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UCLA shakes off early miscues and pulls away for a 62-33 win over rival USC

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UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs past USC linebacker Ralen Goforth for a touchdown
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs past USC linebacker Ralen Goforth for a touchdown in the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA shook off two early interceptions and a string of penalties, rolling to a 62-33 road win over rival USC at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson finally scored a win over rival USC.

Thompson-Robinson got off to a shaky start, tossing interceptions on his first two passes, but he settled down and helped the Bruins overcome some penalties during a 62-33 win over the rival Trojans at the Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson accounts for 6 TDs, UCLA scores its most points ever vs. USC

The game essentially over, the outcome long decided, Dorian Thompson-Robinson wanted more in his final moments against his most hated rival.

The UCLA senior quarterback took the snap deep in USC territory and charged to his right with a little less than four minutes to play, plenty of open field in front of him. As he sprinted inside the 10-yard line, there was only one defender to beat.

One defender who could stop the Bruins from hanging the most points on the Trojans in the 92-year history of the rivalry.

One defender who could prevent Thompson-Robinson from leaving the legacy he wanted after vowing to beat the “everliving s—” out of the Trojans.

One defender who could keep the quarterback from further silencing the critics who had assailed his inconsistency and maddening tendency to attempt — and fail — to hurdle defenders.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson stars as UCLA beats rival USC

Declin Manz, 12, holds the UCLA hat Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson signed.
Declin Manz, 12, holds the UCLA hat Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson signed after Thompson-Robinson scored a touchdown in the second quarter against USC at the Coliseum on Saturday.
(Ben Bolch / Los Angeles Times)

Whether he was signing a fan’s hat after a touchdown or hurdling a USC defender to get into the end zone, Dorian Thompson-Robinson made good on his promise to beat the “everliving s—-" out of USC on Saturday.

The Bruins (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) ended a two-game losing streak to their crosstown rivals, dominating USC 62-33 as their senior quarterback scored six touchdowns.

Thompson-Robinson, who created some bulletin board material for the rivalry game last December in a video posted on his YouTube channel, shook off two early interceptions to throw for 349 yards and four touchdowns on 16-of-22 passing while rushing for 46 yards and two more scores.

Kazmeir Allen and Kyle Philips each caught a touchdown pass and Allen added another score on a 100-yard kickoff return to help UCLA to its highest-scoring game against USC ever. The 62 points eclipsed UCLA’s previous high of 48, which came in a double-overtime win in 1996.

USC freshman Jaxson Dart went 26-of-44 in his first start, throwing for 320 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions. Gary Bryant Jr. had a team-high 161 receiving yards on nine catches with one touchdown.

The Trojans (4-6, 3-5 Pac-12) now need wins in each of their final two games against BYU and at California to secure bowl eligibility.

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Ethan Fernea tacks on another

With backup quarterback Ethan Garbers in, running back Ethan Fernea scored another touchdown for UCLA to put the final nail in this rivalry game.

Fernea scored from 42 yards out as UCLA leads 62-33 with 1:09 remaining.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson hurdles for another touchdown

One more touchdown with feeling.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson put an exclamation point on his standout night with a hurdling touchdown run, leaping over Isaac Taylor-Stuart to put UCLA up 55-33 with 3:47 to go.

The quarterback’s 15-yard touchdown run was his sixth score of the night and second on the ground. He has 349 passing yards for four touchdowns and 46 rushing yards with two touchdowns.

The Bruins’ 55 points are now the most they’ve ever scored against USC, surpassing a 48-point, double-overtime win in 1996.

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USC tries to rally

USC’s isn’t going down just yet, although a one-yard touchdown from Vavae Malepeai with 6:48 remaining might be too little, too late for the Trojans.

USC still trails 48-33 and the Trojan defense has only stopped the Bruins twice in their last seven drives. One of those stops came by virtue of halftime.

UCLA’s 48 points matches the school’s highest scoring output ever against USC, equaling a 48-41 double-overtime win in 1996.

Malepeai has three rushing touchdowns on 10 carries for 49 yards.

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Zach Charbonnet finds the end zone

With a healthy lead, UCLA can unleash Zach Charbonnet.

