It was an ugly game at the Coliseum on Saturday night as USC won their third straight over their crosstown rival, UCLA. The final score was 28-7, but all the talk after the game centered on the last touchdown that almost sparked an all-out brawl.
With 54-seconds remaining in the game, the Trojans took over possession of the ball when the Bruins failed on a fourth down conversion. The game was well in hand as USC came out in "victory formation" and was only a few kneel downs away from winning a defensive struggle.
The freshman quarterback for the Trojans, Matt Barkley, took a knee and UCLA coach, Rick Neuheisel, called one of his remaining three timeouts, much to the surprise of those who hadn't already headed for the exits.
It was at this point that this once ugly rivalry game became a scene destined for replay on ESPN.
"He called timeout, and there's nothing wrong with that, just compete," said Trojan Head Coach Pete Carroll after the game. "Then the play came up on the headset and I thought, great freaking call."
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Instead of a simple run up the middle by the Trojans big back, Allen Bradford, Barkley faked the handoff and hit a streaking Damian Williams down the middle of the field for a 48-yard touchdown and an exclamation point on the victory.
The USC crowd, who jeered the timeout by Neuheisel, let out their loudest roar of the night, as they witnessed the childish displays of both coaches.
The Trojans began their customary "group jump" on the sidelines as the Bruin sideline inched closer and closer to the celebrating Trojans. The refs and coaches tried to keep the peace and ensure the teams didn't "meet in the middle" as the Trojan players continue their taunting. After some tense moments, in which a Bruin player knocked one ref to the ground, order was restored and the final seconds were played out--not without a couple personal fouls.
It was just two weeks prior that the Trojans were standing on the same field on the other end of the stick. The Stanford Cardinal led 48-21 with six minutes remaining in the game and Cardinal Coach Jim Harbaugh decided to go for a two-point conversion to make it an even 50. The Trojans held on the two-point attempt but game up a pick-six before the game ended. Carroll and the Trojan players took umbrage to the "disrespect," but quickly forgot about it when it came their turn to add insult to injury.
Lost in all the commotion of the final seconds of the game was the much-maligned defense of the Trojans showing up to play. Junior linebacker, Malcolm Smith, had 15 tackles and returned an interception 62-yards for the Trojans first score of the game. The Bruins were unable to move the ball until the fourth quarter and turned the ball over four times during the game.
The Trojans finish off the regular season next Saturday, Dec. 5, with a home game against the Arizona Wildcats. The Bruins finished the regular season and are bowl eligible.
The Trojans won the game on the field, but both Carroll and Neuheisel were losers in the sportsmanship arena. The last 54-seconds of the game will add fuel to the fire of an already heated rivalry.