An unexpected hero emerges for USC in punching its ticket to Pac-12 title game
A calm settled over Caleb Williams, on a night when that could be said about few others.
Touchdowns had been traded back and forth. Turnovers too. Field goals were missed. Response after response after response was mounted, in the most dizzying night of the crosstown rivalry in recent memory, a roller coaster that USC rode to a 48-45 victory Saturday night and a berth in the Pac-12 title game.
The Trojans’ star quarterback had come to USC precisely for moments like these, with every chest in a sold-out Rose Bowl thumping and the stakes heart-stoppingly high. He’d put up more than 500 yards of offense, and now, it was up to him to put the game away. But the pocket promptly collapsed, USC’s star was sacked, its hopes suddenly uncertain with time left for UCLA to mount one final drive.
That’s when an unexpected hero emerged to do what neither Williams nor any other Trojan could.
Korey Foreman interception seals USC’s rivalry win
Korey Foreman called game.
The former five-star recruit who has struggled to make an impact at USC sealed the Trojans’ 48-45 win with an interception with 1:26 remaining.
It was Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s fourth turnover and third interception of the game.
Caleb Williams put a final exclamation point on the victory with a 12-yard rush that pushed him over 500 total yards. The quarterback has 470 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 32-of-43 passing and 32 rushing yards for one touchdown.
Thompson-Robinson finished with 309 passing yards and 75 rushing yards and six total touchdowns.
Zach Charbonnet had 95 rushing yards compared to USC’s Austin Jones, who had 120 yards and two touchdowns while filling in for Travis Dye.
UCLA sack gives Bruins a final chance
Ben Bolch just said it best: “Oh my goodness.”
An 12-yard sack on third-and-10 by Laiatu Latu has UCLA in position to get the ball back with a chance to tie or win. The Bruins are trailing 48-45 with 2:27 to go.
After Caleb Williams was dragged down by Latu, USC punted and Logan Loya called a fair catch at the UCLA 11-yard line. It was the first punt by USC all day.
The Bruins have two timeouts left.
Ezeike hat trick keeps UCLA in contention
Michael Ezeike’s third touchdown of the game has UCLA down 48-45 with 6:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Will someone — anyone — get a stop?
UCLA has scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives and the Trojans have scored on four straight.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson rushed for nine yards on first-and-10 from the USC 14-yard line and stayed on the field after absorbing a hard hit. Trainers went on the field to check on the quarterback, so he had to leave for one play, but he returned right after a four-yard rush from Zach Charbonnet. He returned to throw a three-yard touchdown pass to Ezeike.
Thompson-Robinson has 279 yards, four touchdowns and one interception on 20-of-32 passing. He also has two rushing touchdowns.
Ezeike has three touchdowns on four catches and five targets for 44 yards.
Darwin Barlow delivers off the bench
Austin Jones isn’t the only substitute rising to the moment tonight for USC.
Darwin Barlow scored a six-yard touchdown run to put USC up 48-38 with 9:10 remaining in the game.
Barlow, a transfer from TCU, entered the game with just 74 rushing yards this season on 12 carries. Most came in garbage time against Colorado. But he stepped up on USC’s latest drive with back-to-back runs of 19 and six yards to lead the Trojans into the end zone.
Austin Jones is the first running back to eclipse the century mark with 105 yards and one touchdowns. Barlow has 25 yards on two carries.
USC has scored touchdowns on four consectutive drives. Caleb Williams has 424 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 29-of-38 passing.
UCLA fires back with one-play touchdown drive
The sound you might hear is every journalist in the Rose Bowl press box smashing the back space button on their computers.
One play after USC scored, UCLA fired right back with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kazmeir Allen. The Bruins trail 41-38 with 14:35 remaining.
USC gifted the Bruins a short field by a squib kickoff gone wrong. Thompson-Robinson didn’t waste any time by finding Allen wide open in the middle of the field.
Thompson-Robinson has five total touchdowns — three passing and two rushing — and 244 passing yards.
Kyle Ford’s acrobatic catch opens fourth quarter with a bang
Kyle Ford did his best Odell Beckham Jr. impression with a laid-out touchdown catch to put USC up 41-31 with 14:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Caleb Williams lofted a pass to Ford in the end zone, who separated enough from John Humphrey to haul in the 16-yard score.
The Trojans have scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives and are outgaining UCLA 522-340.
USC driving with lead entering fourth quarter
USC and UCLA combined for 24 points in the third quartere and the Trojans are clinging to a slim 34-31 lead entering the fourth quarter.
USC has second-and-10 from at UCLA’s 16-yard line.
