At the end of a long hallway that leads to USC’s locker room below Heritage Hall, there is a wall-size photograph of the Rose Bowl stadium. Emblazoned in lettering above it: “OWN THE ROSE BOWL.”
So when the fifth-ranked Trojans arrived in Pasadena to play UCLA on Saturday, they were intent on making themselves at home in their rivals’ stadium.
“It was a home game for us,” said senior linebacker Rey Maualuga, who had a team-high five tackles in the Trojans’ 28-7 victory.
The win, the Trojans’ ninth in their last 10 games against the Bruins, assured USC of another New Year’s Day date in Pasadena, this time against Penn State.
USC players brushed off the disappointment of missing a Bowl Championship Series title game opportunity and said they were looking forward to playing again at a stadium where they’ve won three games in a row.
USC lost twice in the Rose Bowl stadium in 2006 -- to Texas in the BCS title game and, 11 months later, to the Bruins in the infamous 13-9 upset -- but they won the 2007 and 2008 Rose Bowl games in routs against Big Ten Conference opponents.
Now comes Penn State and legendary coach Joe Paterno. “It’s going to be good to see JoePa,” safety Taylor Mays said.
On Saturday, USC made good on its promise to wear cardinal home jerseys in the rivalry game for the first time since 1982, a move Coach Pete Carroll pushed as a return to tradition. However, several Trojans players said they took it as permission to impose their will on the Bruins.
“There’s no way around it -- it’s disrespect in terms of us considering this our house,” linebacker Kaluka Maiava said of the jerseys. “We came with the mind-set that we’re going to take this thing over.”
USC gave up a touchdown after a fumble on its first offensive series but took control and claimed ownership while building a 21-7 halftime lead.
“Hey, man, make sure you guys pay rent on time,” Trojans defensive tackle Fili Moala said he told Bruins players.
“I don’t think they took it well at all,” he said, grinning.
Before the second-half kickoff, the Trojans started jumping up and down in front of their sideline and then bounced as a group toward the middle of the field.
“They can do all that hoodlum stuff, jumping around,” Bruins running back Kahlil Bell said. “We know this is our house.”
Bruins players moved toward them and were held back by team officials.
“It didn’t really bother me,” Bruins linebacker Reggie Carter said. “I saw them dancing and jumping around, wasting all that good energy.
“Once I saw my teammates hop up and go out there, it was like, ‘OK, this is our home field, let’s take it.’ We ran out there and let them know you’re not going to dance on our field while we’re still playing on it. You may be playing in January, but right now it’s still ours.”
USC will be back in Pasadena in just over three weeks.
Senior defensive end Kyle Moore said he was looking forward to winning again in front of another large cardinal contingent in the stands.
“I heard our fans more than UCLA fans all night long,” he said. “It’s always nice to see them come out in large numbers and make us feel at home.”
Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.