The running back’s four-yard touchdown put the Bruins up 48-26 with 10:12 after UCLA’s two-point attempt failed.

Charbonnet ran the ball six times on the 11-play drive and has 157 rushing yards on 24 carries with one touchdown today. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

The long UCLA drive took 5:57 off the clock. UCLA has 534 yards, a season-high, compared to USC’s 405.

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UCLA squashes USC drive with end zone interception

UCLA defensive back Cameron Johnson put a stop to a promising USC drive by picking off Jaxson Dart in the end zone and returning it to the UCLA two-yard line.

It’s Dart’s second interception of the game as the Bruins maintain a 42-26 lead entering the fourth quarter.

After giving up a 100-yard kickoff return, the Trojans were attacking on offense in an attempt to take momentum back. Dart had just competed a 37-yard pass to Gary Bryant Jr. that brought USC to the UCLA 28-yard line. Dart looked for Tahj Washington in the end zone but Johnson was one of two Bruins in the area to pick off the pass.

Dart is 18-of-34 passing in his first college start with 256 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is outshining the freshman with 337 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions on 15-of-21 passing.

The Bruins are averaging 9.5 yards per play compared to 5.9 yards for the Trojans.

Kazmeir Allen is UCLA’s big playmaker today with 103 receiving yards on two catches.

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Kazmeir Allen responds

Not so fast, Kazmeir Allen said.

Just seconds after it looks like USC was preparing to charge toward a comeback, Allen ripped off a 100-yard kickoff return to take momentum back for UCLA. The Bruins now lead 42-26 with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.

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USC strikes quickly after missed UCLA field goal

USC fans are awake again.

Two plays after Nicholas Barr-Mira’s 46-yard field goal attempt went wide right, the Trojans scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Jaxson Dart to Gary Bryant Jr. and now trail 35-26 with 2:09 to go after their two-point attempt was stopped.

The field goal attempt was set up by a third-down sack by USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu.

It’s the fifth consecutive game that Barr-Mira has missed a field goal attempt.

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Trojans settle for field goal

Another red zone trip went awry for USC as the Trojans were forced to settle for a short field goal after having first-and-goal from the one-yard line.

UCLA leads 35-20 with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter after a 23-yard field goal from Alex Stadthaus.

The outcome was a disappointing finish to USC’s best drive of the game. The Trojans marched down the field over 16 plays and got to the one-yard line when Jaxson Dart found Gary Bryan Jr. for a nine-yard completion on third-and-six. USC went backwards on the next play as Dart was tackled for a four-yard loss while trying to keep the ball. An incompletion and a rush for no gain from Vavae Malepeai forced the Trojans to kick.

Fans began booing as USC’s field goal unit came onto the field.

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UCLA starts second half with touchdown

UCLA started the second half as it ended the first half: hot.

The Bruins went 78 yards in eight plays on their first drive of the third quarter and scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kyle Philips. UCLA leads 35-17 with 11:36 to go in the third.

Philips lined up in the slot and cut across the middle of the field, catching a pass in stride and out-running Jaylin Smith, who didn’t even make an attempt at tackling the UCLA receiver.

UCLA has scored four touchdowns on its last five drives with the only blip on the radar coming on the sequence ended by the halftime horn.

Thompson-Robinson is 12-of-18 passing for 275 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has a rushing score.

Philips has a team-high five catches and two touchdowns.

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USC fans switches allegiance for Thompson-Robinson signature

Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s rushing touchdown that put UCLA up 28-10 with 2:13 was a highlight in the first half, not only because it was the quarterback’s fourth score of the game, but because what happened after Thompson-Robinson found the end zone.

Thompson-Robinson happened to run into the wall in front of the stands, where a fan wearing a USC shirt extended a UCLA hat over the barrier. Thompson-Robinson grabbed the fan’s marker and signed the hat.

Meet the fan behind the viral moment: Declin Manz.

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USC responds with TD going into halftime

A second rushing touchdown from Vavae Malepeai cut USC’s deficit to 28-17 going into halftime.

The USC running back scored from three yards out to cap off an eight-play, 67-yard touchdown drive for the Trojans who had not scored in the second quarter yet. The drive ended UCLA’s run of 21 consecutive points.

