The USC Trojans ended their season Saturday night with a record-breaking 50-0 win over their crosstown rivals from UCLA.
In what was most likely his victory lap at the Coliseum before jumping early to the NFL, quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 423 yards and six touchdowns, surpassing former Trojan quarterback Matt Leinart’s single-season conference record for touchdown passes with 39. He also tied his own school record of six touchdowns in a single game, set two weeks ago at Colorado.
With UCLA already a lock to play in the Pac-12 title game because USC is ineligible this year, the Trojans came out on a mission to prove that while they might not be in the inaugural conference championship game, it’s not because they don’t deserve it.
It took USC just 1:45 to get on the board with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Marqise Lee, and then the Trojans’ defense stepped up to prevent UCLA from turning a 12-play, 79-yard drive into a scoring drive, stopping the Bruins short on 4th and goal from the one-yard line. On the Trojans’ very next possession, Curtis McNeal broke free and streaked into the end zone untouched for a 73-yard touchdown, to put USC up, 14-0, in the first quarter.
The Bruins couldn’t answer, and USC kept finding the end zone. A 92-yard, 13-play drive ended with seven straight completions, split between Robert Woods and Lee, to set up a Randall Telfer touchdown. Though they line up for a two-point conversion after nearly every touchdown, they usually switch back and kick the extra point, but today, the Trojans went for two – and made it – on a Barkley pass to the corner to tight end Xavier Grimble.
USC quickly got the ball back and just as quickly scored again, on a Barkley throw to senior fullback Rhett Ellison. The play was set up by two of Ellison’s fellow seniors – WR Brice Butler had a 12-yard catch, and Marc Tyler had two carries for 10 yards.
UCLA couldn’t seem to get out of its own way all game. Down 22-0 before halftime, Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince was intercepted by safety T.J. McDonald, whose brother, Tevin, was playing for the other team. The Trojans couldn’t capitalize, though, and punter Kyle Negrete, who had a slow night, made the first of his two punts in the game.
Against Oregon last week, the Trojans let up, or were worn down by halftime, allowing the Ducks to attempt late-game comeback. It was unsuccessful, though, and the Bruins didn’t have any better luck this week as they began the second half just as poorly as the first. Their first possession of the half stalled, and when USC got the ball back, Barkley threw a 52-yard touchdown to Lee to make it a 29-0 ballgame – and the Trojans still weren’t done.
The defense continued to hold, and when USC got the ball back, it was another touchdown for the Trojans, as Barkley hit four different receivers on the next scoring drive – Woods, Lee, Ellison, and George Farmer – before finding Woods for the first of two consecutive passing touchdowns.
A true sophomore and true freshman combo, Woods and Lee broke some records of their own against UCLA. The two became the fourth pair of USC wide receivers to have 1,000 yards rushing each, and also broke Keary Colbert and Mike Williams’ records for single-season receptions and combined yards.
Curtis McNeal also had a field day against UCLA’s porous run defense, rushing for 124 yards on 12 carries, enough to make him USC’s latest 1,000-yard rusher (1,005).
Even senior Robbie Boyer, a wide receiver who rarely sees the light of day, had his big moment near the end of the game when Barkley, Boyer’s cousin, threw a pass his way, good for a 9-yard completion to cap off the receiver’s senior year.
All week, the buzz was on the game and UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel’s comment about closing the gap in L.A., but after the Trojans’ shut out the Bruins, 50-0, the gap seems as wide as ever. The Bruins still get a shot at Oregon and the inaugural Pac-12 title this Friday night, and Neuheisel will remain the coach through the conference title game, but his fate will depend on how well that game goes.
The Trojans, with a 10-2 record (7-2 in conference), are undoubtedly far the best team in the South Division, and the school commemorated their success in 2011 by surprising them after the game with “Pac-12 South Champions” t-shirts, a special tribute to how hard the team battled this season, and what it meant to them.