There will be no storybook ending for UCLA (4-7, 2-6 Pac 12), a team that had hoped to win out, get the program back on track, on solid ground, and get in a bowl game. That dream was derailed by arch rival USC (8-3, 7-2 Pac 12).
The game was a microcosm of USC’s season. The Trojans started slow and were even trailed 14-7, but then finished strong, dominating the Bruins to the tune of a 36-14 beat down.
This game could also be seen as a microcosm of UCLA’s season. It looked liked the Bruins had some promise, but couldn’t muster any running game making the offense one dimensional.
Once the Trojans, more importantly freshman quarterback, Sam Darnold overcame early mistakes, the Trojan quarterback put on a display why SC is playing at such a high level.
Darnold made the kind of plays for the Trojans that Brett Hundley would do for the Bruins and like Hundley, Darnold’s play led to USC’s victory.
On the night, Darnold completed 25 passes out of 36 attempts and two touchdowns. He did throw two early picks, but didn’t let that affect his play. Several times, Darnold was able to by time with his feet, extend the play and pick up positive yardage, many times for first downs.
Trojan running back, Ronald Jones II rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He picked up 60 of his rushing yards on a third down and one where bursted to the second level and that was all she wrote.
“Disappointing, obviously, night for us,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. “I thought our week of preparation was outstanding. Our attitude was right. We were in the right place.”
“We started out well, but after the first quarter, we struggled to stay on the field and struggled to get off the field. They had 95 plays to our 50 something. They did a heck of a job. It was just a really tough and humbling night.”
It was a tough way for many UCLA’s seniors to go out, but Mora wasn’t going to let what these young men have done for the program go unnoticed.
“I told our guys afterwards that I’m proud of them and especially proud of the seniors who played their last game tonight,” Mora said. “Regardless of how this year has gone, those young men have done some tremendous things here. They’ve been responsible for creating a culture that I think will endure.”
“It’s obviously camouflaged by our record this year. This was the first game that we’ve kind of not been in. That’s disappointing, but I’m proud of the Fabians [Moreau] and the Randalls [Goforth] and the Elis [Ankou] and the Fafauls [Mike] and the Conors [Mcdermott] and all those guys because they’ve raised the expectations, and it’s up to everyone else to live up to those expectations. We have not done that.”
“We will prepare extremely hard for Cal, and we’ll try to get a win and we’ll build off that. Congratulations to Clay [Helton] and his team. They’re a great football team. Sam Darnold is a heck of a player. He gave us fits. One thing we’ve done well this year is affecting quarterbacks. We just couldn’t get him down. He’s a heck of a football player, and that’s a heck of a football team.”
“But I’d like to reiterate, for one last time here at the Rose Bowl, what these seniors have accomplished. I’m sorry it doesn’t show because of our record this year. They deserve, rather than to be chastised and brought down because of their record, they deserve a lot of praise for what they have accomplished in their careers here.”