A strong comeback from Dorian Thompson-Robinson led the UCLA surge as the quarterback completed 10 of 14 passes after beginning the game with two straight interceptions. Along with 239 passing yards and three touchdowns, he also has 21 rushing yards on six carries and one rushing touchdown.

Kazmeir Allen leads the Bruins in receiving yards with 103 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Jaxson Dart is 12-of-25 passing for 133 yards and one interception. Malepeai has both of USC’s touchdowns with 20 rushing yards on four carries. Keaontay Ingram leads the Trojans in rushing with 88 yards on 13 carries and has a team-high 39 receiving yards on three catches.

UCLA is outgaining USC 333-236.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson scores touchdown, gives fan a souvenir

Declin Manz, 12, holds the UCLA hat Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson signed.
Declin Manz, 12, holds the UCLA hat Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson signed after Thompson-Robinson scored a touchdown in the second quarter against USC.
(Ben Bolch / Los Angeles Times)

Talk about a signature play.

After a four-yard touchdown run, Dorian Thompson-Robinson signed a fan’s UCLA hat, earning a 15-yard penalty while putting the Bruins up 28-10 with 2:06 remaining in the second quarter.

Thompson-Robinson scored in the corner of the end zone and a fan wearing red leaned over the wall holding a blue and gold hat. Thompson-Robinson took the fan’s Sharpie and signed the hat.

The quarterback has four first-half touchdowns with three passing and one rushing. Since throwing interceptions on his first two passes, Thompson-Robinson is eight-of-12 passing for 219 yards and three touchdowns.

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Kazmeir Allen’s second touchdown extends UCLA lead

Don’t forget about Kazmeir Allen.

The California state champion sprinter has had a quiet UCLA career since his breakout game as a freshman when he ripped off a 74-yard touchdown against Cincinnati in his college debut, but is now making his presence felt in a big way against the Trojans.

Allen got free behind the USC defense for a second touchdown reception to put the Bruins up 21-10 with 6:31 remaining in the second quarter. Allen has 103 receiving yards on two catches for two touchdowns.

The former receiver turned running back had no rushing touchdowns this year, but has doubled his receiving touchdowns in this game alone. He entered Saturday’s rivalry game with two touchdown catches.

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Thompson-Robinson finds Philips to put Bruins ahead

UCLA capitalized on a short field to score another touchdown and jump back in front after a touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kyle Philips.

The quarterback lofted a pass to Philips for 23 yards to score, capping off a six-play, 58-yard drive. UCLA leads 14-10 with 9:33 to go in the second.

A punt from deep in USC territory set the Bruins up with their best starting field position of the day so far.

Thompson-Robinson is starting to bounce back after his terrible start. He is now 6-of-12 passing for 135 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Offensive penalty costs USC big play

Loud cheers from USC fans quickly turned into boos as a 31-yard completion from Jaxson Dart to Tahj Washington was negated after an offensive pass interference call on third-and-six. Washington looked as if he had made a good play on the ball to separate from the UCLA defensive back, but the referees saw it differently.

Instead of getting the ball at the UCLA 40, the Trojans had to back up to the USC 15 for third-and-20 when another long pass from Dart was broken up over the middle.

USC still leads 10-7 with 11:25 to go in the second quarter.

The offensive pass interference was the first penalty called on the Trojans, but it was more costly than any of UCLA’s four accepted penalties.

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Vavae Malepeai TD puts Trojans back in front

USC’s offense is known for its aerial attack, but it was the ground game that helped the Trojans re-take the lead.

Vavae Malepeai scored on a seven-yard touchdown run to put the Trojans up 10-7 after the first quarter.

USC’s running backs capitalized on bad tackling from the Bruins. Maleapeai dodged a tackle from UCLA’s Ale Kaho in the backfield on the way to the end zone and Keaontay Ingram shoved multiple would-be tacklers aside on a key 18-yard rush.

Ingram leads USC in rushing with 43 yards on eight carries. He also has a team-high 36 receiving yards on two catches.

Jaxson Dart is six-of-13 passing for 80 yards and one interception.

UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson has completed as many passes to his teammates (two) as to the Trojans (two intercptions) but USC failed to cash in on either turnover. One of Thompson-Robinson’s completions went for a 45-yard touchdown pass to Kazmeir Allen.

UCLA’s rushing game, which is without Brittain Brown so far, was quiet in the first quarter. Zach Charbonnet was held to just 19 rushing yards on four carries. Thompson-Robinson has 16 yards on four carries.

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UCLA jumps ahead with game’s first touchdown

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is ready to play now.

The quarterback dropped a perfect pass to Kazmeir Allen for a 45-yard touchdown catch to put UCLA up 7-0 with 4:32 remaining.

Thompson-Robinson, who threw interceptions on each of his first two passes, made two big plays on third down during the eight-play, 94-yard touchdown drive. He scrambled for 12 on third-and-10 and found Greg Dulcich on third-and-nine as the tight end laid out for a 37-yard catch.

To score, Thompson-Robinson lofted a perfecly placed pass over the outstretched arm of the USC defender to Allen, who ran untouched into the end zone.

Despite the scoring drive, UCLA is already picking up inexplicable penalties. The Bruins were called for sideline interference on the drive and head coach Chip Kelly was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after Nicholas Barr-Mira scored the extra point.

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Dorian Thompson-Robinson throws second interception

A third straight drive will end with an interception as Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s low pass was picked off by Chris Steele.

Chase Cota, the intended receiver, fell on the play and Steele was able to pick off the pass across the middle.

Thompson-Robinson has now thrown interceptions on both of his pass attempts. The Trojans take over at the UCLA 49-yard line.

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Quarterbacks trade interceptions

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the more experienced of the two quarterbacks in this matchup, but the UCLA committed a huge error by throwing an interception on UCLA’s second play.

The Bruins turned the ball over as USC’s Xavion Alford easily picked the ball to put USC back on offense at their own 42-yard line.

The UCLA defense showed up though as Quentin Lake picked off Jaxson Dart on a long pass three plays later. The Bruins get the ball back at their 36.

Lake acrobatically tipped the ball in the air and secured it for a 16-yard return. The ball was intended for Gary Bryant Jr.

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USC’s first drive stalls in red zone

A promising drive from USC was undone with two drops in the red zone that forced the Trojans to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Alex Stadthaus.

USC leads 3-0 with 10:56 remaining in the first quarter.

Tahj Washington and K.D. Nixon each had chances for first down conversions, but dropped passes from Jaxson Dart on second and third down, respectively.

Dart completed three of six passes on the drive for 57 yards, including a 32-yard pass to running back Keaontay Ingram.

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Team Times checks in with pregame rivalry predictions

Reporters Ryan Kartje, Ben Bolch and Thuc Nhi Nguyen and columnist Bill Plaschke meet in the Coliseum press box to talk about Saturday’s buzz-less rivalry game, the X-factors for each team and who has the edge in the matchup.

The Trojans will get the ball to start with freshman Jaxson Dart getting his first rivalry start.

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USC vs. UCLA matchups: Trojans’ Coliseum win streak in jeopardy against Bruins

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson avoids getting tackled by USC linebacker Juliano Falaniko
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson avoids getting tackled by USC linebacker Juliano Falaniko at the Coliseum during the 2019 season.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Whether it’s been on the way to a national championship or the Holiday Bowl, whether it’s been coached by the celebrated Pete Carroll or the reviled Paul Hackett, USC has almost always been able to count on one thing since 1999: beating UCLA at the Coliseum. The Trojans have won 10 of 11 rivalry games at home over that span, the exception coming during a 35-14 loss to the Bruins in 2013. That trend could be jeopardized when USC (4-5 overall, 3-4 Pac-12) faces UCLA (6-4, 4-3) as a 3½-point underdog at 1 p.m. Saturday in a game broadcast by Fox. The Trojans are an underwhelming 2-3 at the Coliseum this season, with each of the losses coming by double digits. Los Angeles Times staff writer Ben Bolch looks at the top matchups and story lines:

Staying power?

Each team could have a new coach when the teams meet in 2022 at the Rose Bowl.

