Saturday, November 17, 2012
USC-UCLA postgame notes
By Pedro Moura
PASADENA, Calif. -- The USC Trojans (No. 18 BCS, No. 21 AP) lost to the UCLA Bruins (No. 17 BCS, No. 17 AP) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, 38-28, to end all their hopes of a BCS bowl finish this season.
Here are notes and quotes from the game that won't make it into our other coverage from the day:
The better team?
Asked after Saturday's game if his USC team was inferior to UCLA, coach Lane Kiffin had an interesting answer.
"I can't argue that," he said. "When you lose the game, you can't argue that. That's why they play the games."
His players agreed that the Bruins were the better team, although UCLA was outgained 513-406 by USC.
"This game, we came up short," tight end Randall Telfer said. "The better team did win. They executed more times than we did."
Telfer said he was still proud of the way the Trojans prepared. He has previously been critical of USC's preparation before losses, including at Stanford in September.
Kiffin said he still "totally thought" the Trojans were going to win once they went down 24-0. He said he thought of the USC game against Notre Dame in 1974 when the Trojans came back from the same deficit to win 55-24.
Another big day for McNeal
Considering Marqise Lee's fumble that proved costly, running back Curtis McNeal might have been the Trojans' most effective offensive player against the Bruins.
He carried the ball 21 times for 161 yards -- an average of 7.7 yards per carry. And he wasn't tackled behind the line of scrimmage a single time.
McNeal admitted after the game that he grew upset in the second half Saturday, when Kiffin called only three run plays in the third quarter and 13 pass plays.
"I can only run what Coach Kiff calls," McNeal said. "I was a little frustrated."
He said he even considered approaching Kiffin and asking him to call more run plays.
"You have thoughts of it, but you don't want to attack your head coach, especially in the middle of the game," McNeal said.
Several USC players and coaches said they were thoroughly impressed by the play of Brett Hundley, UCLA's redshirt freshman quarterback.
Hundley was sacked five times and made a big error trying to pick up the fumble at the start of the second half, but he was otherwise mistake-free. He finished 22-of-30 with 234 yards and a touchdown and ran for two touchdowns.
"I thought he was really, really good for a young guy like that," USC assistant Monte Kiffin said. "The big game didn't bother him."
USC offensive tackle George Uko, who recovered Hundley's fumble for a touchdown, said the Trojans would have had "double-digit sacks" if Hundley wasn't so elusive.
Uko said he expected Hundley to be a force in the future.
"His senior year, he'll have the chance to potentially be a Heisman candidate," Uko said. "He's that type of quarterback -- reminds you of a Vince Young."
Lee seemed to offer the most sensible reason why USC lost Saturday and why the Trojans have lost four times this season.
"We had too many turnovers here and there," he said. "And that's why we lose games. You can't go to an away game expecting to do well with turnovers.
"And that's in every case -- you can go back to every game and see the turnovers."
He included himself in that, obviously, with his first-quarter fumble on his first touch that led to UCLA's second touchdown.
In all, USC turned the ball over three times on Saturday; the Bruins turned it over just once.
Final notes: Running back Silas Redd said he did not feel healthy enough to return to the game in the second half. He had three early carries on Saturday but looked hobbled and got his ankle heavily taped on the sideline. ... Lee broke the school and conference records for single-season receiving yards. He now has 1,605 receiving yards on the season and is just five catches and three touchdowns from breaking those Pac-12 season marks as well. ... The Bruins' 24-0 lead in the middle of the second quarter was the largest UCLA in-game advantage over USC since 1986. ... USC safety T.J. McDonald on losing to his brother Tevin and UCLA, pointing out he's still 3-1 against in his college career: "Before any of this stuff, before I ever stepped between the lines, he was my brother, and I'm gonna let him know, 'good game.' No hard feelings between us."