It’s Still UCLA-USC, and That Says It All : College football: Trojans have clinched Rose Bowl berth, but struggling Bruins go for fifth in a row in series.
Not much at stake?
Only a city championship game?
Not this game.
True, UCLA vs. USC today at the Coliseum will not determine a Rose Bowl berth, a national championship or even a Pacific 10 Conference title.
But this is the 65th renewal of America’s greatest intra-city college football rivalry.
USC (6-0-1 in the Pac-10, 8-1-1 overall) and UCLA (3-4, 6-4) is a modern-day extension of sports feuds in this country that can be traced to the 19th Century, when baseball teams from rural towns climbed onto wagons and set out on dusty roads to face each other.
Today, Coach John Robinson’s Rose Bowl-bound Trojans try to break UCLA’s four-year grip on the series and become the first Pac-10 team to finish the league schedule unbeaten since 1991.
Since these teams began playing in 1929, only once before--from 1976-79 (USC)--has one of them won the game four years in a row.
The Trojans are determined to prevent the Bruins from adding a fifth victory to the streak. Said fullback Terry Barnum, who winced when recalling last season’s 31-19 loss at the Rose Bowl:
“There’s been no talk about the Rose Bowl this week. UCLA has had our number, and we want to get some self-respect back. When you lose the biggest games that you play, the pain is deep and it doesn’t go away quickly.”
The oldest player on the field will be USC linebacker Errick Herrin, 26, a Gulf War veteran whose improper dealings with an agent cost him five games of his senior season.
“If we win this one, then go win the Rose Bowl, yes, that would make up for missing five games,” he said.
That has been Robinson’s message to his team all week.
“We’re a team with a chance to have a great season, to win our last two,” he said.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue described his team as “bitterly disappointed” over the results of the last two weeks, losses to Arizona State and Washington. And he said his biggest challenge this week was to get his team in an “upbeat and spirited mode” by kickoff today.
He called the game “huge, gigantic” for his seniors, who can bow out unbeaten against the Trojans as well as perhaps earn an invitation to the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu.
UCLA’s motto this week has been “Go for Five in ’95.”
Said offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden: “This is the only Pac-10 team I haven’t lost to and I want to keep it going. When we play them, we just seem to have a belief in ourselves.”
From all indications, UCLA will be without its most notable weapon. Tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar, with 500 more rushing yards than any other player in the Pac-10, sprained an ankle on UCLA’s first play last Saturday and probably won’t play.
His replacement will be either James Milliner or Derek Ayers.
That could result in Donahue’s worst fear, having to pass frequently.
“That’s what happened to Arizona and Cal [against USC],” he said.
“That’s why the loss of Karim is so critical to us. If you can run the ball a little bit, you can throw a little bit.
“But if you can’t run a little bit, then you are going to have to throw all the time. And then their pass rushers can get you.”
While the bottom may have fallen out of UCLA’s running game, USC’s seems more finely tuned than at any time this season.
Sophomore 190-pounder Delon Washington, who began the season as Robinson’s No. 3 tailback, is now the first-stringer. With the seasons of Shawn Walters (suspension) and Leonard Green (injury) wiped out, Washington has become the man.
He has had solid, no-fumble performances the past two weeks, when he gained 144 yards against Stanford and 158 at Oregon State, and can become USC’s first 1,000-yard runner since 1990 with 94 today.
In addition to Washington, UCLA must defend against Keyshawn Johnson, whose first catch will make him the all-time Pac-10 single-season reception leader, with 79.
Some other possibly significant numbers:
--USC ranks first in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, UCLA third.
--USC is first in third-down conversions on offense, but eighth in third-down conversion defense.
--USC is second in pass offense with 259 yards per game, and UCLA is ninth with 194.
Robinson will stick with his two-quarterback offense, but the order has been reversed over the last three weeks. Senior Kyle Wachholtz is now the starter, with Brad Otton probably playing the second and fourth quarters.
Donahue counters with Cade McNown, a true freshman.
To Donahue, who will be involved in his 28th UCLA-USC game as a player and coach, this one epitomizes the rivalry.
“I don’t care what the situation is, it’s always a big game,” he said.
“Never been in one yet that I didn’t think was big. And every kid who is on this team or ever gets to play in this game is lucky as heck, blessed. It’s really what you dream about as a kid.
“If you don’t think it is, you’ve never played in it.”
USC Coach John Robinson calls UCLA’s offensive line, anchored by tackle Jonathan Ogden and center Mike Flanagan, one of the nation’s best, “in a class with Nebraska’s and Ohio State’s.” When asked to compare Ogden with USC’s Tony Boselli, the second pick in 1995 NFL draft, he said: “One is rich, the other is about to be.”
Injuries: For USC, tailback LaVale Woods is out with a re-injured hamstring. Recovered from hamstring strains are defensive end Izzy Ifeanyi and safety Jesse Davis. UCLA, with the exception of tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar, is injury-free. . . . Freshman Adam Abrams, who sat out six games with a leg injury, is USC’s designated kicker today.
UCLA BRUINS vs. USC TROJANS
* Site: Coliseum
* Time: 12:30 p.m.
* TV: Channel 7
* Radio: XTRA (690), KMPC (710)
TEAMS AT A GLANCE
UCLA USC Records 6-4 8-1-1 Scoring Avg. 28.4 29.4 Total Offense 401.0 419.5 Total Defense 392.0 320.9
RUSHING YARDS Team Player Yds. Year UCLA Gaston Green 224 1986 USC Marcus Allen 219 1981 PASSING YARDS UCLA Tommy Maddox 409 1990 USC Rob Johnson 307 1993 RECEIVING YARDS UCLA J.J. Stokes 263 1992 USC Keyshawn Johnson 175 1994 LONGEST PLAY UCLA Barnes to Stokes 90 1992 USC Eddie Saens run 86 1943
SERIES AT GLANCE
* Overall: USC 34, UCLA 23, 7 Ties
* John Robinson: 5-4-0; * Terry Donahue: 9-9-1