For the second straight year, UCLA’s special teams faltered against USC.
The Trojans converted a first down on a fake punt run, blocked a Bruin punt and returned it for a touchdown.
Aside from those miscues, the two teams were evenly matched. USC leads 24-21 at halftime.
After redshirt senior safety Adarius Pickett stuffed Trojan quarterback JT Daniels for no gain on a third-down quarterback sneak, USC shifted from punt formation and directly snapped the ball to tight end Erik Krommenhoek, who picked up the first down. On the next play, Daniels found wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown behind UCLA’s defense for a 44-yard touchdown.
The Bruins’ next possession was a three-and-out, but the Trojans overwhelmed the punt protectors and blocked redshirt senior punter Stefan Flintoft’s punt. Trojan receiver Devon Williams picked up the ball and returned it 5 yards for a touchdown.
USC’s lone special teams blemish was a missed field goal on its second drive.
Both teams’ offenses traded chunk plays, with neither defense making many stops.
On UCLA’s first possession, graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight found junior wide receiver Theo Howard in the back of the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown. Earlier in the drive, Speight spun away from a free rusher from his blindside and threw a jump ball in the direction of redshirt junior tight end Caleb Wilson.
Wilson broke away from his defender and came down with a 29-yard reception.
UCLA also scored on its second drive – the first time the Bruins have scored on their first two possessions of a game this year. Redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley burst through a huge hole on the left side of the line and raced 61 yards down the sideline.
Three plays later, Speight pulled the ball back and walked into the end zone frm 4 yards out.
Speight finished 9-of-14 for 114 yards and two combined touchdown. Kelley surpassed 1,000 yards on the season with a 21-carry, 147-yard effort in the first half. He added a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter.
Daniels completed 10-of-15 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Both scores were 40-plus yard bombs to his receivers. UCLA held USC to only 39 rushing yards on 13 carries in the first half.