USC vs. UCLA: Is the Season Over Yet?

UCLA vs. USC
November 17, 2018 at 12:40pm
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA: 57,116 (92,524)
Total Time: 3 hours 16 minutes

Two SCents: 

In a rivalry game where special teams had the best showing, USC loses against an equally bad 2-8 UCLA team. The Bruins have an excuse of a rebuilding year with a young team and new coach, while the Trojans have no excuse for every exasperating performance—win or lose—this season.

CommBro Breaker/Bonus SCents:

There’s not much left to be said about this team. The inability to stop the run…from the running back position or an unathletic UCLA QB, throwing a ton with a young and interception prone QB against the nation’s 111th rushing defense, and a QB slide short of the first down. All as ugly and embarrassing from one week to the next.

After back-to-back losses to the UCs, we should all be glad the Trojans won’t play UC Davis in football. This team will likely fall to 5-7 since they will be playing undefeated #3 Notre Dame next week. That means no bowl game and the worst record since 2000—when Paul Hackett got fired. It will likely be the 18th losing season in USC history, which actually includes a lot of 1-2 or 0-1 seasons in the late 1800s. If we’re looking at 1960 and beyond, it will only be the 6th losing season. That would also mean going 0-2 against the major rivals this season.

Oh and Brandon Pili totally should have been ejected for his ridiculous punch.

Dare we hope for good news on Monday?

Double CommBro Breaker

Annual crosstown pranks can be fun, but there’s such a thing as going too far. While impressive that someone managed to get paint onto the Bruin statue despite the box and surveillance cameras, I doubt they had the sense to use paints that are easy to wash off. Hard to consider it a prank when the bill could come out to a reported $20,000 dollars for a state-funded school.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #1-10: The number of assignments I have due near this Thanksgiving holiday. I really wish I had the time to find some more ridiculous stats for you. Apologies to all you faithful readers. One more abridged version next week and I will be back in full, bitter glory next season.

Ridiculous Stat of the Week #11: USC converted a 1st & 56 in one play! Too bad it was a score bug error. Or should I call it score bug bug or score bug²? Take what you can get…

USC vs. UCLA: New-fangled Angles

USC vs. UCLA
November 18, 2017 at 5:14 pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA: 82,407
Total Time: 3 hours 38 minutes

USC reached a three win streak against UCLA on Saturday night. That ties UCLA’s longest streak this century (misleading stat alert, since there have only been 18 games so far). This is the third such time USC attained a 3+ streak against UCLA in the same time span.

USC completes a second consecutive 10-win season…which ties UCLA’s all-time record for consecutive 10-win seasons. Yet the Bruins had the audacity to run out of the tunnel with a flag that said “Champions Made Here.” Congrats on your one national championship back in 1954. By the way, USC has more Rose Bowl wins than UCLA conference championships. USC has almost as many Rose Bowl appearances (34) as UCLA had of any bowl appearance (35). If the flag meant that champions are made at the Coliseum, then maybe they were on to something. I’ll stop rubbing it in now.

The win was great, but the process was not. The crosstown rivalry game was heavily penalized and the officials, once again, controlled the pace of the game. There were 23 penalties for a total of 215 yards (12-100 UCLA, 11-115 USC). Why does the Pac-12 want to make football unwatchable?

GOOD/BADISMS

BAD: Third down conversions on both sides of the ball. USC had a measly two third down conversions on ten attempts. On the other side, they allowed UCLA to convert over 50% with 10 of 19.

BAD: As per 2017 tradition, USC needed the special teams or defense to score first. Basically, the offenses tied for the first half at 7-7. Neither team scored in the second quarter.

GOOD: Pittman’s punt return touchdown was the difference maker for an inconsistent USC offense.

BAD: Perhaps the DBs should spend more time checking to see where was the ball was rather than whether LiAngelo Ball made it back from China. To be fair, Rosen was throwing really well, so it would’ve been tough no matter what. I really just wanted to make a ball joke.

GOOD: In one of the best plays of the game, a UCLA player managed to tackle his own teammate and incur a penalty in a single move. Impressive!

GOOD: Forcing two red zone turnovers. USC currently has the 4th best red zone defense in the nation.

BAD: Only rushing for 153 yards against a team that allowed an average of 302.3 rushing yards per game. I get that averages may not mean a whole lot, but being a whopping 50% of the average is astounding, especially when we have great running back talent. The Trojans had the lowest yards per carry against the Bruins all season. Our game actually helped them move up from last in rushing defense to second to last. Stats aren’t everything, but I think this shows an issue in game planning by the coaching staff.

