Bruins a 7-0 lead.
"We were hyped the whole time," defensive tackle Fili Moala said. "We were always ready to play. They just got one on us with a trick play.
"That's just how things go sometimes."
USC finished the season allowing just 7.8 points per game, best in the Bowl Subdivision by more than 3.0 points.
Saturday against the Bruins, the defense showed no signs of a dip in intensity despite likely being out of the BCS national championship game.
"People were bashing us because they were saying we were going to get complacent and arrogant, saying we didn't want to play in the Rose Bowl. That's not the case at all," Moala said. "We love being here at this venue. We love being here; this is our home. We love defending it."
The team will now have some time off before returning to practice Friday in preparation for the Rose Bowl and Penn State.
"By the way we're going to practice and take care of our business, those few weeks will be gone before we know it," Moala said. "All we can do is bask in the win for a couple of hours and take off and go from there."
Wide receiver Damian Williams had to leave the game after separating his right shoulder in the second quarter on USC's 28-7 win over UCLA.
Williams got injured trying to haul in a touchdown pass.
"I fell on that play in the end zone," he said. "The end zone kind of slopes to the back, and I fell directly on the top of my shoulder."
After hitting the grass, Williams popped off and took off running towards the Trojans bench.
"It's because it was hurting. I don't like lying on the field," he said. "I just ran off to the sideline and let them figure it out."
He's expected to miss around two weeks, but he said he expects to be ready when USC faces Penn State. Williams had previously injured the shoulder during the season.
"The more you play and go through practice everyday, it takes its toll," he said. "I never really got all the way back."
With the Trojans up by three scores for most of the second half, Carroll turned to freshman running back Marc Tyler.
Tyler carried the ball nine times for 36 yards, flashing plenty of potential.
"I feel good. I just feel like the holes are always there when I'm in the game for some reason. The line's done a great job for me," Tyler said. "I feel like I've gotten back to 100 percent. I'm running downhill, and when I need to make a move, my moves are there."
Tyler finished the regular season with 36 carries for 198 yards and a score.
"I wish there were more games. I feel I'm peaking right now," Tyler said. "Even when I come into a game late, I'm in rhythm from my first carry on.
"I'm feeling really good."
• Tight end Anthony McCoy had a nice game against the Bruins, catching four passes for 50 yards. His biggest catch came early on fourth down, helping keep USC's first scoring drive alive.
"I thought it was something that could maybe get us going," he said. "After the catch, we were pretty hyped up. We ended up finishing."
McCoy didn't head into the week thinking he'd see a lot of the ball, but over the course of the game, that changed.
"To be honest, I didn't think I'd be getting the ball much this game," he said. "The plan was to spread them out some. But when Damian Williams got hurt, I had to step up and make some plays for us - just doing what I'm supposed to do."
• The Trojans wore cardinal jerseys and the Bruins wore their home colors during the game for the first time since 1982.
USC got flagged after the opening kickoff for their uniform choice and were penalized a timeout. The Bruins had an injury on the kickoff and took a timeout as well.
"I thought it looked great out there today. It was just the way it's supposed to be," Carroll said. "I hope we're making a statement that we can continue this old tradition. We'll revisit it next year. We'll be all about accepting the idea of it regardless of what the circumstances are."
• Patrick Turner caught his team-leading 10th touchdown pass against the Bruins.
"This is a guy that didn't really rise last year to the level we all kind of hoped. This year, he has," Carroll said. "He's had a great season for us. He's been consistent and tough. Him getting a touchdown today was cool."
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