With control over their own destiny in the Pac-12 and, to an extent, in the College Football Playoff the UCLA Bruins entered Saturday's contest against the Southern Cal Trojans with a lot of emotion.
A pre-game incident at midfield with Sam Handler defending the logo and the Southern Cal band throwing a fit about it. Which is a great way to go from borderline anonymous UCLA player to borderline infamous, in my opinion.
On the field was what really matters, so the kickoff saw the Trojans start with the ball. The Trojans ended up punting around midfield after a short drive and Brett Hundley took the field looking to continue his hot play recently.
It did not start well, with Hundley throwing a pick-six on 2nd down to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead.
After a decent beginning to the next drive, Noel Mazzone called an atrocious option play on 3rd down that looked to give SC the ball again, but Nelson Agohlor made an awful decision to not fair catch a punt inside the 10-yard line and fumbled the punt. Taylor Lagace hopped on top to give UCLA the ball.
The defense-offense came on the field for some reason and promptly lost yardage, then Brett Hundley threw a TD pass to a wide-open Devin Lucien for the tying score. At 7-7, the Trojans got the ball again.
The UCLA defense continued to look god, forcing a 3-and-out and nearly intercepting Cody Kessler twice.
On the first play of their next drive, Hundley hit Thomas Duarte on a slant and Duarte broke a tackle and took it 57 yards for another TD to make it 14-7 for the Bruins.
The defense forced another punt after Steve Sarksian decided to give his fullback a hand-off on 3rd and 2, going away from his two stellar RBs. The Bruins were forced to punt and nearly faced disaster when Matt Mengel dropped the snap but managed to get the ball away.
It was still only a 13-yard punt, so the Trojans got the ball at the UCLA-30. The Bruin defense did a great job of holding Southern Cal on 4th down when USC again tried to run right into the heart of UCLA's defense. No points off of a drive that started at the UCLA 30.
UCLA went 3-and-out to answer that, but Mengel got the punt to the 42-yard line. Still great field position, but at least he caught the snap and got it away cleanly.
Southern Cal took advantage, getting 26 yards on a 3rd and 10 on an outstanding catch by JuJu Smith and then getting a TD pass to Justin Davis in the flat to even the score at 14.
The Bruins offense moved the ball well on the ensuing drive, giving the defense a much needed rest. A few wrinkles for Myles Jack (including Poasi Moala at FB and a pass to Jack in the flat), while unnecessary, were effective.
The drive stalled thanks to a holding penalty on Connor McDermott, but the offense picked up enough to give Ka'imi Fairbairn a short FG opportunity to make it 17-14 in favor of UCLA.
The UCLA defense needed a stop at the end of the half and they got more than that with Eric Kendricks making an exceptional interception on the sideline (where he was aided a little by the Pac-12 officials) after Deon Hollins and an interior rusher got to Cody Kessler and forced a bad pass.
With a little under 4 minutes left, the Bruins' offense got a chance to take a 2 score lead into the half on Southern Cal.
Brett Hundley was a machine on this drive and Jordon James gets a shout out for picking up a tough yard on 3rd and 1. The drive ended on a TD pass to Eldridge Massington to make it 24-14 for UCLA with 14 seconds left in the 1st half.