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Football turns over Victory Bell to USC in 52-35 loss with postseason hopes dashed

Sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson rushed or passed for 431 of UCLA football’s 540 total yards Saturday against USC. Thompson-Robinson passed for three touchdowns in the game, his most since Sept. 21 against Washington State.(Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

Football


UCLA35
No. 23 USC52

By Ryan Smith

Nov. 23, 2019 4:42 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 24 at 11:22 p.m.

The Bruins lost more than just the Victory Bell.

UCLA football (4-7, 4-4 Pac-12) watched its postseason chances evaporate at the hands of crosstown rival No. 23 USC (8-4, 7-2) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, as the Bruins fell to the Trojans 52-35.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis controlled the contest, carving up the UCLA defense for a USC single-game record 515 yards and four touchdowns on 37-of-47 passing. Four different Trojan receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the game, including Michael Pittman Jr., who found the end zone twice in the first half.

Despite Slovis being a 19-year-old true freshman making just his 10th collegiate start, redshirt freshman defensive back Elisha Guidry said he wasn’t surprised by Slovis’ ability to dictate the game.

“I feel like for me, personally, age doesn’t really matter,” Guidry said. “If he’s a good player, he’s a good player. Slovis, he’s a pretty good quarterback and he did all the things right that he had to do to get the win.”

The Bruins also failed to contain the run, allowing 143 yards to the Trojan backs on the afternoon. USC finished the game with 643 total yards.

UCLA’s defense has now given up 1,179 yards in its previous two outings combined, but coach Chip Kelly said the blame for the defense’s recent performances should not fall on the shoulders of the coaching staff.

“I think our staff’s done a good job considering what we have right now, but it’s not an excuse – we have to win games and that’s what the bottom line is,” Kelly said.

UCLA did put together an efficient offensive performance of its own – posting 540 total yards – but it failed to cash in on a pair of crucial opportunities in the first half, which proved to be the difference in the game.

With the Bruins holding onto a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, senior long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker recovered a muffed punt by Trojans receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown at the USC 33-yard line. Despite being set up with good field position, UCLA couldn’t capitalize after sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw an interception on third down.

USC then marched 83 yards in 1 minute, 42 seconds to take a 10-7 lead.

After the teams traded touchdowns, senior kicker JJ Molson had a chance to tie the game at 17 with a 54-yard field goal attempt. However, he pushed the kick wide left, setting the Trojans up for another touchdown drive that gave them a 24-14 halftime advantage.

The Bruins did manage to score 21 points in the second half, but they never came within fewer than 10 points of the Trojans.

Thompson-Robinson completed 26 of his 44 pass attempts in the game for 367 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Redshirt freshman wideout Kyle Philips led UCLA with 12 receptions – including seven in the first quarter – for 123 yards.

Redshirt sophomore running back Joshua Kelley raved about Thompson-Robinson’s performance and said the second-year signal-caller is just scratching the surface of what he can be in the future.

“He was absolutely electric, he was sensational,” Kelley said. “He made a lot of plays and he just gave you a glimpse of what he’s going to be doing these next few years. I’m really proud of him, the way he’s grown, by his leadership, his evolution, the way he was using his legs today. He was just absolutely spectacular.”

Kelley – who rushed for 289 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s matchup – was held in check by the USC defense, rushing for just 45 yards on 15 carries. Thompson-Robinson ended the day as the team’s leading rusher with 64 yards.

Saturday’s loss also eliminated the Bruins from postseason contention, as they can no longer reach the 6-6 record required to become bowl eligible as a member of the Pac-12.

UCLA will close out its season Nov. 30 when it hosts California at the Rose Bowl. The game will also be the final one for the seniors of the team, and Philips said the players are excited to try to send them off on a good note.

“This one’s really for the seniors, and they’ve done so much for this program,” Philips said. “So we want to really make sure we send them out the right way.”

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Ryan Smith | Alumnus
Smith joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He was the Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf beats.
Smith joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He was the Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf beats.
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