Slovis leads another comeback win for the Trojans
December 17, 2020
Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said, "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." That would be the storyline of the USC Trojan football team in 2020. Besides their battles with the Covid-19 epidemic, which cost the Trojans one regular season game, they have been knocked down several times this season on the field. But they keep getting up.
For the third time in their five-game regular season, the USC Trojans found a way to win a football game with less than 90 seconds on the clock, coming from behind to defeat the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl, 43-38, on an eight-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kedon Slovis to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown with just 16 seconds remaining in the game.
The Trojans trailed UCLA for the first three quarters and at one point, it looked as if the Bruins had taken complete control of the game. The Bruins, leading 14-10 with nine seconds left, scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to running back Demetric Felton, giving the Bruins a 21-10 lead at halftime.
The Bruins received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched down the field in a seven play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 15-yard Brittain Brown touchdown run, giving the Bruins a commanding 28-10 lead early in the third quarter. But the Trojans had been knocked down, not out. From that point on, the Trojans outscored the Bruins 33-10, leading to the Slovis touchdown pass with 16 seconds left in the game.
The game turned out to be a battle of two of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12, with Slovis throwing for five touchdowns and Thompson-Robinson throwing for four touchdowns. Slovis completed 30-of-47 passes for 344 yards and had two passes intercepted. Thompson completed 30 of 36 passes for 364 yards and had two passes intercepted. Thompson-Robinson also rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries.
Slovis threw for four touchdown passes in the second half alone. The Trojans finally took the lead on a Slovis to Drake London touchdown pass with 8:09 remaining in the game, 36-35. The Bruins came back to take a 38-36 lead on a Nicholas Barr-Mira 43-yard field goal with just 52 seconds left. The Trojans were in definite trouble, but a 56-yard kickoff return from Gary Bryant Jr. helped set up the winning touchdown drive.
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly had praise for the Trojan quarterback: "I think that Kedon Slovis is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. It was kind of a heavyweight fight and you are just trading blows. They hit one and we hit one, and then we hit one and then they hit one. We had a shot at the end. We had the ball at the end."
Kelly also had high praise for his own quarterback: "I thought Dorian played really well. I thought he threw the ball with command and did some really, really nice things out there. He was 30 of 36 with four touchdowns."
USC head coach Clay Helton knew his team had been through a war: "I wanted to start off by thanking a bunch of great kids for being the definition of fight on. The entire second half, I never saw one kid quit the fight, and just down the stretch just make play after play after play. Great college football game. A lot of appreciation to Coach Kelly and the job that he's doing with his team. That's a very well-coached team, and they played their hearts out tonight."
It was a great college football game with some terrific individual offensive performances. For USC, wide receiver Tyler Vaughns had eight receptions for 128 yards and one touchdown. London had five catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and St. Brown had 10 receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Vavae Malepeai rushed 19 times for 110 yards and one touchdown.
For the Bruins, Felton had another great performance, rushing for 21 times for 90 yards and catching five passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Greg Dulcich, who runs like a wide receiver, caught eight passes for 167 yards and one touchdown, including a 69-yard bomb from Thompson-Robinson.
The game was a win for USC, a tough loss for UCLA and a win for the Pac-12 Conference. The Pac-12 needs for USC and UCLA to have good football programs and play each other in epic battles on national television, as they did on Saturday. If USC and UCLA are playing good football, that will improve the chances of good high school players to want to stay at home, either at USC or UCLA or at a Pac-12 school.
The victory improved the Trojans to 5-0 and as the only unbeaten team in the conference, they are in the Pac-12 conference championship, which is scheduled for 5 PM Friday, December 18th, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans are currently ranked No. 13 in the nation and are the only top 25 team from the Pac-12 conference. They will take on the Oregon Ducks for the Pac-12 championship. The game will be nationally televised on Fox.
The loss dropped the Bruins to 3-3 for the season. The Bruins, in this unconventional football season, were granted a seventh football game and will take on the Stanford Cardinals at the Rose Bowl this Saturday, December 19th, with the game scheduled to start at 5 PM and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
The Bruins will have a chance for their first winning season under Kelly with a win on Saturday. The Bruins are ranked No. 16 in the nation in rushing yardage per game at 220.5 yards per game, while the Cardinals are ranked No. 102 in the nation in rushing defense at 208.2 yards per game. This would seem at be a matchup that would favor the Bruins.
The Bruins are 3-3, but this is a team that could be 6-0 if they took better care of the football. In their three losses, all by six points or less, the Bruins have 11 turnovers. In their three wins, the Bruins have one turnover. They are a tough team if they do not beat themselves. But on Saturday, they just need to remember the words of Vince Lombardi: "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." It has worked for the Trojans this season.