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November 29, 2009
Late scores put away Bruins
Pete Carroll and Norm Chow once teamed up to run an explosive offense that left opposing teams gathering their wits in the dust.
Saturday, with Chow working for UCLA, Carroll's new playcaller, Jeremy Bates, showed a little offensive wizardry himself, helping the Trojans' put things away in interesting fashion.
USC (8-3) put together an aggressive drive and followed that up with a controversial touchdown pass to defeat the Bruins 28-7.
Up 21-7 with under a minute to go, the Trojans took a knee with the intention of letting the clock run out. UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel called timeout, and on the next play, USC scored on a 48-yard touchdown pass to Damian Williams.
"When the play came up, I thought it was a great frickin' call," Carroll said. "... As we lined up and executed, flawlessly executed the play-action pass down the middle, (I was like) 'Oh gosh. What does this mean?'
"What it is, I'll admit it right from my heart, it's just the heart of a competitor battling. In this sense, a competitive moment, we went for it. That's it. There's nothing more I can tell you."
Carroll said Bates made the call.
"We were going to be competitive," Bates said. "We knew they were going to be aggressively trying to stop the run so we threw a play-action pass. Guys executed, competed and hit it."
After the touchdown, tempers flared on both sidelines, as several UCLA players made their way across the field towards the USC bench and had to be restrained. Still after the game, Neuheisel said he had no problem with the play.
"I had three timeouts," he said. "I was trying to make them punt, and maybe if they run, we force a fumble. But our job is to cover, and they have every right to throw deep. People can make their own conclusions.
"Our job is to stop the play... I don't blame them for doing it."
USC quarterback Matt Barkley was excited when the play was called, especially after UCLA (6-6) had called timeout.
"They can't disrespect us like that," Barkley said. "You can say they were trying to play the game, but if they wanted to keep the game going, we did. Coach Carroll and Coach Bates came over after the timeout, and (Carroll) was saying, 'I love the play call. I love the play call.'
"I was questioning in my head if they were seriously thinking about throwing downfield."
Barkley wasn't the only one surprised. Williams easily got behind the UCLA secondary for the touchdown.
"I couldn't believe it," UCLA safety Rahim Moore said. "The score ended up the same as last year. I was speechless. They caught us off guard. We thought they were going to kneel, and they came out in a regular formation."
While the last touchdown will grab most of the headlines and attention, USC's drive before that sealed the Bruins' fate. After Chane Moline's two-yard touchdown run made things 14-7 with 5:41 remaining, Barkley and the offense needed to get momentum back on their side.
Instead of sheepishly running the football, Bates called for the Trojans to attack through the air. USC passed on four consecutive plays to start the possession, setting up a short touchdown run for Allen Bradford.
"I loved that sequence. I though Jeremy did a fantastic job," Carroll said. "I tightened up a little on a couple of those calls, but I liked his resolve with it. He knew that there would be some really easy opportunities throwing the ball on the edge.
"That's believing in your quarterback."
The USC offense looked as sluggish as ever in the first half, with the usual issues stuffing out drives and extinguishing possessions. USC converted just one-of-six on third down, committed eight penalties for 66 yards and turned the ball over once.
The result was a 7-0 USC lead at the half- the lowest halftime score in the rivalry since 1976. The only USC points came on Malcolm Smith's 62-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
But when it mattered most, late in the fourth quarter, the offense showed up. Barkley finished 18-of-26 for 206 yards and a score, and Bradford finished with 62 yards and two touchdowns.
"This is huge," Barkley said. "You come here knowing how big this rivalry is, how much it means to everyone, to this city, to the players, to the coaches, to the students here and to the fans.
"I'll never forget this game. It was awesome."
While the season hasn't gone exactly how USC would've liked, there's no denying this win felt sweet.
"This was a fight for L.A.," Bradford said. "That's what this week was, for the championship of L.A., and we run L.A. for another year."