PASADENA, Calif. -- The USC Trojans (No. 18 BCS, No. 21 AP) started poorly, then rebounded, then played more mistake-ridden football in the second half and lost, 38-28, to the UCLA Bruins (No. 17 BCS, No. 17 AP) in a back-and-forth game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Here's a report card for the Trojans, who dropped to 7-4 overall and 5-4 in the Pac-12 with the loss.
Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee's crucial connections seemed off until late in Saturday's game, and that might be the single biggest reason why USC lost. Barkley's two picks were just puzzling, too, and they were both intended for Lee, so the Trojans didn't learn their lesson from last week. But Robert Woods did prove he can still catch the ball.
With Silas Redd still less than 100 percent, Curtis McNeal again stepped up and carried the ball nicely. Yet, as has been the case all year save for last week, he didn't get many opportunities early on. Would the game have ended differently if he had? We'll never know, but McNeal did finish with 158 yards.
IN THE TRENCHES
One of the better games for both units, actually. The USC defensive line, led by Morgan Breslin, pressured Brett Hundley most of the game, and the O-line did a better-than-expected job protecting Barkley. The picks weren't because he had no time -- they were just bad decisions. Aundrey Walker was beaten badly on the hit that knocked Barkley out, though.
This really wasn't that bad. A lot of UCLA's points came directly off turnovers, and there's little the Trojans' defense could have done there. They held the Bruins plenty of times in the second half, and it wasn't their fault that the USC offense couldn't match UCLA. But Monte Kiffin will still be under fire come Monday.
After two straight great special-teams games, John Baxter's unit regressed Saturday. There was a missed extra point, missed field goal, blocked field goal and blocked punt, and nothing positive from the Trojans to offset them. It's tough to expect a still-hurt Andre Heidari to convert a 44-yard field goal in that weather when his season long was 41.
Yes, USC rebounded from a terrible start, to the coaches' credit, but hasn't that terrible start happened too many times this season to make it still-defensible? It sure seems like it. A stellar coaching job would involve getting your players ready before kickoff, not 30 minutes after it. What was Kiffin's motivation to avoid running so desperately until late in the game?