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The Sports Report: The dream is over for USC football

Utah running back Micah Bernard scores late in the fourth quarter against USC
Utah running back Micah Bernard scores late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Bill Plaschke: The invincible quarterback was hobbled. First, the invincible quarterback lost his mobility.

Then, the genius coach lost his mind.

Eventually, the streaking USC Trojans limped and stumbled and went splat, their loveliest of dreams dying an ugly death in the desert.

Utah 47, USC 24, and who would have thought?

This Pac-12 championship game Friday night at Allegiant Stadium was supposed to be a coronation for the No. 4-ranked Trojans, the stunningly brilliant debut season for coach Lincoln Riley and quarterback Caleb Williams scheduled to culminate in the team’s first conference title in five years and its first College Football Playoff berth.

Then Williams suffered a first-quarter hamstring injury. And Riley suffered several second-quarter brain cramps. And the Trojans eventually lost their resilience against a relentless Utah team that rebounded from a 17-3 deficit to run over tacklers, rush past linemen and eventually crush the Trojans’ hopes with the brutality of an angry craps table.

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USC went bust. And now, instead of competing for a national championship in the CFP final four, the Trojans must settle for the consolation prize of a secondary New Year’s Six bowl. They were the best Pac-12 team during the regular season and yet they don’t even get to play in the Rose Bowl, that honorgoing to Utah for a second straight year.

“You come as far as this team and this program has come in the last 12 months, to get that close to winning a championship and more, obviously not getting it done, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” Riley said afterward.

It still has been a delightful surprise of a season, USC rebounding from a 4-8 debacle to go 11-2 and return to national prominence. But it could have been so much more. And after taking that two-touchdown lead early in the second quarter, it should have been so much more.

But when presented the chance to drive a stake through Utah’s heart, Riley became conservative, then just silly. The Trojans allowed the Utes to climb back into the game with two late first-half touchdowns to tie it. Then, in the second half, Utah took advantage of Williams’ limping and the usual poor USC defense to send thousands of Trojans fans trudging back to the Strip, their team suffering the night’s biggest loss in a city built by losers.

The Trojans essentially lost it when Williams lost it and Riley lost it.

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USC’s extraordinary season takes a devastating turn as its playoff hopes vanish

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RAMS

From Gary Klein: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was cleared from concussion protocol but, because of a neck issue, John Wolford will start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium, coach Sean McVay said Friday.

Stafford has not practiced since he was placed in concussion protocol after being sacked in a game at New Orleans on Nov. 20. McVay said Stafford’s availability for the remaining five games would be determined upon evaluation and discussion the next few weeks.

Bryce Perkins started at quarterback in last Sunday’s defeat by the Kansas City Chiefs. But this week McVay has opted to start Wolford, who started in a defeat by the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 13.

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My Cause My Cleats: Rams honor a father who died by suicide, veterans and more

LAKERS

From Dan Woike: With Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook having big games, the Lakers beat the Bucks 133-129 in coach Darvin Ham’s return to Milwaukee — easily the best win for the Lakers this season.

“Team effort,” Davis said. “We played for a full 48 minutes tonight, competing, taking punches. … But we withstood their run.”

They did with their stars all having a major impact — James called it the best they’d ever played together on one night.

Davis scored 44, his most since he scored 46 on Jan. 3, 2020. James followed a scoreless first quarter with 28 over the next three to go with eight rebounds and 11 assists. And Westbrook finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists — all without a turnover.

The Lakers committed just four.

CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: For the Clippers, Friday produced the rarest of scenes: The team held a practice with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George taking part.

George, who has not played since injuring a hamstring tendon Nov. 19, and Leonard, out since spraining an ankle Nov. 21, were expected to be full participants in the workout — one of the only practices the team has held since October — coach Tyronn Lue said, a development that puts the pair of All-Stars on the verge of returning for Saturday’s key test against Sacramento should they respond well to after the workout.

There was more encouraging news for the perpetually short-handed team when guard Luke Kennard also practiced. Kennard hasn’t played since Nov. 15 because of a calf strain and will miss a ninth consecutive game Saturday against the Kings, but practicing puts him closer to a return.

WORLD CUP

From Kevin Baxter in Qatar: Players and coaches on several teams have been hampered by flu symptoms in this World Cup with the Netherlands, which plays the U.S. in a round-of-16 knockout game Saturday, the latest to be hit.

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal confirmed Friday that several players were ill but declined to say how many. The team skipped its normal training session Friday although Van Gaal told Dutch media he expects all 26 players on his roster to be available “in principle” for the U.S. game. However his reluctance to be more specific led to speculation the situation may be more serious than Van Gaal would acknowledge.

Brazil, Spain and the U.S. have also had members of their delegations become ill, with many blaming the air conditioning in Qatar, which is so omnipresent it’s also used to cool the pitches during games. But going from warm outside temperatures, which have hovered in the high 80s for most of the tournament, into rooms — and even stadiums — chilled to as much as 20 degrees cooler, has led to bouts of coughing, sore throats, heavy chests, a shortage of breath and other ailments.

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Friday’s results

Group G
Switzerland 3, Serbia 2
Cameroon 1, Brazil 0

Country, W-D-L, GD, Pts
y-Brazil, 2-0-1, +2, 6
y-Switzerland, 2-0-1, +1, 6
x-Cameroon, 1-1-1, 0, 4
x-Serbia, 0-1-2, -3, 1

Group H
Uruguay 2, Ghana 0
South Korea 2, Portugal 1

Country, W-D-L, GD, Pts
y-Portugal, 2-0-1, +2, 6
y-South Korea, 1-1-1, 0, 4
x-Uruguay, 1-1-1, 0, 4
x-Ghana, 1-0-2, -2, 3

x-eliminated
y-clinched Round of 16
Note: Top two in each group advance to the Round of 16.

