UCLA returns the Victory Bell to Westwood in a dominate win over USC

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The UCLA Bruins football team has proven to be hard to figure out from week-to-week, but when they get it going, they can be tough for anyone to defeat. In Week 11, Arizona State held the Bruins to seven points in a 17-7 win. The Bruins seemed flat and lacking energy in that game.

In Week 12, the Bruins traveled across town to play their rivals, the USC Trojans. UCLA played with energy, passion, and emotion in a 38-20 victory over the Trojans, before a Saturday afternoon crowd of 72,244 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Bruins never trailed in the game, scored a touchdown on their first offensive possession of the game, and completely controlled the game on the line of scrimmage. The Bruins had 199 yards rushing in the game, while USC had just 3 yards rushing in the game. The Bruins won the turnover battle with USC 3-0, with two fumbles leading to Bruin touchdowns.

One fumble was returned for an 11-yard touchdown by cornerback Alex Johnson early in the third quarter to give the Bruins a 28-10 lead and the other set up the Bruins with a first down on the Trojans 19-yard line, leading to a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ethan Garbers to tight end Hudson Habermehl, who had two touchdown receptions for the game.

The defense was led by defensive end Laiatu Latu, who led the Bruins with seven tackles and two sacks. Latu is a finalist for the Lombardi award, which goes to the top lineman in college football. Latu is second in the nation in sacks with 13.

The Bruins defense has 40 sacks for the season, which is tied for second in the nation. The Bruins lead the nation in defensive rushing yardage per game and in rushing yardage per carry. The potent Trojans offense, led by 2022 Heisman trophy winner Caleb Williams, was no match for the Bruins on Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum.

Bruins head coach Chip Kelly was pleased with his team after the game. "I thought we got it in all three phases today, Kelly said. "I thought the defense was obviously outstanding." Kelly also talked about his team's toughness and resiliency, especially following the shocking loss to Arizona State.

"This is a really resilient football team," Kelly said. "This game of football is special. There is no self-pity in football, and I told our players that. You are what you did. We didn't play well enough last week and we didn't coach well enough last week. So, let's get back on the field and let's see if we can rectify that and this week we did. But tomorrow morning we got to wake up and get ready to play Cal. No one really cares tomorrow what happened today." There are a large number of UCLA fans that would disagree.

The offense contributed to the victory by playing error free football and rushing for 199 yards. Running back TJ Hardin rushed for 142 yards on 22 carries with one rushing touchdown, while adding 2 catches for 16 yards and a touchdown reception. Garbers threw for just 155 yards but had three touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

UCLA's special teams won the field position battle, with punter Will Powers putting three kicks inside the 20-yard line, including one at the one-yard line. USC had an average starting field position of the 20-yard line. UCLA played an inspired game on all three units and Garbers gave the credit to his head coach.

"This entire performance was for him, Garbers said. "It shows a lot about our team and a lot about his culture, that we come from last week, not being at our best and come out and do this, and really shock the world a little bit. It just goes back to his culture and his program and the resiliency of his team." When asked what win meant to him, Garbers did not hesitate. "Today was one of the better days of my life, for sure," Garbers said. "I have had some dreams about this as a little kid."

With the win, the Bruins improved to 7-4 on the season with one game remaining against the Cal Bears at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena next Saturday Night, November 25th. The game will start at 7:30 pm PST and will be televised nationally on ESPN.

The Bears are 5-6 on the season and need to win six to become bowl eligible. The Bears are led by running back Jadyn Ott, the former Norco high school star, who leads the Pac-12 in rushing yardage with 1,182 yards and is seventh in the nation in that category. The Bears are tied with the Bruins in turnovers gained with 21 each, which is tied for the lead in the Pac-12 conference and tied for 10th in the nation.

The Trojans dropped to 7-5 for the season, suffering their third consecutive loss and fifth in the past six games. This was likely the last game for Williams, who could be the first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The Trojans will also lose the Victory Bell, which is headed for Westwood after the loss to the Bruins. UCLA will be able to hear it ringing at future USC-UCLA sporting events for the next year.

 

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