LOS ANGELES—The annual So-Cal showdown between UCLA and USC pitted Trojan senior Quarterback Cody Kessler against Bruin freshman Josh Rosen, experience won out as USC defeated UCLA 40-21. The victory snaps the Bruins three-game winning streak, and Kessler finally got the monkey off his back by knocking off crosstown rival UCLA, his final game at the Coliseum Kessler completed 15 of 26 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
With the victory, USC captures their first ever PAC-12 South title and will face Stanford in the PAC-12 championship next Saturday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. “I’m proud of our seniors, they deserve to go out as champions after what they have been through,” said interim coach Clay Helton. After the fallout and embarrassment over firing head coach Steve Sarkisian mid-season, these Trojans are 5-2 under Helton, a remarkable turnaround led by balance and time possession. If USC beats Stanford next week they will win the PAC-12 and earn a spot in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game.
UCLA actually led 21-20 in the third quarter until the momentum swung in USC’s favor; Rosen was racked by SC lineman Claude Pelon. The ball came loose and was recovered by Rasheem Green, who returned the fumble 31 yards for a touchdown. UCLA wasn’t able to run the ball effectively, and the Trojans pass rush was unstoppable. The Trojan D in one word was ferocious. No time to throw the ball, and the secondary of USC was covering WR stars Thomas Duarte and Jordan Peyton like a blanket. Rosen finished with 227 yards, a TD, but threw two second-half interceptions to Iman Marshall.
Although both programs end the regular season at 8-4, they are heading in opposite directions. The Trojans will play next week for a chance to play in the Rose Bowl if they can get past the Cardinals; in the previous meeting at the Coliseum, Stanford defeated USC 41-31. The Trojans are a much different team and seem to have a very good chance to play in the Iconic Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Congratulations USC on your PAC-12 South Title, coming out of the wreckage of your season to capture a Championship. Well Done.