Caleb Williams is 25-of-33 passing for 378 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Austin Jones is proving to be a suitable substitute for Travis Dye with 85 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns.
Jordan Addison has 152 receiving yards and one touchdown on eight catches and 10 targets.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson has committed three turnovers but has scored four touchdowns — two running and two passing — but appears to be laboring in the second half after some physical runs. He’s been tasked with being a lead blocker on several runs tonight.
Zach Charbonnet has 91 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Michael Ezeike scores second touchdown
Dorian Thompson-Robinson lowered his shoulder into a defender to get extra yardage on third down. In a game like this, every ounce of effort counts.
Thompson-Robinson responded to USC’s touchdown drive with a score of his own, throwing to Michael Ezeike for a six-yard touchdown pass. UCLA trails 34-31 with 3:46 to go in the third quarter.
Thompson-Robinson used his legs on key plays during the drive, rushing for 12 yards and eight yards on two second-down plays. He scooped up a fumbled snap on third-and-two at the USC 10-yard line and scrambled for four yards, lowering his shoulder against Max Williams to make sure he got the necessary yardage.
Zach Charbonnet broke through for a 19-yard gain on the drive and has 91 yards on the night. Thompson-Robinson has 38 rushing yards to go with 189 passing yards on 17-of-28 passing.
USC scores off UCLA turnover
Austin Jones jumped over the pile for a two-yard touchdown and UCLA’s fans in a packed Rose Bowl are stunned as the Trojans are suddenly leading 34-24 with 6:26 remaining in the third quarter.
USC has scored 10 points off UCLA’s three turnovers, turning a 14-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
Jones, who was elevated to the starting role this week because of Travis Dye’s injury, is outrushing UCLA star Zach Charbonnet. The USC running back has 76 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while Charbonnet has 74 yards on 16 carries.
Caleb Williams has bounced back well from his early interception and has 334 yards and one touchdown on 22-of-30 passing.
USC’s ballhawking defense forces third turnover
As Ben Bolch just said: “What in the world?”
UCLA’s dream start is now a nightmare as Dorian Thompson-Robinson has a third turnover and USC is in the red zone with a 27-24 lead.
USC’s Tyrone Taleni walloped Thompson-Robinson and forced a fumble that Trojan defensive back Latrell McCutchin scooped up at the UCLA nine-yard line.
USC takes first lead off touchdown catch by Jordan Addison
Jordan Addison was nearly invisible against Colorado when he returned from a leg injury, but he’s making a major impact in his first crosstown rivalry game with a 35-yard touchdown reception to give USC its first lead of the game.
Addison burned UCLA linebacker JonJon Vaughns in coverage and was wide open for a pass from Caleb Williams. USC leads 27-24 with 8:50 to go in the third quarter.
Addison has 150 receiving yards on seven catches and nine targets. Last week, he opened the game with a catch for two yards but didn’t get another reception the rest of the game.
Williams is 22-of-30 passing for 334 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also has a rushing touchdown.
UCLA opens second half with field goal
Nicholas Barr-Mira made a 46-yard field goal on UCLA’s opening drive of the second half to put the Bruins up 24-20 with 10:32 remaining in the third quarter.
UCLA converted a fourth-and-four from the USC 31-yard line on the drive as Dorian Thompson-Robinson dumped a short pass off to Zach Charbonnet, who dragged a USC defender across the line to gain. But the drive stalled on the next play as Charbonnet was dropped for a six-yard loss by Tuli Tuipulotu and Soloman Byrd.
Charbonnet has 72 yards on 14 carries with no gain longer than 19 yards. Thompson-Robinson is 15-of-25 for 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
UCLA starts second half on offense
And we’re back.
UCLA takes over at its own 25-yard line after a USC touchback on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is trying to get his momentum back after throwing interceptions on back-to-back drives, allowing USC to inch back in the game. The Bruins lead 21-20.
USC tacks on field goal to close first half
Chip Kelly gave Denis Lynch a second chance at a 49-yard field goal and the USC kicker made the most of it by hammering the ball through the uprights on the final play of the first half.
Lynch’s kick pulled the Trojans within one point at halftime as UCLA is hanging onto a 21-20 lead.
USC is outgaining UCLA 368-224, but struggling to convert in the red zone. The Trojans came up empty on three of their five red-zone trips, including two missed field goals from Lynch.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is 12-of-21 for 130 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His interceptions came on back-to-back drives, including one from Shane Lee with 14 seconds remaining that gave the Trojans a chance to score again at the end of the second quarter.
