Midway through the fourth quarter, USC’s senior quarterback Matt Barkley drove the Trojan offense down the field and found sophomore wide receiver Marqise Lee for a 39-yard completion, before finishing off the drive with a touchdown to bring USC within three points.
UCLA junior outside linebacker Anthony Barr wasn’t about to let that happen again.
After redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin punched in a touchdown, the Trojans got the ball back with less than four minutes to go with the Bruins up by 10.
As Barkley dropped back to pass, Barr burst through the gaps to Barkley’s blind side and not only sacked Barkley with a thundering hit, but removed him from the rest of the game. With USC’s quarterback knocked out of the game, UCLA held on for a 38-28 victory at the Rose Bowl.
“I had missed him a couple plays earlier, in the drive earlier when they ended up scoring, off that roll out and dump to Marqise Lee down the field,” Barr said.
“I was kind of beating myself up over that so I told myself that if I get any opportunity I’m just going to have to take full advantage of it.”
The result of the play was a five-yard loss, as well as USC redshirt freshman quarterback Max Wittek having to take the rest of the snaps with the game on the line.
But although Barr may have had one of the deciding plays of the game, he was relatively quiet statistically in the first half. But his role expanded, and was crucial to the Bruin defense. Barr was even used to cover highly touted Lee at the beginning of the game.
“He had a really good game from the beginning to the end. We asked him to do a lot of stuff. We asked him to cover the tight ends, man-to-man, and also stop the run ““ and then he dropped in zones too to make plays and also rush the quarterback,” defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said. “We moved him in a lot of different spots and tried to capitalize on the way he brings pressure.”
Big man, big game
Redshirt senior wide receiver Joseph Fauria arrived to UCLA after transferring from one of USC’s other storied rivals ““ Notre Dame.
In his first two games against the Trojans in a Bruin jersey, Fauria had a combined four catches for 49 yards.
In tonight’s game alone, he had 61 yards on four catches, including a 17-yard touchdown grab.
Even early on in the season, Fauria wasn’t living up to the potential many believed he had after the conclusion of last season. Instead of the huge target in the red zone, he became a huge target for criticism. But as of late, Fauria has come into his own and come up big in crucial situations as he did today.
Facing third and thirteen in the fourth quarter and holding only a three-point lead, Fauria was on the receiving end of a 15-yard pass to the heart of USC territory that set up the last touchdown of the game.
“I just got a text from (Franklin) talking about my journey and how others see it besides myself,” Fauria said. “Sometimes I forget about it and I just try to live in the now. It’s been tough, it hasn’t been easy, but it makes this all the sweeter. It’s been a long road but God has a plan for me and it feels great. … Just enjoying it in the now because this stuff doesn’t happen.”
Baca backing up
With redshirt junior guard Greg Capella out with an injury, centers have been at a premium for the Bruins. Capella is one of the few players that had experience snapping the ball in a game.
For a brief moment, UCLA found out just how thin it was at the position.
When starting center, redshirt freshman Jake Brendel, went down with an injury early in the third quarter, the Bruins had to shuffle to put together an offensive line.
Redshirt senior Jeff Baca was forced to slide over from guard to center and redshirt junior Albert Cid slid in to guard to fill the void.
However, Baca has been known as a jack of all trades on the line and was able to hold his own before Brendel re-entered the game.
Even with the rain, Hundley didn’t doubt Baca’s ability to get snaps off.
“I knew he could do it ““ I trust Baca,” Hundley said. “I knew Jake was going to be back so I wasn’t too worried, but I trust (Baca) doing what he needs to do.”
In the first half, redshirt junior running back Damien Thigpen was slow to get up after a carry. He eventually had to be helped off the field but did much of the walking of his own volition.
Thigpen would miss the rest of the game and coach Jim Mora had no update on his status afterward. He also missed the previous game against Washington State with a knee injury.