The Bruins built up an 18-point lead at one point in the second half, yet fell to the Trojans in the end after allowing USC to score 20 fourth-quarter points.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson was terrific on the evening, finishing the game 30-for-36 with 364 passing yards and four scores. He did throw two interceptions, but truly only one of those was a bad decision. DTR was ultimately out-dueled by his rival, Kedon Slovis, who finished the game throwing five touchdowns on 30-for-47 passing and 344 yards.
The first half was a lot more hot than cold for the Bruins, heading to the break with a 21-10 advantage. It wasn’t all pretty, most notably allowing USC WR Drake London to go 65 yards and break what felt like a half-dozen tackles for the Trojans’ lone touchdown of the first half. Then there was DTR’s first interception but that was merely a dramatically special individual effort for the play.
But when it was pretty, it was pretty. DTR hit Demetric Felton for two touchdowns through the air after finding Ethan Fernea for 33 yards out on a play where the Trojans weren’t lined up properly in the first quarter.
Thompson-Robinson finished the first half with three scores, completing 14-of-16 passes for 129 yards in the process.
The Bruins defense intercepted Slovis early as he finished the half with an interception and the long touchdown to London.
It was a pretty even first half, overall, despite what the score would say, the difference was the Bruins defense kept the Trojans out of the end zone once they got in the red zone while USC’s defense seemingly couldn’t stop the Bruins on offense.
The second half continued a bit more of the same when Brittain Brown ran in a 15-yard touchdown run on the third quarter’s opening possession to increase the lead to 28-10, the biggest of the game. The Bruins scored in just a blur, marching seven plays, 75 yards in just 2:32 off the game clock.
But that’s when things got interesting.
USC proceeded to march down the field before connecting on a Slovis to Tyler Vaughns 38-yard touchdown pass to cut into the lead and on the following UCLA possession saw the Bruins literally squander it away on fourth down.
USC took that ensuing possession down for a touchdown when Slovis connected with Amon-Ra St. Brown on a three-yard score. That brought it to within five points after a failed 2-point conversion attempt from USC.
And then things got even more interesting.
For some reason, Kelly decided to go for it on fourth down, in a hurry-up situation with no shuffled personnel, only to see his rush attempt stuffed and the ball given back over on downs to USC. The defense, however, benefited nicely from a dropped ball by St. Brown on a third-down situation themselves, on an amazing play from Stephan Blaylock.
Really incredible play by Stephan Blaylock pic.twitter.com/7k7MW8s56d— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) December 13, 2020
And just one play later, DTR hit Greg Dulcich on a beautiful seam route past the last level of defense and Dulcich did the rest for a 69-yard touchdown reception. Thompson-Robinson’s fourth touchdown of the night pushed the lead back to two scores at 35-23.
USC RB Vavae Malepeai continued his career day, however, on the next drive to close the gap back to one score once again. Malepeai crossed the 100-yard plateau on a score that cut into UCLA’s lead, 35-30.
As good as DTR was all night long, his worst mistake came with just over 10:00 left in the game, throwing late to the sidelines and seeing his pass intercepted by USC safety Talanoa Hufanga. The subsequent interception return went for a touchdown, but was called back due to a block-in-the-back penalty, but still possession was squandered, yet again.
It took awhile on their ensuing possession, and certainly was aided by a couple of untimely offsides penalties by the UCLA defense, but USC took their first lead with a Slovis touchdown pass to London. Another failed 2-point conversion saw the USC lead sit at just one point, 36-35.
Kelly’s aggressive type of offensive play-calling would bite UCLA just a drive later after Keegan Jones was stuffed on a 4th & 1 run attempt.
Why Felton wasn’t the ball carrier here, is up for question.
With everything seemingly going against them in the fourth quarter, however, the Bruins still were in a position to drive for a game-winning score with DTR at the helm after shutting the Trojans down on their next drive.
UCLA will be driving for a victory with DTR at QB. pic.twitter.com/9jcPIUKuiL— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 13, 2020
Thompson-Robinson would do just that, orchestrating a beautiful mixed drive of pass and run — save for the last play of the drive — that set up a go-ahead 43-yard field goal from Nicholas Barr-Mira that put UCLA up, 38-36.
And that’s where the UCLA magic would end, however.
Poor kickoff coverage and poor secondary coverage in general would ultimately be the Bruins’ undoing. They allowed USC WR Gary Bryant to return the kick 56 yards. Then allowed Slovis to connect to Vaughns for a huge 35-yard catch to put the ball inside the 10-yardline.
Then UCLA allowed St. Brown to go up and over the defense for a fade route touchdown that would be the final straw for UCLA with the Trojans winning, 43-38.
Kelly and the Bruins fall to 3-3 while USC maintained their undefeated season.