UCLA football takes down USC in highest-scoring win of 2021 season
Senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson hurdles a Trojan defender en route to the end zone in UCLA football’s victory over USC. Thompson-Robinson had the second-most touchdowns of his career in the contest, putting up six scores. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)
By Jared Tay
Nov. 20, 2021 4:54 p.m.
This post was updated Nov. 22 at 12:43 a.m.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson pulled the ball from his running back on an option play.
Darting to the left, he scampered into the end zone, fleeing the outstretched arms of Trojan linebacker Ralen Goforth, and he crashed into the padded wall of the stands. When he looked up, a fan dressed in USC cardinal was holding out a UCLA hat for the senior signal-caller to sign.
Thompson-Robinson grabbed the hat, scribbled his autograph onto its bill and tossed the headgear back to the fan as his teammates mobbed around him.
“It was spur of the moment,” Thompson-Robinson said. “When you see a kid handing you a hat and a pen, second nature is to just grab it.”
That rushing touchdown in the first half was one of Thompson-Robinson’s six total touchdowns on the afternoon, setting a season high and propelling UCLA football (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) to a 62-33 win over crosstown rival USC (4-6, 3-5). The Bruins returned the Victory Bell to Westwood for the first time since 2018 after having lost to the Trojans in two consecutive contests.
The 62 points are the most ever scored by the blue and gold against its crosstown rivals.
“They had our tails the last two times we played,” Thompson-Robinson said. “To really hang it up on them this time and get that win out on their field means something special.”
That lucky spectator who received the signed hat was 12-year-old Declin Manz, a Trojan fan who had been the recipient of Thompson-Robinson’s game glove when UCLA last visited the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum two years ago. In that contest, the Bruins were defeated 52-35.
After the loss in 2019, a last-second, game-winning drive by the Trojans denied the Bruin quarterback another win in 2020. But Saturday, Thompson-Robinson notched his first win over USC as a starter.
Despite Thompson-Robinson’s performance on the stat sheet, the quarterback’s first two pass attempts of the game were intercepted. On the next drive, however, Thompson-Robinson linked up with redshirt junior tight end Greg Dulcich and redshirt junior running back Kazmeir Allen for chunk plays that gave the Bruins the lead, 7-3.
“Dorian stays poised,” Allen said. “If things are going bad, he’s always looking for the next opportunity.”
Two drives later, Thompson-Robinson found redshirt junior wide receiver Kyle Philips for his second passing touchdown. A 58-yard completion over the middle on the next drive was Thompson-Robinson’s third.
Thompson-Robinson had four total touchdowns at the halftime whistle. He completed 10 of 16 passes, good for 239 yards through the air.
“He’s a special player,” said coach Chip Kelly. “I’ve said it since the beginning – he’s as tough as they come both mentally and physically. That was on display today.”
Starting the second half with an 11-point lead, the Bruins kept the ball on the ground and drove down the field, steadily feeding junior running back Zach Charbonnet. He carried the ball five times for 39 yards on UCLA’s opening second-half drive, but it was Thompson-Robinson who capped the possession off with his fifth touchdown of the day.
In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Thompson-Robinson ran the ball into the end zone from 15 yards out for his sixth score after he hurdled a defender and landed on both feet. The acrobatic move was something he had yet to do successfully this season despite multiple attempts.
“I was really actually surprised that I got into the end zone,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I thought there would be somebody there to hit me after I landed the hurdle. (I was) just excited seeing the fans roar, turning around and seeing all my teammates happy for me.”
As Thompson-Robinson ran back to his own sideline, his teammates yelled out toward him, congratulating the senior for finally landing a hurdle.
His six touchdowns marked the second-best scoring output of his career, behind his seven scores against Washington State in 2019.
USC scored on back-to-back drives in the third quarter, covering one field goal and scoring a touchdown on the latter drive.
But as the gap was cut to nine points, the Bruins responded. Allen returned the subsequent kickoff from his own end zone, sprinting 100 yards for a touchdown. His third score of the day put UCLA up by 16, effectively sealing the game.
“We needed the kickoff return,” Kelly said. “We needed the two long touchdown (catches). He’s starting to get really comfortable out there, and that’s a good thing for the Bruins.”
UCLA’s victory marks the first time it has won at the Coliseum since 2013. The Bruins have now beaten the Trojans six times in the last two decades.
The Victory Bell will now be painted UCLA blue and relocated to the Wasserman Football Center, where it will remain until at least the next crosstown clash.
“It means everything to this program (and) to everyone in the Bruin community,” said redshirt senior defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight. “We celebrated this like never before.”