Another night of frustrating offense. Another night with too few defensive stops. Another loss to USC. This time it was Allen Bradford who tortured UCLA's defense, rushing for 212 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns to propel the Trojans to a 28-14 win in the annual Crosstown Rivalry game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel described the loss as a "difficult, bitter loss for us. We certainly had our chances and plenty of opportunities."
Early on, it was USC (8-5, 5-4 Pac-10) with most of the opportunities. The Trojans drove the field on their first possession, but turned the ball over on downs after Marc Tyler was stopped on fourth-and-one from the Bruins' 22-yard line. But after a UCLA three-and-out, the Trojans struck for the first score of the game, connecting on a five-yard touchdown pass from running back Dillon Baxter to tight end Rhett Ellison.
UCLA (4-8, 2-7) quickly answered back when Johnathan Franklin scampered for a 59-yard touchdown run to cap a two play, 65-yard drive, tying the score at 7-7. Franklin finished the game with 109 yards, but his second quarter fumble allowed the Trojans to regain the lead. Linebacker Malcolm Smith scooped the loose ball off the Rose Bowl turf and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 halftime lead.
"Three turnovers and one for a touchdown was the result of this game. It's 10-7 if we don't fumble a ball and then kick a field goal," said Neuheisel.
The turnover theme continued in the third quarter with the two teams combining to give the ball away four times without scoring. Through it all, the Bruins still trailed by a touchdown heading into the final quarter.
It was in the fourth that Bradford took over. After a Jeff Locke punt pinned the Trojans back at their three-yard line, USC turned to their senior tailback, giving him the ball seven times on a nine play, 97-yard drive that ended with Bradford going 47 yards on a screen pass for a score.
The Bruins' next possession ended with a turnover on downs after Taylor Embree failed to hold onto a fourth-down pass in the end zone. Two plays later, Bradford broke through the defensive line and ran 73 yards untouched for his second score of the game, giving USC a 28-7 lead.
UCLA scored on a 10-yard pass from Richard Brehaut to tight end Joseph Fauria with 23 seconds remaining to avoid what would have been a third consecutive 28-7 loss. It was another difficult night for the sophomore quarterback, throwing for 230 yards with a touchdown and an interception but was constantly under pressure from the USC defense.
After three straight losses to end the season and four consecutive losses to the Trojans, Neuheisel acknowledged that changes would have to be made within the program.
"I've got to look hard at how we are going to turn the corner," he said. "But some of the things that have plagued us continue to plague us. Those are hard decisions and that's hard analysis, but it's absolutely mandatory that I do it and it's absolutely mandatory that we come up with positive conclusions that will make those great Bruin fans keep coming back, excited about coming back."