It turned out to be a shootout, but not in the way last year's down-to-the-wire crosstown showdown was.
UCLA football (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) wound up blowout out USC (4-6, 3-5) 62-33 on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which were the most combined points ever scored in the rivalry matchup. UCLA's 62 points were the most its ever scored against USC, which is what helped them pull away in an absolute stomping of the Trojans.
The game started on a sour note for Bruin fans, though, and not just because quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw two quick picks.
The defense was playing soft and missing tackles from the opening moments, and the Trojans marched down into the red zone with ease on the first possession of the day. If it weren't for a couple of key drops, USC could have scored a touchdown to get things rolling, but they had to settle for a field goal instead.
And then came the two interceptions by Thompson-Robinson.
The first one was on a roll out to his right, bombing it down the sideline towards a double-covered Kyle Philips. The next caused a bit more controversy since receiver Chase Cota was seemingly tripped up by a defender while running his route, but the result was the same – the Trojans were taking over, and Thompson-Robinson started the game 0-for-2 with a -200 passer rating.
USC's true freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart threw an interception of his own to safety Quentin Lake, though, and the Trojans were unable to turn either of Thompson-Robinson's giveaways into points.
UCLA got back in it pretty quickly as a result, taking an early 7-3 lead on a 94-yard touchdown drive.
That drive was hardly a turning point for the Bruins, however, as they immediately allowed the Trojans to move down the field, then punted when they got the ball back. Trailing 10-7, people weren't too happy with how the team was looking overall against a sub-.500 team.
UCLA's following two drives went for touchdowns, so it wasn't long before they took control of the game and started slowly getting people back on board.
Thompson-Robinson first hit Philips on a crossing route for a 23-yard score, then he found receiver Kazmeir Allen deep over the top for a 58-yard bomb.
Leading 21-10, Thompson-Robinson made the biggest, most talked about play of the day.
His 4-yard rushing touchdown was a nice carry, but ultimately nothing worth writing home about or putting on SportsCenter Top 10. For one, though, it gave the Bruins 18-point lead nearing the half.
What really made it stand out was Thompson-Robinson's impromptu celebration, when a kid came up to him in the front row of the stands and handed him a hat and pen. Thompson-Robinson signed the hat, tossed it back and drew a flag, but he became the talk of the Twittersphere for doing it.
After that, USC scored a handful of points, but it never really got to a point where it looked like they were truly making a game of it again.
So instead of talking about the back-and-forths and every last play, it's best to highlight the moments that got the people talking the most – special teams touchdowns, surprise breakouts and feel-good stories that helped UCLA create a massive gap down the stretch.
The second half started another long touchdown drive for the Bruins, who went up 35-17, and the floodgates were fully open from then on out.
A missed field goal by kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira led to a quick scoring drive by USC, which was continuing the chew up the UCLA secondary outside the numbers. For as well as the Bruins' offense was doing, scoring a touchdown or attempting a field goal on their last five meaningful drives, the defense was still giving up points.
That wouldn't matter, since Allen took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards into the end zone.
From there, things just got even further out of control. If it weren't for that missed field goal, UCLA would have scored touchdowns on nine of their last 10 meaningful drives – and that doesn't even count Allen's special teams score.
The Bruins did score some more points, and some style points on top of that.
Thompson-Robinson, who has come under fire this season and across his whole career at UCLA for trying and failing to hurdle defenders, finally landed one Saturday, leaping over a Trojan into the end zone to run the score up even further.
To finish the scoring, it wasn't one of the Bruins' many star playmakers who got them over the 60-point mark.
Instead, it was former walk-on Ethan Fernea, a sixth-year special teams ace who moved from receiver to running back in the offseason and had surgery on his wrist in September. With a big club on his arm, still not fully recovered from the injury, he got stopped dead in his tracks up the middle before busting it to the outside and taking it 42 yards for the score.
Not long after, the inevitable became official, and the clock hit all zeros.
The Bruins would be taking the Victory Bell back, and it would be getting an all-blue makeover
For those who wanted Chip Kelly gone, Saturday presented some conflicting emotions, but also a wave of acceptance.
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