This post was updated Nov. 17 at 6:06 p.m.
One word described running back Joshua Kelley on Saturday – unstoppable.
The redshirt junior set the record for most rushing yards by a UCLA player against USC with a career-high 289 yards.
His untouched 55-yard touchdown romp down the left sideline put the Bruins (3-8, 3-5 Pac-12) ahead for good in their 34-27 win over the Trojans (5-6, 4-5). This marks UCLA’s first victory over its crosstown rivals since 2014.
“Obviously, (Kelley) is a strength for us right now,” coach Chip Kelly said. “I wish he carried it 100 (times).”
Kelley’s 200-yard performance Saturday was the Bruins’ first since 2015, and the third-most single-game rushing yards in school history.
UCLA ran the ball 51 times for 318 yards, more than twice the average number of yards USC allows on the ground per game. Kelley had 40 of those carries.
“My teammates kept telling me like, ‘We’re gonna keep feeding you,’” Kelley said. “We take pride in our (locker) room that as the game keeps going, we have to get better and better.”
Even graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight got in on the action. He scored his second career rushing touchdown, scrambling into the end zone from 4 yards out in the first quarter.
“I’m only here for one season, but the bottom line is we beat ‘SC,” Speight said. “We beat the crosstown rival and LA belongs to the Bruins this year.”
Speight added 166 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 13-of-22 passing. He threw up a prayer that junior wide receiver Theo Howard ran down in the back of the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown on UCLA’s first drive of the game.
But special teams’ mistakes almost doomed UCLA for the second year in a row against USC.
At the end of the first quarter, the Trojans converted a fourth-and-1 with a fake punt run. Quarterback JT Daniels completed a 44-yard touchdown to receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown on the next play.
After UCLA went three-and-out, USC rushed up the middle, blocked redshirt senior punter Stefan Flintoft’s punt and returned it for a touchdown.
What was a 14-3 Bruin lead turned into a 17-14 deficit within a couple minutes.
The two teams continued to go back-and-forth until Kelley’s go-ahead touchdown run.
UCLA’s defense then stopped USC’s next three possessions, and junior kicker JJ Molson padded the lead with two field goals in the last six minutes of the game.
Daniels threw for a career-high 337 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions were both arm punts that floated directly toward UCLA defenders with no receivers in the vicinity.
Junior linebacker Krys Barnes broke up Daniels’ fourth down pass with less than a minute remaining to end USC’s chances.
“(Before the play) we were on the sideline, I was holding hands. We were just all embracing the moment,” Kelley said. “(Afterward), I jumped. I was screaming. Man, that was crazy. It really hit home that I was like, ‘Whoa, hey, we won this game.’”