SEMI-GOOD: Also, as good as Rosen was, the UCLA offense only scored 23 points. USC was allowing an average of 26.5 points per game before Saturday. That must mean Rosen is a below average quarterback right? Yes, that’s sarcasm.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE: Darnold’s interception on 4th-and-8 ended up being the same a punt going for a touchback.

BAD: More complaints about issues in short yardage situations.

BAD: Too many bad decisions that led to wasted scoring opportunities. In particular, wasting time outs early in the first half, compounded by some bad decisions in play calling and by Darnold, led to a drive dying at the 5-yard line as time expired. Even a field goal there would have been better than the nothing we got.

GOOD: Uchenna Nwosu is 14th in the nation for passes defended. He is only one of three linebackers in the top 100 and the only linebacker in the top 60.

GOOD: A great tackle by a great kicker, Reid Budrovich.

GOOD: Matt Lopes getting the stylish over-the-shoulder onside kick recovery to end his senior night. UCLA made a huge mistake there. They should’ve trusted USC’s offense—to fail—rather than making a risky onside kick play.

With that, we get to sit around for the “bye week” as we await the results of the Pac-12 North. The Trojans will face either Stanford or Washington State on another annoying Friday game. Stanford’s win eliminated Washington as a Pac-12 North contender due to the head-to-head record. The decision will be made from the annual Apple Cup. If Washington beats Washington State, Stanford will be USC’s opponent.

CommBro Breaker

We’ve got various media outlets reporting that the student section was chanting “one more year” at Darnold. I was in the student section and I heard none of that. Maybe I wasn’t close enough to the front? I will say that I was shouting “one more Tusk” and got a people to join in, so maybe they misheard us? I’ll take credit for bamboozling everyone.

Lottery Stats

Meaningless Stat of the Week: In the last 10 USC-UCLA rivalry games, USC has scored exactly 28 points five times. What does this mean? Illuminati. Always the Illuminati.

For only the second time in the past 10 season, USC has gotten under 20 first downs by penalty. The only other time was 2009, when it was 10. Currently, the Trojans have gotten 9. Meanwhile, opponent first downs by penalty remains a fairly reasonable number. USC is actually last in the nation in receiving first downs by penalty. Stats don’t tell the whole story, but maybe there is some merit to the officials being extra biased this season?

Running count of fourth down conversions: 8 of 22 (36.4%)

Running count of opponent fourth down conversions: 14 of 24 (58.3%)

USC vs. UCLA: Battle for Pasadena or Something

UCLA vs. USC
November 19, 2016 at 7:37pm
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA: 71,137 (92,524)
Total Time: 3 hours 16 minutes

Ah, the annual Battle for Los Angeles—which actually happens in Pasadena rather than LA every other year. I guess it’s still LA County so it counts? But then there’s this…

I guess they’re mad at LA or something because they don’t have their own stadium there.

I still find funny that USC is closer to UCLA’s home stadium than the Bruins are. Nothing like driving almost 30 miles in infamous LA traffic to get to your “home stadium.” Perhaps that’s why an entire freaking section was empty at the Rose Bowl.

empty-rose-bowl

Looks like Section 11 and half of section 10

Were they saving those seats for ghosts or something? Or maybe you shouldn’t charge a $110 base price for a regular season game. In comparison, an equivalent seat in AT&T Stadium for the USC vs. Alabama would’ve cost $100. A better seat at the Coliseum for USC vs. Notre Dame is $89. These are all face values, not secondhand pricing on StubHub or anything. The price tag is ultimately what kept me from going for the first time in 6 or 7 years, which probably uncoincidentally was about when the previous low occurred. They probably could’ve packed the place out if they dropped the price a bit to something less ridiculous.

The start was about as bad as the attendance. An aggressive defense let UCLA quarterback, Mike Fafaul complete some passes and bad tackling allowed the receiver to run 56 yards for the touchdown. USC, helped by back-to-back UCLA penalties, scored a touchdown on half a field. Not long after, Sam Darnold throws an interception when the UCLA defensive back jumps the route. That set UCLA up for their second and final score.

USC finally decided they had enough and proceded to go on a 29-0 scoring run by the end of the game. They all got together and decided to play monkey in the middle with UCLA. Of USC’s 12 drives, seven of them were for 9 or more plays. Four were for 10 or more plays, including an 18-play, 9 minute drive. They only went three-and-out twice and only punted twice. If not for some turnovers and penalties, it seemed like USC could score on just about every drive—even against a solid UCLA defense. At the final whistle, USC held the ball for a disgustingly lopsided 43 minutes and 47 seconds to UCLA’s 16 minutes and 13 seconds.

