UCLA football loses tight battle to crosstown rival USC
The Trojans celebrate after the Bruins throw an interception on their final drive of the game. No. 16 UCLA football fell to No. 7 USC 48-45 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)
|No. 7 USC||48|
|No. 16 UCLA||45|
By Jon Christon
Nov. 19, 2022 9:21 p.m.
This post was updated Nov. 21 at 12:36 a.m.
A storybook ending awaited Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
In the biggest game of his career to date, the redshirt senior quarterback had just over two minutes left to orchestrate a game-winning drive against his crosstown rivals in his home stadium.
These were the moments he envisioned when he returned to Westwood for a fifth year.
But storybooks are often fiction.
After the Bruins moved the ball to midfield, Thompson-Robinson threw the ball into the waiting hands of a Trojan defender. The interception ended the quarterback’s career at the Rose Bowl and handed the Victory Bell back to his crosstown rivals.
“At the end of the day, I have to live with it,” Thompson-Robinson said.
No. 16 UCLA football (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) fell to No. 7 USC (10-1, 8-1) by a final score of 48-45 on Saturday night. The Bruins’ second straight home loss knocked them out of Pac-12 championship consideration, eliminating any chance the team had to play in Pasadena again this season.
Coach Chip Kelly said the loss was especially heartbreaking given Thompson-Robinson’s impact on the team.
“Dorian literally leaves it on the field every time he plays,” Kelly said. “There’s been some great quarterbacks, but I think he’s one of those special ones that has gone through this program.”
Both teams exceeded 500 yards of offense on the evening, with USC’s 649 total yards marking the most yards conceded by UCLA in the Kelly era.
The Trojan offense was bolstered by a Bruin defense that seemingly could not get off the field. After three straight defensive stops led the home team to a 14-0 lead after one quarter of play, UCLA allowed USC to score on eight of its next nine possessions – including four straight touchdown drives to open the second half.
What was a two-touchdown advantage for the blue and gold turned into a 10-point deficit by the third quarter.
“We knew they were an explosive offense coming in,” Kelly said. “You got to give them credit.”
Leading the Trojan offense was quarterback Caleb Williams. Playing in his first ever game against the Bruins, Williams threw for 470 yards – the second-most in the history of the crosstown rivalry.
“You got to do everything against him, and we did,” Kelly said. “We blitzed him, we played zone, we dropped guys into coverage, we rushed two, we rushed three, we rushed four, we rushed six. They ran through it all on defense against him.”
In his quest to play hero, Thompson-Robinson went head-to-head with Williams in the final frame.
Following Williams’ touchdown to wide receiver Kyle Ford on the first play of scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Thompson-Robinson immediately answered. He connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Kazmeir Allen for a 55-yard catch and run that put the Bruins within three points.
Williams sliced through the Bruin defense again on the next possession en route to a touchdown, and Thompson-Robinson and company found themselves with their backs against a wall once more.
The quarterback, though, didn’t back down. Despite missing a play because of injury, Thompson-Robinson combined to run and throw for 76 yards on a 75-yard drive that ended with the Bruins again down by a field goal.
“This is a team that’s going to fight until the whistle blows, until the clock hits zero,” said redshirt senior defensive back Stephan Blaylock.
The defense finally returned the favor on the drive after Allen’s score. A sack from redshirt junior linebacker Laiatu Latu forced the blue and gold’s first stop of the second half, and, after a Trojan punt, the game was in Thompson-Robinson’s hands.
And out of his hands came the ball that ended the game. Looking to force it into a tight window, Thompson-Robinson’s final pass attempt at the Rose Bowl went straight to the hands of USC defensive end Korey Foreman.
“I should have gone all the way through my read and probably thrown it away if nobody was open,” Thompson-Robinson said.
The quarterback matched his six-touchdown performance from last year’s crosstown rivalry game, adding nearly 400 yards of total offense.
But his three interceptions and four turnovers total, made the difference Saturday night.
“We wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t have the contributions that he’s given us,” Kelly said. “You hurt for him just because I know how much it means to him.”