UCLA gets bounce back win by dominating rival USC, 38-20
November 16, 2023
On November 11, against Arizona State the UCLA Bruins played their worst game of the year but last Saturday they may have played their best game of the year. What a difference a week can make. The Bruins defeated their rival USC, 38-20, sending last year's Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams with a loss in possibly his final game at the Coliseum.
"I think anybody that's been in this game knows it's unique," said UCLA head coach Chip Kelly after the game. "I've been at other schools in other (rivalry) games, and it's not like this. I think the proximity of the schools, playing for the Bell, there's so much that goes into it. It's cool to see the smiles on our kids' faces when we get to bring the Bell back to our school."
UCLA's starting quarterback Ethan Garbers returned this week and helped the Bruins jump out to an early lead. Garbers led UCLA down the field on their first drive of the game which ended with one-yard touchdown run from running back T.J. Harden.
After defensive back Kenny Churchwell III forced and recovered a fumble by USC's Zachariah Branch, Garbers found a wide open Hudson Habermehl for a 14-yard touchdown to put UCLA up, 14-0. From there it was no looking back as UCLA dominated the Trojans in all phases of the game.
Garbers threw two more touchdowns in the second half (including a second touchdown to Habermehl) finishing the game 18 for 31 for 155 yards with three touchdowns. "Today was probably one of the better days of my life, for sure," said Garbers. "I've had some dreams about this as a little kid. Great to get the W and go home."
Harden was the true star of the offense finishing the game with 22 carries for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).
The defense which has starred throughout the season really shined tonight as well. They forced three Trojan turnovers and shut down USC's rush offense which finished the game with 22 carries for a measly three yards. One of those run stops led to a fumble, scoop and score by defensive back Alex Johnson who returned it 11 yards for the second-half touchdown.
The defense was also able to contain Williams most of the day only allowing one touchdown pass and sacking him four times in the game. Star pass rusher Laiatu Latu picked up two of those sacks.
This type of win may quiet down the talks of possibly firing coach Chip Kelly after the season. After their loss to Arizona State fans and alumni pointed to Kelly's 33-33 record that had them questioning whether he is the right coach for the UCLA job. After the win over USC the hot seat got a little warmer.
"I mean, this entire performance was for him," said Garbers. "It shows a lot about our team and a lot about his culture that we can come from last week ... and come out and do this and really shock the world a little bit."
The Bruins (7-4 overall and 4-4 in the Pac-12) will look to finish their regular season strong by winning their next game at home against Cal on Saturday at the Rose bowl at 7:30 p.m. and finishing the season with a winning Pac-12 record.