Last year was a similar affair in terms of time of possession. The 2015 totals were 40:01 to 19:59. At the time I thought that wouldn’t be topped for a while. Pretty crazy for it to happen the very next game in the series. As good as it was, there were a lot of hiccups along the way.

Right as the Trojans took the lead, they missed the PAT. Quite the frustrating start, but a lead is a lead. You’d be tempted to blame the kicker for this one, but upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the holder put the laces towards the kicker—a big no-no. This holder has caused quite a few issues in the past and was at fault (at Fafault?) for this PAT.

Drive-killing penalties still plague the team every now and then. Sometimes Darnold’s improv ability digs them out the hole, sometimes it doesn’t. Take for example the 3rd-and-36 when the game was only one possession apart. Darnold ended up throwing his second interception there, which wasn’t too bad. It ended up working out to basically be a punt. However, I think the better option would’ve been to try to pick up 10-15 yards and kick the field goal. Not too big of a deal though.

A big deal was the end of the first half. USC was quickly running out of time. Helton found himself in a similar predicament. He had used all of his timeouts earlier and now had to improvise for some clock stopping. Most people would simply think, “Oh, just get up to the line quickly and spike the ball.” That’s why you’re not a head coach. Don’t you remember that Helton maxed out his timeout skill past 99 in Madden? He put his ability on display again Saturday night by mindgaming UCLA head coach, Jim Mora, to take the timeout for him.

Some More Good stuff:

  • Darnold’s game-changing ability to fix broken plays.
  • De’Quan Hampton making two tough touchdown catches in traffic
  • Ronald Jones getting another 100-yard game
  • Rasheem Green for his pressure on the QB and the field goal block
  • Jalen Greene’s catch on third down while Darreus Rogers accidentally does an impression of a defensive back. They eventually scored a TD on that drive.
  • While the defense couldn’t get any sacks, they pressured Fafaul enough to cause punts on 7 out of 11 meaningful drives. Four of them were three-and-outs.

Some More Bad Stuff:

  • Khaliel Rodgers’ still hasn’t quite settled into the center role. His only snap ended in a 12 yard loss and it could’ve been worse
  • The game got bad enough that the sportscasters, Steve Levy and Brian Griese started t talking about Griese’s glory days at Michigan instead of commentating on the game. They made no mention of a near interception and continue to chat through the entire UCLA possession. The sad part was that this was probably all premeditated to some level. They had clips from the1996 Michigan-Ohio State game andsome of his career highlights all queued up.

Now that the Trojans have done all they can in the conference, they must wait for Colorado to drop a game to qualify as a the Pac-12 South Champion. Colorado will face Utah at home on Folsom Field at 4:30pm on Saturday. Thanks for the loss last week Utah, but you need to win this week.

CommBro Breaker

It’s okay UCLA, it wasn’t a real rivalry game anyway.

There was no stabbing of the field to signify the start of the game. Some say we are still waiting for the 2012 game to start.

Misleading Stat of the Week: UCLA scored more points per minute of possession(0.863) than USC (0.822)

Depressing Stat of the Week: Seven win streak, convincing win over top 5 team and local rivalry, and possibly NY6 bowl on the horizon? Gotta balance it out with some sad stat.

For the first time this season, Matt Boermeester missed an extra point attempt.

Uplifting Stat of the Week: Okay, I can’t leave you on a sour note like that.

UCLA had more yards punting (280) than total offense (266).

Origins of the Eight Clap

Origins of the Eight Clap

Warning: The following should not be taken as historically sound or accurate.

Abstract: In order to understand the etymology of the Eight Clap, one must look further back into history. Across the city, the University of Southern California had adopted the Trojan moniker in 1912. They adopted a curious hand signal that many Bruins mistake for saying they are second place. However, this is a misnomer. The Trojan “Fight On” hand sign is a true counterpart to the Eight Clap.

Back in ancient Troy, Trojans would cut off the index and middle fingers of conquered opponents. This was a preventative measure to stop conquered groups from wielding swords, spears or bows in retaliation. As a result, Trojans would taunt their opponents by holding those very fingers up, as if to say, “Haa, I still have my fingers.” It was a sign of being part of the ruling class.The modern day USC Trojans revived that ancient taunt as they conquered the football fields of their opponents. The Bruins were one of these conquered opponents, which, to this day, have never taken a lead in the series.

