Two teams. One City. One champion.
Ronald Jones II rushed for two touchdowns and Sam Darnold ran for one of his own, as the No. 11 USC Trojans defeated crosstown rival, UCLA, 28-23, in the Battle for Los Angeles at the Coliseum on Saturday.
The highly anticipated rivalry featured two of the nation's top quarterbacks in sophomore sensation Darnold and junior Josh Rosen for UCLA.
In front of dozens of NFL scouts, the two quarterbacks did not disappoint as Rosen threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns, and Darnold threw for 264 yards and ran for a touchdown.
"We're not technically battling against each other, because I'm going against their defense," Darnold said. "But I think it's awesome to be able to battle against a great player like Josh."
Darnold, a sophomore from Capistrano, CA, is widely considered by analysts as the consensus No. 1 pick in the NFL draft should he opt to leave USC and declare for the pros.
After the game, Darnold and Rosen met at the 50-yard-line for a hug and a handshake, and then the USC quarterback climbed the ladder to lead the Trojans marching band, sword in hand, as the student section chanted, "One more year!"
"I'm not going to say anything about that," Darnold said when asked what he thought about the students chant. "But it's so cool whenever I get the opportunity to lead the band. Not every college has that kind of tradition."
USC struck first when they perfectly executed a misdirection play on a punt by the Bruins. UCLA punter Stefan Flintoft kicked the ball down the Trojans sideline, but returner Velus Jones Jr. fooled everyone on the field as he pretended to catch the ball at the 30-yard-line.
Meanwhile, Michael Pittman Jr. actually caught the ball with not a single Bruin player around him as he ran untouched down the sideline for the 72-yard touchdown return.
"That's something we practice each and every year," said USC coach Clay Helton after the game. "I thought Coach Baxter and our punt return team had it set up perfectly and all we needed was a good kick. It was executed well and that gave us an early spark in that game. Really well done by Michael Pittman."
The Bruins responded on the ensuing drive as Rosen picked apart the Trojans' defense, finding Jordan Lasley open in the end zone to complete a seven-play, 80-yard drive that tied the game at 7-7.
Lasley led all receivers in the game, catching 10 passes for a career-high 204 yards and three touchdowns.
The back and forth battle continued as the Trojans answered right back on their next possession. Sam Darnold found Deontay Burnett for a 15-yard strike that put the ball on the UCLA 2-yard line, and USC punched it in one play later when running back Ronald Jones II rushed up the gut for the touchdown.
Jones II had a game-high 25 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Darnold put the Trojans in front by two touchdowns when he called his own number in the third quarter, and rushed to the left for the score.
Once again the Bruins responded right away as Rosen found Lasley wide open in the end zone to cap off a 79-yard touchdown drive.
After a UCLA field goal cut the lead to 21-17, the Trojans put the game away when Jones II rushed up the middle for his second touchdown of the game.
Rosen kept the game close as he found Lasley again for the duo's third touchdown of the game as the Bruins cut the lead to 28-23.
"I really thought we won this game," said Rosen who set a new school record with his seventh 300-yard passing game of the season. "We executed how we want. We were even making field goals. Missed a field goal, two turnovers -- that's what, nine points right there? We lost by five. Another touchdown called back for a chop [block]. It's just frustrating."
After a failed two-point conversion, and a missed onside kick, USC ran the clock out to secure the victory--the third consecutive against the rival Bruins and 16th consecutive win at the Coliseum overall.
Los Angeles Lakers Legend Kobe Bryant was at the game.
The UCLA Bruins will host Cal next Friday at the Rose Bowl with a potential Bowl Game berth on the line. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30PM PST.
The Trojans will have the next week off as they await their opponent in the Pac 12 Championship game at Levis Stadium on December 1st.