USC is assured of it after making Donte Williams the placeholder for its next coach upon the firing of Clay Helton in September. Even with his team headed to the school’s first bowl game since 2017, UCLA’s Chip Kelly may need to beat both the Trojans and California to ensure he returns next season.

That means there should be considerably more tension for Kelly, who seeks to quiet the critics who have been calling for his job since back-to-back losses to Oregon and Utah ended the Bruins’ chances of winning the Pac-12 South.

A win over the Trojans would improve Kelly’s record to 2-2 in the rivalry game. A loss and Kelly might be headed for the same fate as predecessors Bob Toledo, Karl Dorrell, Rick Neuheisel and Jim Mora, each of whom lost to USC in the days before being fired. Something to keep in mind: Kelly’s Bruins have been at their best on the road this season, winning three of four games.

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For USC and UCLA, crosstown rivalry game should provide a jolt to lifeless season

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson looks to pass under pressure from USC linebacker Drake Jackson
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson looks to pass under pressure from USC linebacker Drake Jackson on Dec 12 in Pasadena, Calif.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

As their seasons slipped away and their tenures grew tenuous, each of the last three UCLA football coaches marched into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at a crossroads … never to make the 11-mile trip back across town.

A narrow loss at USC in 2017 served as the final dagger in the Jim Mora era. For Rick Neuheisel, a 50-0 embarrassment in 2011 at the hands of the Bruins’ bitter rival brought about a swift end to a four-year run that had yielded just one winning season. Before that, Karl Dorrell left the crosstown rivalry with his walking papers in 2007, a day after being trampled by the Trojans for the fourth time in five seasons.

But each of those three brought better records into the rivalry defeats than the Bruins’ current coach will Saturday. Chip Kelly is a meager 16-25 since arriving at UCLA, with only two victories against teams that finished with winning records. Two more games remain for Kelly to save his job, but as another unsatisfying season under the Bruins coach comes to a close, the precedent set by his predecessors begs a big question:

Could a loss to an unraveling rival be his last straw at UCLA?

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USC vs. UCLA: College football betting lines, odds, spread and how to watch

UCLA's bench celebrates a touchdown by Kyle Philips against Colorado at the Rose Bowl
UCLA’s bench celebrates a touchdown by Kyle Philips against Colorado in the fourth quarter at the Rose Bowl.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams limp into their bye week, USC comes back from an unexpected week off after its game against California was rescheduled for Dec. 4. We’ll see if the week of practice and a chance to refocus for the last three games of the season will give the Trojans new life for Saturday’s game against UCLA.

This rivalry dates to 1929, when USC won the inaugural game 76-0. The Victory Bell was introduced in 1939 and the victor took ownership of the bell starting in 1942. Overall, USC leads 51-32-7 and has won five of the last six meetings as we get ready for kickoff at the Coliseum.

UCLA (-3.5, 65.5) at USC, 1 p.m., FOX

The Bruins are favored on the road in this rivalry for the first time since 2001. UCLA was -3.5 in that game as well and the end result was a 27-0 USC victory. We’ll see if history ends up repeating itself, but this is the third time in four years that neither team has been ranked for the head-to-head matchup. The last time that happened was 2010.

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UCLA vs. USC roundtable: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Jaxson Dart can deliver fireworks

UCLA coach Chip Kelly looks on as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is shoved out of bounds
UCLA coach Chip Kelly looks on as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is shoved out of bounds by USC cornerback Olaijah Griffin during the 2019 season at the Coliseum.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA and USC entered this season with Pac-12 championship aspirations. Instead, they’re limping into their annual rivalry showdown at the Coliseum on Saturday with little more than pride on the line.

Moderated by L.A. Times associate sports editor Iliana Limón Romero,
college football writers Ben Bolch, Ryan Kartje and Thuc Nhi Nguyen answered key questions entering the matchup.

Is this the lowest energy ebb in recent rivalry history and does that alter the value of a potential win?

Bolch: It sure feels like it. USC is playing out a lost season under an interim coach and UCLA might be in its final weeks under Chip Kelly if the Bruins slip in their remaining games against the Trojans or California. Thank goodness UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert, who at one point was verbally committed to USC, injected some vitality into the week when he referred to the Trojans as the “little boys across the street” and used an apt metaphor when he said the Bruins wanted to “put the final dagger in them.”