As most marginalized groups would, they began to embrace their identity. Since conquered groups lost two fingers, they role-played as if they did as well. In order to account for the ‘lost’ fingers, they invented a clap involving only eight fingers: three from one hand and five from the other. The Bruins would clap this combination together repeatedly in futility. As the clap evolved, they tried to obscure its origins while attempting to keep a semblance of tradition. As a result, the modern day Bruin Eight Clap involves clapping eight times instead of using eight fingers.

Fight On!

Fight On!

USC vs. UCLA: Battle for an Angled City

USC vs. UCLA
November 28, 2015 at 12:30pm
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: 83,602 (of 93,607)
Total Time: 3 hours 16 minutes

As the regular season comes to a close, USC finishes 3-1 in November, 1-1 against major rivals, but 5-0 against Pac-12 South teams. USC knocked UCLA out of the polls and climbed back in at #24. They also rise to 8-4 while dropping UCLA to 8-4. Although their records are the same, their seasons will be remembered so much differently. USC advances to the Pac-12 Championship Game next Saturday against Stanford. The winner will get an automatic Rose Bowl bid to play against either Michigan State, Ohio State, or Iowa, depending on how things shake out in the Big Ten. It will be the first time USC plays in the Pac-12 CG, but not the first time they won the Pac-12 South.

Back in 2011, after handing the Bruins the third largest margin of defeat in the series, USC had a two conference game lead on second place UCLA. However, Larry Scott didn’t want postseason ineligible USC to screw up his inaguaral Pac-12 Championship Game, so he elected to have 6-6 (5-4 in conference play) UCLA represent the Pac-12 South. When asked whether USC was the Pac-12 South champ, a Pac-12 spokesman stated, “USC can not own that title. USC can say that it finished first, but not champion. Our division champions participate in the championship game, so UCLA will be considered champion, or co-champions should it finish tied with ASU.” So the barely bowl eligible Bruins faced off against the 10-2 (8-1) Ducks—two teams that USC beat in back-to-back weeks leading up the to the Pac-12 title game.

Before the Bruins even sniffed the field, they applied for a waiver to remain bowl eligible if they lost against Oregon (which they did). UCLA went on to lose to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, finishing 6-8—a record earning them the distinction of losingest bowl team. Those were interesting times.

Speaking of 2011, the 50-0 win against UCLA was the last time USC has won against UCLA prior to the beatdown they suffered on Saturday. The 50-point margin of victory still hasn’t been matched by UCLA during their 3-game win streak. After adding the margins from the 38-28, 35-14, and 38-20 wins, the total comes out to 49. So close. It only took three tries.

The Trojans ended the Bruins’ three game series streak coming out of sanctions and on its fourth head coach in four games against UCLA. What’s your excuse?

The pregame already started favorably, as Slash performed for the national anthem. The Trojans and Bruins fought back and forth with a couple of lead changes. The half closed with the Trojans on top, 20-14. That was when the Spirit of Troy broke out the Star Wars halftime performance, complete with a personalized intro from Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, if you didn’t know). He a dropped a “May the Force be with you and fight on!” at the very end.

The Force was certainly with the officials as nothing went over their heads. They announced every single time there was a jersey switch on kickoffs. Jim L. Mora subjected us to all that referee face time. Heck, the refs might have gotten more time of possession than UCLA did.

One thing is for certain: USC dominated the possession statistic, controlling the ball for 40:01. That’s literally just enough for me to say they had the ball more than twice as long as UCLA did at 19:59. The fourth quarter was probably the most insane. The Trojans possessed it for 13:52 out of the possible 15:00.

Outside of Justin Davis running for 100 yards in the fourth quarter alone, no single player had particularly impressive stats. Cody Kessler had less than 200 yards passing, JuJu had less than 100 yards receiving, and Ronald Jones wasn’t even close to breaking 100 yards rushing. However, they still managed to win by a three score margin. Time of possession, a +3 turnover margin, and being able to score on defense and special teams made that possible. Every phase of the game did their part with no major breakdowns. Even the penalty department was reasonable.

The offense was not doing very much early on, so the defense stepped up and made some great stops. USC had changed their defensive scheme significantly from what they were doing the rest of the season. They went mostly man-to-man with a single high safety in either Chris Hawkins or Marvell Tell. There were also personnel differences like Adoree’ at safety and Porter Gustin starting at rush end. Justin Wilcox brought extra pressure often from the safety spot to get true freshman Josh Rosen off balance. The crowd noise every single third down certainly did him no favors.

