Dorian Thompson-Robinson fell back to pass and had to lead one final strike to propel the Bruins to victory.
It was his final throw at the Rose Bowl when the Trojans picked him up in midfield to dictate the loss.
No. 16 UCLA Football (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) lost to No. 7 USC (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12) in a 48-45 barnburner Saturday night. The Bruins have now lost three of their last five games and three of their last four against the Trojans.
There was hope for UCLA early on, however, and some serious juice late thanks to well-timed sacks as well as snappy stats and real toughness from Thompson-Robinson and others, but his three picks ended up costing his team big bucks.
And, as so often in the Chip Kelly era, the Bruins’ defense faltered.
UCLA actually opened the game with a fourth stop, then rested when USC missed a field goal and threw a pick. They capitalized on the missed kick with an 80-yard scoring drive that ended in a quarterback sneak, then Thompson-Robinson hit Michael Ezeike right after the interception with a wide open tight end for a 30-yard touchdown for 14: 0
The Trojans stole back some momentum by scoring a touchdown on a quarterback draw from Caleb Williams, and they scored a field goal after forcing the Bruins to punt. A second QB sneak touchdown from Thompson-Robinson seemed to give UCLA a little more control again, but USC responded with a touchdown to tighten things up again.
Just as the Bruins were starting to move the ball en route to the half in the two-minute practice, Thompson-Robinson threw a pick to botch possession. The Trojans were forced to hit a 33-yard field goal after throwing three straight incompletes, but they missed that one too.
Instead of ticking the last 39 seconds on the clock and going into halftime with a 21:17 lead, Kelly decided to push again. That led to another Thompson-Robinson interception, and USC hit a 49-yard field goal to cut the lead to a head into the break.
UCLA regained those three points on the other side of the half, but then quickly gave up 14 points to lose the lead.
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After Williams hit receiver Jordan Addison for a 35-yard touchdown, Thompson-Robinson returned him with a stripsack. It took the Trojans two games to get back into the end zone and suddenly it was 34-24 USC.
That opened up a hot scoring streak for both sides as the next six drives all resulted in touchdowns.
Thompson-Robinson hit Ezeike from 6 yards for his second touchdown of the night, and after throwing a 55-yard touchdown at receiver Kazmeir Allen, he threw another at Ezeike from 1 yard. Despite that string of goalscoring, the Bruins couldn’t close the gap to less than three points as the Trojans had an equally strong run of their own.
UCLA finally got a stop after marching USC to 34 when edge rusher Laiatu dismissed Latu Williams in third place to force their first punt of the night. The Bruins, 3:15 down on their own 11 at 2:15 on the clock, took over and set up the crucial drive that could have changed the course of either team’s season.
Thompson-Robinson beat receiver Jake Bobo for a first down but made the crucial pick two games later.
The Bruins’ star fifth-year quarterback completed 23 of his 38 passes for four touchdowns and rushed for 81 yards for two more points. Thompson-Robinson’s four turnovers may have resulted in just two goals, but the 10 Trojan points that resulted proved the difference in the instantly legendary rivalry showdown.
Williams, on the other hand, protected the ball early after his lone giveaway and finished the night with 503 total yards and three total touchdowns. Running back Austin Jones did a lot of damage himself with 120 yards and two touchdowns, passing Zach Charbonnet, who finished with 95 yards on a worst 5 yards per carry of the season.
The win kept USC in the college football playoff chase and maintained its place in the Pac-12 title race. UCLA, on the other hand, saw its chances of winning a championship completely dwindle.
The Bruins must now beat Cal on the road on Nov. 25 to have nine wins and better their 2021 record. The season that had grown to be one of the most productive in program history has officially taken a turn in the other direction, and watching the Trojans exit the Rose Bowl with the Victory Bell only cemented it.
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