Lynch kicked a 49-yard field goal that fell just short of the uprights, but it was waved off because UCLA called a timeout before the snap. With the warmup kick, Lynch was able to push the ball through the uprights on his next attempt.
Caleb Williams is 19-of-27 passing for 282 yards and one interception. He has one rushing touchdown.
After just one catch for two yards last week, Jordan Addison already has 106 receiving yards on five catches. The Trojans are averaging 8.4 yards per play compared to UCLA’s 5.4.
USC’s red zone woes continue
USC’s offense is moving the ball. The Trojans got a critical takeaway to stymie UCLA. Yet the Trojans still trail 21-17.
USC came up empty on a third red zone possession after Mekhi Blackmon’s interception when Brenden Rice dropped a pass on third-and-nine and Denis Lynch missed a 33-yard field goal attempt. Lynch has missed two kicks today and the Trojans are just two-for-five in the red zone.
USC gets another chance at the end of the half as Shane Lee stopped UCLA with an interception with 14 seconds remaining.
Mekhi Blackmon interception stops UCLA
USC’s defense has arrived.
Mekhi Blackmon picked off Dorian Thompson-Robinson on a ball intended for Michael Ezeike, giving the Trojans a chance to score late in the second quarter.
Thompson-Robinson threw the pass behind Ezeike, allowing Blackmon to step up and snag his third interception of the season.
The Trojans have 16 interceptions as a team.
Austin Jones cuts into UCLA lead
Austin Jones scored on an eight-yard touchdown run to put USC down 21-17 with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Jones, who is taking over for Travis Dye, has 49 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown.
Caleb Williams is cooking with 260 passing yards on 16-for-21 yards, but has yet to come up with a passing touchdown. He completed a 49-yard pass to Kyle Ford on the scoring drive to get the Trojans into scoring position. Jaylin Davies tried to jump in front of Ford to break up the pass, but Williams was able to zip the ball past the UCLA defender, leaving Ford free to run up the sideline.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s second rushing touchdown extends UCLA’s lead
No hurdle needed this time.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, powering forward for a one-yard quarterback sneak to put UCLA ahead 21-10 with 3:48 remaining in the second quarter.
Thompson-Robinson has three touchdowns — two on the ground and one through the air — with 109 passing yards.
UCLA got help from a facemask penalty on Mekhi Blackmon that added 14 penalty yards to a 15-yard completion to Kam Brown. It was USC’s second facemask penalty of the game and both infractions led to UCLA touchdowns.
USC adds field goal
Denis Lynch redeemed himself with a 44-yard field goal as USC now trails 14-10 with 5:45 to go in the second quarter.
The Trojans scored off the drive that began inside the one-yard line after Mo Osling III downed an excellent punt from Nicholas Barr-Mira. Despite the field position disadvantage, the Trojans moved out into scoring position quickly with completions of 16 and 48 yards from Caleb Williams to Jordan Addison.
But USC’s drive stalled when Jacob Sykes and Laiatu Latu sacked Williams on second-and-nine from the UCLA 27-yard line. Addison came up short on a screen play on third down.
Williams is 14-of-18 passing for 203 yards and one interception. Addison already has 105 receiving yards on four catches, but the Trojans have only one touchdown.
Caleb Williams gets USC on the board
USC has entered the chat.
Caleb Williams bowled into the end zone on a quarterback keeper, scoring USC’s first points on a six-yard touchdown run. The Trojans trail 14-7 with 11:52 to go in the second quarter.
Williams is now 11-of-15 passing for 135 yards and one interception with one rushing touchdown and 23 yards on three carries. The Trojans got Austin Jones going on the scoring drive and he has 24 rushing yards on six carries.
UCLA has control after first quarter
UCLA scored two touchdowns in less than one minute of game time to lead 14-0 entering the second quarter.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson has 55 yards and one touchdown on five-of-seven passing. He also has one rushing touchdown.
Caleb Williams is off to a tough start in his first game of the rivalry series. He is pushing the ball down the field well with 118 yards on nine-of-13 passing, but he has an interception that led to UCLA’s second touchdown. He also leads the Travis Dye-less Trojans in rushing with 17 yards.
USC is facing its largest deficit of the season.
Kain Medrano picks off Caleb Williams, UCLA takes two-touchdown lead
Caleb Williams picked a bad time for his worst throw of the year.
The USC quarterback threw an interception straight to UCLA linebacker Kain Medrano and the Bruins got the ball back at the USC 30-yard line. Dorian Thompson-Robinson threw a touchdown pass to Michael Ezeike on the next play to put the Bruins up 14-0 with 1:47 to go in the fourth quarter.