A flustered quarterback tends to look for their favorite targets. For Rosen, they are Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte. The duo account for almost 50% of UCLA’s receiving yards and nearly 70% of their passing touchdowns. Su’a Cravens was manned up on Duarte and Iman Marshall on Payton. Marshall made them pay for the targets with two pass break ups and two interceptions—Rosen had not thrown any interceptions since losing to Stanford on October 15. Cravens had 3 pass break ups, Adoree’ had 2, and the true freshment Tell and Isaiah Langley each had 1. In total, they were just shy of double digit pass break ups. Basically, the defensive backs knocked about one out of every four of Rosen’s passes out of the air.

The defense also managed to sack Rosen three times. He was so out of sorts, he even tried to throw to his own offensive lineman. This wasn’t the first time that a UCLA quarterback threw a pass to an ineligible receiver while desperately trying to avoid a sack when their team was losing in the fourth quarter. Back in 2010, the Bruins were losing by 21 with 1 minute to go and Richard Brehaut wildly tossed one up after being hit by Nick Perry. The ball fell into the hands of an offensive guard who then fumbled it into the hands of an offensive tackle. The comical play was taken back by penalty.

All of the defense’s stops set up the special teams and offense to score. The Trojans scored 13 points off of turnovers and even had Adoree’ return a punt for a touchdown. UCLA’s special teams had allowed a mere 6 punt return yards all season. Adoree’ outdid it by seven times, returning it 42-yards for a touchdown and retaking the lead late in the second quarter.

Halfway through the third quarter, Rosen and Paul Perkins led the Bruins down the field to retake the lead. That score at 8:38 in the third quarter would be the last time UCLA scored. A minute and 20 seconds later, Rasheem Green returned the aforementioned forced fumble for a touchdown, restoring order to the scoreboard.

After the offense woke back up, they drove down the field and allowed Darreus to outjump a UCLA DB and stretch out for a satisfying touchdown. After that, it was time for the Trojans to control the clock. On their last two drives, USC ran 20 plays: 17 runs, 2 kneel downs, and 1 pass. That lone pass was a touchdown to tight end Taylor McNamara.

In the waning moments, the Coliseum echoed loudly with chants of “We are SC.” The volume and energy level was something that had been missed for almost two entire seasons.

USC had finally evicted the ungrateful tenant. With that, they resumed ownership of Los Angeles.

Trojan Westwood

They even lit the tree in Westwood for the Trojans.

CommBro Breaker

The work is not yet done. The Crosstown Cup score is tied at 25-25 with the football victory. Also, when the Trojan Knights nab the Victory Bell back, they still gotta give that thing a fresh coat of paint. Lastly, the football team still has to take down Stanford in their extended season. I sure hope they didn’t just get the extra game to have an extra loss. Unlike bowl games, they don’t get multi-week prepartion. It will be a quick turnaround.

Misleading Stats of the Week: Clay Helton is undefeated as head coach against Stanford and in the postseason (because he hasn’t faced Stanford as a head coach and has only played in one post season game as head coach).

USC is undefeated against UCLA in games played before November—all five of them, going 4-0-1.

Bonus Trash Talk

Origins of the Eight Clap

Warning: The following should not be taken as historically sound or accurate.

Abstract: In order to understand the etymology of the Eight Clap, one must look further back into history. Across the city, the University of Southern California had adopted the Trojan moniker in 1912. They adopted a curious hand signal that many Bruins mistake for saying they are second place. However, this is a misnomer. The Trojan “Fight On” hand sign is a true counterpart to the Eight Clap.

Back in ancient Troy, Trojans would cut off the index and middle fingers of conquered opponents. This was a preventative measure to stop conquered groups from wielding swords, spears or bows in retaliation. As a result, Trojans would taunt their opponents by holding those very fingers up, as if to say, “Haa, I still have my fingers.” It was a sign of being part of the ruling class.The modern day USC Trojans revived that ancient taunt as they conquered the football fields of their opponents. The Bruins were one of these conquered opponents, which, to this day, have never taken a lead in the series.

As most marginalized groups would, they began to embrace their identity. Since conquered groups lost two fingers, they role-played as if they did as well. In order to account for the ‘lost’ fingers, they invented a clap involving only eight fingers: three from one hand and five from the other. The Bruins would clap this combination together repeatedly in futility. As the clap evolved, they tried to obscure its origins while attempting to keep a semblance of tradition. As a result, the modern day Bruin Eight Clap involves clapping eight times instead of using eight fingers.

Fight On!

Fight On!