By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
With sixteen seconds left on the clock at the Rose Bowl USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown jumped high while falling backward and grabbed an eight-yard pass from quarterback Kendon Slovis. As he fell to the ground it gave the Trojans a 43 -38 win and put to bed another classic game between against crosstown rival UCLA. It was the juniors fifth touchdown pass of the day.
It wasn’t drawn up that way. “On the goal-line we saw man,” said Slovis. “We had the wrong call, but I chucked it over to (Amon-Ra St. Brown), it probably gave coach Helton a bit of a tough time. Sorry about that coach.”
The win sent the Trojans (5-0) to the PAC-12 Title game at the Coliseum against Oregon.
During pregame the Bruins (3-3) players appeared to be more hyped, jumping up and down and energized even with no fans in the house. The whole season was something different in a COVID year with no fans to watch the two teams battle it out until the final seconds. An explosive fourth quarter helped with the comeback as the Trojans out-scored their opponents 20-3 in the frame.
Early in the fourth Slovis hit St. Brown on a short pass to the UCLA 30-yard line. Then on third and 12, a pass interference call was made on the Bruins Qwuatrezz Knight. A couple plays later Vavae Malepeai took a Slovis handoff over the left side cut back and barged through defenders and scored on a ten-yard run to make it 35-30.
The next Bruin possession Talana Hufanga intercepted Dorian Thompson- Robinson and ran it back for an apparent touchdown. But Nick Figueroa was called for an unnecessary block in the back and it was USC ball at the 30.
Hufanga had monster of a day with 17 tackles,11 solo 2 for-loss. His play earned him Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.
“I think the energy from the side-line really helped us,” said the junior from Corvallis, Oregon. “We just had to stay focused we knew what the task was at hand we needed to make our plays.”
It was Hufanga’s fourth straight game with an interception.
Chris Steele had ten tackles while Kana’I Mauga, Isaia Pola-Moa,Ralen Goforth and Tuli Tuipulotu all chipped in with nine each. The Trojans defense stopped the Bruins twice on fourth down.
Hufanga interception led to a go ahead score as Slovis hit London again for a 9-yard touchdown pass giving USC the lead 36-35 with 8:09 left in the fourth. It was the fourth TD pass of the day for Slovis who completed 30 of 47 passes for 344 yards. He has ten touchdown passes against the Bruins in the last two seasons.
UCLA went up early and appeared to be in control. Thompson- Robinson who returned for second game back after sitting out two- straight games due to COVID protocol got things going with a no huddle 12 play, 85-yard drive. It was capped off with 33-yard TD pass to Ethan Fernea that put UCLA up 7-0. It was Fernea’s first touchdown of the year and second career.
Robinson finished the day completing 30 of 36 passes for 364 yards 4 TD passes but also had two interceptions. The junior connected on his first eight passes of the game.
After a Stephan Blaylock interception DTR threw a 69 yarder to Greg Dulcich.
The sophomore tight end finished with 8 catches for 167 yards both career highs. “Greg (Dulcich) has worked his tail off this whole off season and it shows on the field” said DTR of his teammate.
Early in the second after a fifteen yard personal foul penalty on the Trojans Olaijah Griffin put the ball on the USC 21 DTR hit wide open Demetric Felton Jr with his second TD pass to putting the Bruins up 14-0. Felton Jr. had five catches on the day two for touchdowns and it was his the 18th game in a row that he’s had at least one catch.
On the ensuing drive Slovis hit Drake London on a sixty-five-yard catch and run touchdown. London did most of the work breaking several tackles. The 6-5 230 pounder was touched by seven different Bruins on the play.
On the ensuing drive DTR led a march 75 yards on 11 plays then hit Felton Jr on a nine-yard touchdown pass to put the Burins up 21-10 at the half.
Bruins took the second half kick-off and marched down field running most of the way. Transfer Brittain Brown took it in from took it in from the fifteen yards out to make it 28-10.
Later in rhe frame Slovis hit St Brown on a five-yard score one of 2 TDs on the day. They then tried two-point conversion with a pass to fell incomplete leaving the score 28-23
On the first play DTR connect with tight end Greg Dulcich who then then ran away from Trojan defenders for a 65 yarder to put the home team back up 35-23.
Midway through the fourth after back -o-back off-side penalties on the Bruins Slovis hit London for his fourth TD pass to give the Trojans the lead 36-35. However the two-point try London was stopped short of the goal-line.
Redshirt freshman Nick Barr Mira was a hero for a moment after hit for a 43 yarder (career long)with 56 seconds left.
USC Freshman Gary Bryant took the kick-off and raced 56 yards to the Bruin 43. Slovis then hit Tyler Vaughs for thirty-five yards to the 8-yard. Slovis then hit a flying St. Brown for the go ahead score.
USC Head coach Clay Helton summed up the night: “I want to thank a bunch of kids for the definition of ‘Fight On’ the entire second half I never saw one kid quit the fight. A lot of appreciation to coach Kelly and the job he’s doing to his team. That’s a well-coached team and they played their hearts out tonight.”
BRUIN NOTES: Before the game a moment of silence was done in honor of Bruin track and field great Rafer Johnson. The decathlon Gold medal winner passed away earlier this month. With his 364 passing yards DTR had his 3rd career game with four or more TD passes. moved into 9th place (5,067) passing Wayne Cook for career passing yards…It marked the first game all season the Bruins were out scored in the final period.