UCLA vs. Cal: Bruins try to avoid post-USC blowout hangover

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UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, left, leaps in attempt to get past USC safety Xavion Alford
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leaps in attempt to get past USC safety Xavion Alford, who pushed him out of bounds near the goal line in the fourth quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday. UCLA beat USC 62-33.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA football hosts California on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Follow along for game-week updates.

Chip Kelly preparing for a ‘sound’ Cal defense

Chip Kelly talked with reporters before practice Wednesday about what makes Cal’s defense so strong, how the Bears have improved on offense and what plans the Bruins have for Saturday’s senior night celebration.

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UCLA’s Liberty Bell takeover is complete

UCLA’s rivalry win is complete now that the school has repainted the Victory Bell blue.

After UCLA won the trophy in convincing fashion over the weekend, facilities management employees did the makeover Tuesday morning as UCLA livestreamed the process on Instagram.

The bell will be in the Fan Zone at the Rose Bowl on Saturday before the Bruins face California, a UCLA spokesperson said, and will be displayed throughout the year in the school’s Hall of Fame or in Wasserman Football Center.

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Rivalry win hangover? UCLA hopes not.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson celebrates with teammates after scoring against USC
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring against USC at the Coliseum Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The notifications kept Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s phone buzzing for hours. Friends and family celebrated how he hurdled a USC defender while scoring a touchdown and chuckled at how he signed a mid-game autograph. Fans retweeted and liked the highlights and tagged the dynamic quarterback, and by Monday, Thompson-Robinson’s phone was “pretty blown up.”

But with another game approaching, he’s not wasting precious time scrolling through each message.

“I’ll pick up all the newspapers and get all the stuff from my mom later,” Thompson-Robinson said Monday, “but I gotta focus on Cal.”

Flying high after a 62-33 thrashing of crosstown rival USC, the Bruins are guarding against a let-down against California. The Bears are coming off their own rivalry rout as they stunned Stanford in a 41-11 victory on Saturday. Cal, whose season was upended by COVID-19 protocols that postponed one game, has won three of its last four games.

The threat of a rivalry hangover is real.

Since the conference expanded in 2011 and often forced UCLA and USC to meet on the second-to-last week of the regular season, the Bruins are 1-6 in regular-season games after playing the Trojans. The sole victory came over Cal in 2017 on a last-second field goal that earned UCLA bowl eligibility after former head coach Jim Mora was fired.

Coach Chip Kelly was unmoved by lighthearted banter about a much-hyped UCLA men’s basketball game against Gonzaga this week and the fate of the Victory Bell trophy. He said he didn’t even realize Mick Cronin was leading the Bruins in a Final Four rematch with the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Kelly had no idea where the bell was on Monday after the Bruins reclaimed the rivalry trophy.

“Our focus is 100% on playing Cal,” Kelly said. “If you want to know anything about Cal, just watch what they did in the Stanford game. It was impressive.”

Cal rolled up 636 total yards, its highest total against Stanford, and rushed for 352 yards, its first 300-yard rushing game since 2018.

While the Bruins (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) can already rejoice in their best season of the Kelly era, the Bears (4-6, 3-4 Pac-12) still need to win each of their last two games to secure bowl eligibility.

A fresh coat of paint

To the victor go the spoils. For UCLA, that means taking back the Victory Bell, the trophy at stake in the annual crosstown rivalry. The nearly 300-point bell was in UCLA’s Hall of Fame on Monday morning but hadn’t yet received its fresh coat of blue paint. A UCLA athletics spokesperson said the makeover would take place Monday afternoon.

When UCLA last had the bell in 2018-19, it was displayed in the lobby of the Wasserman Football Center.


Although Kelly said Brittain Brown was close to playing Saturday, the running back was limited to just sideline conditioning during Monday’s practice. Brown missed the USC game with an undisclosed injury.

Linebacker Ale Kaho was seen working in the weight room Monday, and fellow linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath was practicing with a cast on his right hand that covered his fingers.

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