As USC beat reporter Ryan Kartje said, “This is a nightmare start for USC right now.”
Not only are the Trojans down by two touchdowns, but have no points on two red zone trips and burned two timeouts.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson scores on quarterback sneak
UCLA got on the board first with a one-yard quarterback sneak from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to go ahead 7-0 with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.
Despite having two of the best offenses in the country, the game started as a defensive showdown, with the Trojans faultering twice in the red zone. Thompson-Robinson responded by leading the Bruins on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.
He is four-of-six for 25 yards and Zach Charbonnet has 27 rushing yards on six carries.
USC comes up empty again in the red zone
Denis Lynch shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt with 7:22 remaining in the first quarter to keep things scoreless early.
The Trojans are 0-for-2 in the red zone.
To add insult to injury, a UCLA fan won $1,000 for making a 25-yard field goal during the commerical break.
The Trojans are moving the ball well, averaging 7.1 yards a play. Caleb Williams is six-for-nine for 90 yards, including a 37-yard competiton to Jordan Addison.
USC burned its second timeout of the first half with 7:28 remaining in the first quarter.
UCLA defensive lineman Jay Toia was injured during the drive. He was lying on his back for several minutes after a play and needed assistance to slowly walk to the sideline. After trainers spoke to him on the ground and helped him to his feet, USC defensive linemen Tuli Tuipulotu, Brandon Pili and Stanley Ta’ufo’ou crossed rivalry lines and shook Toia’s hand and patted him on the back. Toia started his college career with the Trojans, participating in spring practice in 2021, before transferring to UCLA and was high school teammates with Ta’ufo’ou.
UCLA stuffs USC’s fourth-down attempt
One drive in and USC is already missing Travis Dye.
The star running back was a midfield captain for the Trojans, sporting his No. 26 jersey and a knee scooter after suffering a season-ending leg injury last week, but he was stuck on the sideline on a critical fourth-and-one at the UCLA 19-yard-line. Caleb Williams got dragged down for a two-yard loss by Gabriel Murphy and Kenny Churchwell III.
The Bruins kept USC scoreless after a 10-play, 54-yard drive.
Williams dumped a pass off to Raleek Brown on third-and-five. Brown caught the ball one yard short of the yard marker and tried to juke his way to a conversion instead of facing UCLA’s defenders head on. The freshman was dropped one yard short, forcing the Trojans to go for it on fourth-and-one from the UCLA 19-yard line.
Mario Williams returned on USC’s first drive for his first action since the Utah game.
USC starts rivalry game on offense
Hello, this is Thuc Nhi Nguyen, I’m piloting our rivalry week live blog from the Rose Bowl. We’ve got almost our whole L.A. Times crew here in the press box. I’m joined by beat writers Ben Bolch and Ryan Kartje and columnists Bill Plaschke and Dylan Hernandez. Even Michael Buffer introduced the teams, so you know it’s a big deal.
USC will start on offense. The Trojans can clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game with a win.
The Bruins, who lost to Arizona last week, are fighting to keep their championship hopes alive.
John Humphrey and Calen Bullock of Pasadena prepare for rivalry reunion
They shared the same sideline at the Rose Bowl and celebrated rivalry wins together as teammates for Pasadena Muir High, but when UCLA’s John Humphrey and USC’s Calen Bullock return to their hometown’s cherished stadium Saturday, only one Pasadena native gets to claim bragging rights.
“In the back of our heads, it’s going to be like, ‘Who runs the city?’ ” Humphrey said with a grin.
Competition between UCLA and USC stands out for numerous local ties that cover the 12 miles between the two campuses and beyond. Part rivalry, part reunion, Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl pits former high school teammates against each other in a matchup worth more than just local supremacy.
Scouts assess USC’s Caleb Williams, UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson
The NFL scouts will arrive at the Rose Bowl on Saturday with their binoculars and notepads at the ready. They will watch from the press box with great interest, not because they’re pulling for USC or UCLA but because millions of dollars could be at stake.
Both rosters are filled with Saturday players who dream of playing on Sundays, and many of those prospects will wind up in NFL camps next summer.
As they have for the last 16 years, two NFL team scouts opened their notebooks for the Los Angeles Times to give some honest, unvarnished appraisals of the talent on the field. The participating scouts have changed over the years, but the concept remains. They spoke on condition of anonymity — identified as Scout 1 and Scout 2 — because of the competitiveness of their jobs and the sensitivity of the information. They represent NFL teams in both conferences.
With Bill McGovern possibly out again, how will UCLA’s defense rise against USC?
How does it work?
