If you listen to UCLA coach Jim Mora (and why wouldn’t you? The guy just beat USC for the first time in forever), one win does not make a football monopoly.
“I understand what this rivalry is all about,” Mora said. “But it’s just one game. Until we can string some together and do it over and over again, then it has significance.”
If you weren’t convinced that Mora is one helluva coach before this game, you should be now. Mora was a genius on Saturday, he got everything between the lines right.
But this time, he’s 100 percent wrong.
This one doesn’t have significance, Coach? Let’s recap.
This is only the second time UCLA has beaten USC since 1998 and the first time since 2006.
The Bruins are headed to the Pac-12 Championship game on Nov. 30, no matter the result against the Stanford Cardinal next week, keeping hope alive for the school’s first Rose Bowl berth in 14 years.
These Bruins can be the first group in school history to win 11 games in a season.
Did I mention UCLA beat USC? Not only did UCLA win, it won by tallying its largest point total in the rivalry game since 1996, and such a defeat for USC may have sealed the unfortunate fate of its third-year coach.
It would have been one thing if UCLA had eked out an upset victory over a highly ranked USC team (2006’s 13-9 win over the No. 2 Trojans comes to mind) but there was no doubt about Saturday’s 38-28 result.
UCLA slapped USC around at every turn. The first play from scrimmage was an interception by redshirt senior cornerback Aaron Hester, the very cornerback that everyone was sure would be overmatched against a bevy of talented USC receivers.
Midway through the fourth quarter, USC cut UCLA’s once-24-point lead to three as an air of “here we go again” fell over the Rose Bowl. Most teams would have been content to get conservative and try to run out the clock.
Not this one. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley led the offense on an 83-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 29-yard touchdown run from Westwood’s mayor and all-time leading rusher, redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin.
“That’s just how we play football,” Mora said. “We’re not going to change. … We weren’t going to go into a shell. That’s not the way you do it. That’s not how you win games like this.”
Even with a 10-point lead and two minutes to play, anyone who’s watched UCLA football over the last 10 years knew the game was far from over. All season long, followers of this team have been hesitant to say it has turned a corner.
Junior linebacker Anthony Barr made sure there were no doubts.
After one quick, fateful, pump fake, USC’s once-Heisman candidate quarterback Matt Barkley was demolished by Barr, who came off the edge unblocked.
“You kind of felt the air come out of their team,” Barr said. “He’s the leader of that team and anytime one of your leaders goes down, it’s tough to replace.”
As Barkley lay on the ground wincing in pain and UCLA players began motioning for USC’s training staff to attend to the wounded Trojan, it was clear the football monopoly in Los Angeles was officially over.
“I knew we had the game in the bag when AB made that hit and put him out the game, yeah,” said redshirt junior receiver Shaquelle Evans. “It was a wrap from there.”
Mora has ended the monopoly alright, and he didn’t need to take out an ad in the Los Angeles Times to do it.
It was over when Mora took over this program in January and kicked three knuckleheads off the team.
It was over when Mora told his players that if they wanted to uphold the tradition of going over the wall, “they might as well keep going.”
It was over when the Bruins boarded the bus for Mora’s boot camp in San Bernardino.
But it was officially over on Saturday.
True to form, Mora tried to downplay the significance of the official end to the monopoly, saying he would follow his routine. Another local columnist reminded him that beating USC is not at all routine.
“It is for me,” Mora said. “I’m 1-0.”