Winning Ugly (and Controversially): USC 28 UCLA 7


At various times this season, I have written Trojan “Report Cards,” which break down USC’s efforts by unit: offensive, defensive, and special teams, including coaching.

However, I have found this exercise to be tedious and limiting in terms of being able to express what I want to say.

So, in what can only be described as a stroke of inspiration, I have decided to combine a pseudo report card with a commentary on what I saw last night at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

USC beat UCLA 28-7 in what can only be described as a forgettable game.

At least until the last Trojan drive of the game.

But more on that later.

Here is the report card:

Offense: D-

Defense: A-

Special Teams: B+

Coaching: C+

Controversy: A+++++

Now for the breakdown:

The offense was abysmal. Period.

And it all starts, or in this case, ends with the offensive line.

The supposed strength of this year’s USC team has been, at best, mediocre this year.

Unable to consistently open holes for Joe McKnight and Allen Bradford, the Trojan running game has suffered.

In turn, this has impacted the passing game, which, without a steady running game, is unable to effectively call play action passes.

Because of this, Matt Barkley has had to operate in less than optimum conditions.

I know, a simplistic analysis, but one that nonetheless, has merit.

Of course, Matt Barkley has to take responsibility for some bonehead passes but he is a true freshman and this is to be expected.

Last night, the Trojans were the recipient of four turnovers and managed, until the controversial last drive, one score.


Now, I understand that UCLA has a good defense and that UCLA defensive tackle, Brian Price, is a beast, but come on…

One score?

All of this was reflected in the Trojan offense last night and is something that will have to be focus for next week’s Arizona game and beyond.

Meanwhile, the Trojan defense continued with its Jekyl and Hyde performance with last night being of the good doctor variety.

However, this was against an anemic UCLA offense that must have their offensive coordinator, Norm Chow up at night munching Rolaids like they are going out of style.

Regardless, the Trojan defense was magnificent all night long, including creating those four turnovers that the offense pretty much squandered.

Included in those turnovers, was Malcolm Smith’s “pick-six” interception, which got the scoring started for USC.

So, despite the woeful UCLA offense, it is hard to take exception with the Trojan defense.

As far as the special teams go, they did fine.

UCLA was supposed to have a big advantage in this area but not last night.

Jacob Harfman delivered many big punts (with the Trojan offense in continual “stall mode,” he had to).

And Damien Williams, the nations second best punt returner, often gave the Trojan offense good field position from which to bog down.

As far as the coaching goes, again, defense (Pete Carroll) did well while the offense (Jeremy Bates), not so much.

Which brings us to the Trojans final offensive series of the game.

And the long bomb touchdown that Matt Barkley threw to make a game already won, 28-7.

Many people, especially Trojan haters, are going to label me a hypocrite for my support of Pete Carroll.

After all, I recently wrote an article blasting Jim Harbaugh for running up the score against the Trojans but this is fundamentally different.

Pete Carroll had no intention of passing or even running in that final series.

Leading 21-7 with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Carroll had the offense lined up in the “victory” formation and ordered Matt Barkley take a knee.

Then Rick Nueheisel called a time out.

And they had two more time outs as well.

This, according to coach Carroll, convinced him that UCLA wanted to continue playing the game.

So Pete Carroll and Matt Barkley obliged him.

The resulting long touchdown pass drew the ire of the UCLA bench and their players, who streamed out to the playing field in indignation.

But why the indignation?

Was USC supposed to just stop playing when it became apparent that the Bruins still intended to?

UCLA should use that indignant energy to play football the whole 60 minutes, especially when it was they, who by calling the timeout, motivated the notion that this game was still to be contested.

Of course, the bottom line here is that this now one sided rivalry has an undertone of bad blood between Nueheisel and coach Carroll.


With the Trojans winning nine out of the last ten in this series, it needed some controversy.

And maybe next time Nueheisel will think twice before calling useless timeouts.