Round of 16 schedule

Saturday
United States vs. Netherlands, 7 a.m., Fox, Telemundo, Peacock
Argentina vs. Australia, 11 a.m., Fox, Telemundo, Peacock

Sunday
France vs. Poland, 7 a.m., FS1, Telemundo, Peacock
England vs. Senegal, 11 a.m., FS1, Telemundo, Peacock

Monday
Japan vs. Croatia, 7 a.m., Fox, Telemundo, Peacock
Brazil vs. South Korea, 11 a.m., Fox, Telemundo, Peacock

Tuesday
Morocco vs. Spain, 7 a.m., Fox, Telemundo, Peacock
Portugal vs. Switzerland, 11 a.m., Fox, Telemundo, Peacock

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Complete World Cup coverage

Qatar World Cup: Start times for every match and how to watch

U.S. star Christian Pulisic cleared to play in World Cup match against Netherlands

The Dutch taught Gregg Berhalter about soccer. Now his U.S. team aims to beat them

UCLA SOCCER

From Em Adler: Two relentless offenses. Two teams with just two losses apiece. Two coaches with national championship experience, in their first College Cup leading a team. It takes two to tango, but after Friday night, UCLA is the one still dancing.

The top-seeded Bruins beat No. 1-seed Alabama 3-0 in the College Cup semifinals behind a relentless attack and a defense that would not let the Crimson Tide get free in the box. Fullback Quincy McMahon recorded a goal and an assist, while center forward Reilyn Turner had a goal on six shots (three on goal). UCLA improved to 3-3-2 all time at WakeMed Soccer Park.

“They scored some absolute bangers — props to them,” said Alabama striker Riley Mattingly Parker. “They were filthy — literally upper 90, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ... You gotta give credit to where credit’s due.”

GALAXY

From Kevin Baxter: The Galaxy and its president, Chris Klein, have been sanctioned by MLS for violating salary budget and roster guidelines relating to the signing of Argentine forward Cristian Pavón during the 2019 season.

MLS alleged Friday that the Galaxy entered into agreements that were not disclosed and included payments not accounted for in the calculation of Pavón’s salary budget and roster category. The undisclosed agreements and payments resulted in the classification of Pavón as a targeted-allocation money signing in 2019 when he should have occupied a designated player slot.

The penalties assessed against Galaxy include a $1-million fine for the club and a $1-million loss of available future general allocation money. The team also will be prohibited from registering a player who requires the receipt of an international transfer certificate (ITC) from outside of the United States and Canada during the secondary transfer window in 2023.

Additionally Klein, the team’s president since 2013, has been suspended from any sporting-related responsibilities through the conclusion of the primary transfer window in 2023. During that time, coach Greg Vanney will be promoted to sporting director and will report directly to Dan Beckerman, the president and CEO of AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1943 — Notre Dame quarterback Angelo Bertelli wins the Heisman Trophy.

1946 — Army halfback Glenn Davis is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1950 — Tom Fears of the Rams has 18 receptions against Green Bay.

1950 — Cloyce Box of the Detroit Lions has 302 yards receiving and scores four touchdowns against the Baltimore Colts.

1956 — Wilt Chamberlain scores 52 points in his collegiate debut with Kansas.

1957 — Texas A&M halfback John David Crow is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1972 — Bobby Howfield of the New York Jets kicks six field goals against New Orleans.

1973 — Dick Anderson of the Miami Dolphins intercepts four passes, returning two for touchdowns, against Pittsburgh.

1979 — USC halfback Charles White is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1982 — Tommy Hearns wins the WBC welterweight title with a 15-round decision over Wilfred Benitez in New Orleans.

1994 — Sixth-ranked Florida beats undefeated and third-ranked Alabama 24-23 in the first SEC Championship game played in Atlanta.

1999 — Marshall beats Western Michigan 34-30 on the last play of the MAC Championship game. Down 30-27 with four seconds left in the game, Chad Pennington throws his 100th career touchdown pass to Eric Pinkerton as time expires to give the Thundedring Herd their third consecutive MAC title.

2000 — The 200-yard rushing games by Mike Anderson, Corey Dillon, Warrick Dunn and Curtis Martin mark the first time in NFL history that four runners have 200 yards on the same day. It had never happened three times in a single day. Anderson rushes for an NFL rookie record 251 yards and four touchdowns in Denver’s 38-23 victory over New Orleans.

2004 — Bode Miller wins his fourth race of the season in the downhill at Beaver Creek, Colo., and Daron Rahlves is second to give the United States its first 1-2 finish on the World Cup circuit. The last time U.S. men went 1-2 in any elite international race was 1984, when Phil Mahre won the Olympic slalom in Sarajevo and twin brother Steve took the silver medal.

2005 — USC wins its 34th consecutive game and 16th straight against a ranked opponent, beating No. 11 UCLA 66-19. The 16 victories against Associated Press ranked teams is one better than Oklahoma, which won 15 from 1973-76.

2014 — The Philadelphia 76ers avoid tying the record for the worst start to a season in NBA history, ending their 0-17 skid with an 85-77 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

2015 — Aaron Rodgers throws a 61-yard touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers with no time left to give the Green Bay Packers a 27-23 comeback victory over the Detroit Lions. Detroit went ahead 17-0 after its first three drives and capped the opening possession of the third quarter with a field goal to go ahead 20-0.

2017 — Tom Brady continues his career-long dominance of the Buffalo Bills completing 21 of 30 for 258 yards and an interception in New England’s 23-3 victory. He improves to 27-3 against Buffalo and breaks Brett Favre’s record for wins by a quarterback against any one opponent.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

In 2005, USC defeats UCLA 66-19 to set a record. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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