Kartje: There isn’t an ounce of juice in this game from an external perspective. At USC, fans are ready for this miserable season to be over and a new coach to be hired. Internally, players and coaches insist that the energy is there, but I have a hard time seeing it. There was no Victory Bell at practice. No buzz on campus. There was zero trash talk coming out of USC this week, and that was clearly intentional. When cornerback Chris Steele was asked about the emotions in this game, he told us he couldn’t say what he wanted to say, before he was ushered out of the interview. I think everyone on campus would prefer this season hurry along.

Nguyen: I knew there was a reason why Bo Calvert was one of the media’s favorite interviews. Getting a little bit of bulletin board material helps liven up the week when everything else about the season has been such a dud. We thought 2018, when UCLA was in its first season under Chip Kelly and the Trojans were heading toward a losing season, was an all-time low in disappointment, but we only had to wait three more years to go even lower.

Is Chip Kelly done if he loses this game?

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‘May the best Shaw win.’ Cousins on rival UCLA and USC spirit squads ready to face off

USC Song Girls captain Hannah Shaw, left, and her cousin, UCLA dance team member Lauren Shaw, pose for a portrait.
(Courtesy of Becky Lew)

USC is going to win. Hannah Shaw is sure of it. The Song Girls captain is so confident that she intends to go up to a counterpart on the UCLA dance team before the rivalry game and issue a challenge.

“I’ll say, ‘Get ready, game on,’ ” Hannah said. “ ‘May the best Shaw win.’ ”

UCLA is going to win. Lauren Shaw is sure of it. The Bruins dance team member is so confident that she won’t back down when approached by that familiar face in the pleated skirt, white sweater and red shoes.

“I’ll probably just be like, ‘See you on the field,’ ” Lauren said. “ ‘Good luck, you’re going to need it.’ ”

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USC quarterback Jaxson Dart has chance to prove himself as starter against UCLA

USC quarterback Jaxson Dart talks with teammates in a huddle
USC quarterback Jaxson Dart talks with teammates during a game against Arizona at the Coliseum on Oct. 30.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

As the sun set over USC’s practice field Tuesday, Jaxson Dart stepped into his place at the helm of a slumping offense, taking the reins as if they’d been saved for him. The freshman was just named USC’s starting quarterback, and for the time being, his ascent was technically temporary. But as Dart took over ahead of what will be his first collegiate start Saturday, it was impossible to shake the feeling that a new dawn was beckoning even while the sun still was setting on USC’s season.

With junior Kedon Slovis still sidelined by a lower leg injury, USC interim coach Donte Williams said he had no other choice but to elevate Dart this week against UCLA. Whether that will remain the case afterward remains to be seen, but Williams offered no timeline for Slovis’ return on Tuesday. Again, he was cryptic about his usual starter’s status, suggesting both that Slovis “possibly” could miss the rest of the season and also that he might return to practice this week.

But after playing coy for months about his quarterbacks in the name of gamesmanship, Williams broke with his usual protocol to publicly declare Dart the starter Monday night.

He downplayed the gravity of that decision a day later, but as Dart took over Tuesday, the significance didn’t seem lost on anyone else.

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Would going 8-4 leave UCLA football fans in a chipper mood over their embattled coach?

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly talks with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly talks with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 23.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA could very well finish the regular season 8-4, a level of success the program hasn’t achieved since posting that same record in 2015.

But what would it mean?

The last time UCLA went 8-4, it was considered a wild disappointment. The Bruins got overrun by Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, resulting in a new offensive coordinator and a change in philosophy designed to make the team more physical to match up with teams like the Cornhuskers and Stanford (it didn’t work).

Matching that record this season would allow UCLA to play in another mid-tier bowl while satisfying those in the save-Chip-Kelly camp. The embattled coach’s supporters could point to three consecutive wins to close the regular season as well as an upward trajectory from 3-9 to 4-8 to 3-4 to 8-4 in Kelly’s four seasons while qualifying for a bowl for the first time since 2017.

The earlier refrain still applies: What would it mean?

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