For much of the time, it’s been a struggle.
Up next, in the season’s biggest game: a USC offense averaging a preposterous 42.4 points and 499.4 yards per game.
McGovern was not at practice earlier this week, leaving the defensive coordinator’s availability in doubt for Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl. UCLA coach Chip Kelly has not addressed the specifics of McGovern’s absence, saying only that he’s been unavailable.
USC-UCLA crosstown rivalry makes overdue history with two Black starting QBs
Vince Evans remembers the crosstown rivalry for its unrivaled terror.
Before the 1976 game, Evans received a letter that contained the N-word with a warning: “If you go out there against UCLA, we’re going to blow your brains out.”
Such was the life of a Black quarterback.
“Imagine being a young kid playing under that kind of duress and pressure,” Evans remembered. “It was tough.”
Jimmy Jones remembers the crosstown rivalry for its unrivaled finality.
Despite directing the Trojans to an unbeaten season in 1969 and establishing several school passing records during his three years as a starter there, Jones was never given a shot in the NFL. He wasn’t drafted. He wasn’t signed as a free agent. He was never even offered a tryout. He spent a year working for Chrysler before spending his entire professional career playing in Canada.
Victory Bell mercenaries: How the transfer portal is shaping the USC vs. UCLA rivalry
His UCLA counterpart may have no trouble channeling a century’s worth of bitter feelings after four crosstown confrontations, but don’t count on Caleb Williams conjuring the same sentiments ahead of his rivalry debut
Asked how much he’s absorbed of the storied rivalry this week, USC’s star quarterback shrugged.
“Haven’t learned much, to be honest with you,” Williams said. “I’ve been in other big rivalry games so far in my career. So treating it like another game.”
Of course, that’s not how Dorian Thompson-Robinson sees it, their approaches as contrasting as the cardinal and blue of the home jerseys each team will wear Saturday.
“Obviously we hate those guys across town,” the UCLA fifth-year senior said Monday.
Although that bitterness is built-in by now for Thompson-Robinson, he’s among the few key contributors on either side of this year’s rivalry game with any experience ringing the Victory Bell.
To reach playoff, USC would likely need to win heated Tennessee debate
Lincoln Riley says he doesn’t pay any mind to the College Football Playoff’s weekly rankings reveal. And certainly, with a massive rivalry game against UCLA just days away, that’s probably a sound decision. No wasted minutes and all.
If he did happen to tune in Tuesday night, he would have seen some positive signs of the CFP selection committee’s respect for the 9-1 Trojans, who moved up a spot to No. 7.
USC stayed in front of No. 8 Alabama, which won a hard-fought game on the road at Mississippi, a result that certainly could have nudged the committee to say the Crimson Tide, even with two losses, had still clearly accomplished more in 2022 than the Trojans. USC also sits above No. 9 Clemson, which could finish as another one-loss Power Five conference champion when the dust settles.
Use our interactive guide to see how UCLA and USC could reach the Pac-12 title game
The only thing more chaotic than Pac-12 after dark is the Pac-12 after tiebreakers.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Pac-12 Conference race remains wide open. Five teams — USC, UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington — could still land in a five-way tie for two spots in the conference championship game.
Here’s what to know about how UCLA and USC can claim a ticket to the title game Dec. 2 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas:
USC (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12) has the most direct path: Win and the Trojans are in. USC can clinch its spot in the Pac-12 championship game with a victory over rival UCLA on Saturday night. The Trojans would likely face the winner of Saturday’s Utah-Oregon game for the title Dec. 2.
You read it here first: UCLA will beat USC Saturday at the Rose Bowl
It’s crazy to predict this game, crazy to risk the outpouring of ridicule if wrong, crazy to attempt forecasting the most evenly matched crosstown rivalry duel in many years — crazy, crazy, crazy.
Doing it anyway.
Doing it because this is what UCLA does.
And here comes USC, rolling along, three wins from possibly its own playoff spot, no trap losses here, only a blindingly bright future and …
And this is when UCLA knocks USC’s lights out.
USC vs. UCLA: Betting odds, lines and picks against the spread
The game everyone has been waiting for is at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Rose Bowl, though it has lost some of its luster with UCLA’s 34-28 loss to Arizona last Saturday night
USC is trying to lock up a berth in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive while UCLA is trying to play spoiler and earn a spot in the conference title game.
Early bettors have shown a preference for USC -2 as 73% of the bets at DraftKings sportsbooks have been on the Trojans, though it’s been closer with the big bets as only 53% of the money has come in on them. For the most up-to-date betting trends, see VSiN’s college football betting splits page.