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UCLA Defines Their Season... And USC's Too!

UCLA's 38-28 victory over USC stamps their season a success, and USC's a failure.

Johnathan Franklin's 29-yard touchdown run sealed the victory for UCLA.  Franklin (Dorsey High School) rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the game.  Photo by Jason Lewis

Robert Woods (Gardena Serra High School) caught a 2-point conversion in the 4th quarter after a Marqise Lee (Gardena Serra High School) touchdown reception.  USC looked like they were back in the game at that point, but UCLA answered back.  Now USC looks like their failures could be historic.  Photo by Jason Lewis


Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net

By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)

One game, the City's big one, summed up UCLA and USC's respective seasons.  No matter what happens after this point, UCLA's season is a total success, and USC's season is a total failure.

UCLA started the season without any real expectations, and now they are PAC-12 South champions with a shot at the Rose Bowl.  USC had lofty expectations, but they have not come close to reaching any of them (national title, conference title, Heisman Trophy).

But this game meant a lot more than what is happening this season.  This game meant that UCLA has earned respect for their turnaround, and after losing 50-0 last year to USC, UCLA players will have lifelong memories of knocking off their rival.

A number of UCLA players were jumping into the stands to celebrate with their fans, and the players had a dance off in their locker room after the game.  The emotions were high, and the feelings were great. 

"It means everything to me, because since I was a kid I've always loved UCLA and hated USC," said junior wide receiver Shaquelle Evans (Inglewood High School).  "So to get a win against a team I hate is just the greatest feeling ever."

Around the City, it would appear that this is a USC town, which UCLA is looking to change.

"You go across the city and you don't see any UCLA products," said senior defensive end Datone Jones (Compton High School).  "No gear, no hats, no clothes.  Nothing.  Just to feel that feeling for a year, it feels good to take back this championship.  Let’s paint the city blue!"

Jones knows a number of players on USC's team from playing youth and high school football, and he said that none of them would be taking his phone calls for a while.  He also pointed out how important this win is.

"They say it doesn't mean anything unless you beat USC," Jones said.  "We beat them.  We dominated.  We're PAC-12 champs, we're 9-2, you can't say anything more."

UCLA came up big in pretty much every aspect of the game to knock off USC. 

UCLA freshman quarterback Brett Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards and one touchdown.  He also rushed for two touchdowns and he did not throw an interception. 

UCLA senior running back Johnathan Franklin (Dorsey High School) rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns, with 97 of those yards coming in the second half, as UCLA was holding off USC's comeback from a 24-0 deficit.  Franklin's 29-yard touchdown run in the forth quarter sealed the victory.

“God is good!” Franklin said.  “He has blessed me so much, and he brought me through so much.

“We’ve never beat them.  We got embarrassed last year.  It’s a blessing to do this.  I’ll remember this forever!”

Evans also came up big against the team that he says that he hates.  He caught eight passes for 114 yards. 

Defensively, UCLA forced three turnovers, as they intercepted USC quarterback Matt Barkley twice and they forced a fumble.  On special teams UCLA blocked a punt, which led to a touchdown, and they blocked a field goal. 

UCLA pretty much did everything right, and when USC cut the lead to 24-20 early in the 3rd quarter, or to 31-28 in the 4th quarter, UCLA did not falter. 

"This shows that the culture has changed around this program," Evans said.  "No matter what happens. Like last year, when we got down we could never get back up.  They made their plays, we made our plays, and we never blinked.  That is one of our sayings.  Never blink."

Many teams will become conservative and try to sit on a lead, but with USC charging back into the game, UCLA stuck to their game plan, which was a balance between grinding it out with Franklin, but also attacking with Hundley, who does not look like a freshman at all.  He has the poise of an upper classman.

"I thought when he needed to he hung in there, he kept his eyes down the field, and he made the throws," first year UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora Jr. said.  "Money throws.  Hard throws.  Critical throws.  And at important times of the game.  We're really just seeing how great Brett Hundley can be." 

Hundley's competitive drive is one of the major reasons why UCLA has made such a huge turnaround from the past few disappointing seasons, and he is not waiting until he is an upper classman to prove himself.

"I expect to be the best and do what I have to do and work hard and set myself up for the opportunity game in and game out," Hundley said. 

Surprising, for a freshman Hundley is given the opportunity to run the offense when he needs to.

"I have a lot of command in the offense," Hundley said.  "Sometimes if the plays aren't coming in I'll call the play and run it.  Sometimes I'll make a check. I made a couple checks in this game, and I called a couple of my own plays."

This is just one victory for UCLA, and it is a major one, but at the end of the day it only counts as one.  The season is viewed as a success, but it is not over yet, and this team is ready to see how far they can go.  They will host No. 8 Stanford this Saturday, and then either play No. 5 Oregon or have a rematch against Stanford a week later in the PAC-12 Championship Game. 

This UCLA team could find themselves in the Rose Bowl, which was unthinkable heading into this season.

"We had a lot of doubters this year, after last year, and you see what we're doing this year," Hundley said.  "It just takes that one little change and we can do anything."

As for the series against USC, Mora is not satisfied with this lone victory. 

"Until we can string some together, and do it over and over again, then it has some significance,” Mora said.

That is the new mindset of UCLA's football program.  It is a winning mindset, and seeing that they appear to have the better coach, and they certainly have a much better quarterback than USC, the football monopoly in Los Angeles may finally be over.

As for USC, they entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.  They had the frontrunner in the Heisman race in Barkley.  They were supposed to dominate.  But sitting at 7-4, they are now out of the top 25 polls, they have had to hand over the Victory Bell to UCLA, and chances are next week, without Barkley due to a shoulder injury suffered late in the loss to UCLA, they will probably have to hand over Jeweled Shillelagh to No. 1 Notre Dame, who will be coming to the Coliseum. 

If USC loses on Saturday, they will tie Mississippi's 1964 team as the only teams to be the preseason No. 1 team in the nation and go onto lose five games.  USC is eligible for a bowl game, so there is the potential that they could lose six games this year, which a preseason No. 1 team has never done. 

Since the AP poll started in 1950, Only Notre Dame (1950, 4-4-1), Iowa (1961, 5-4), Ohio State (1962, 6-3), and USC (1963, 7-3), have started the season as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation and finished the season unranked. 

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden has told USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin that he will be back next year.  The fact that it needed to be said, or that it was even discussed, shows how much of a failure this season has been for USC.  As of right now there are six PAC-12 schools in the BCS top 25 standings.  USC is not one of them.        

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