USC and UCLA left the football field last weekend feeling good about themselves. Makes sense: They both came away with come-from-behind victories at home.
They were both very fortunate to do so as both teams showed they still have a lot of work to do.
UCLA’s 45-44 win at the Rose Bowl over Texas A&M on Sunday night was remarkable. Quarterback Josh Rosen threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds remaining after faking a spike to help the Bruins overcome a 34-point deficit and stun the Aggies. That was the good news. The bad news was that UCLA had to score on five straight possessions after trailing 44-10 with 4:08 to play in the third quarter.
USC’s 49-31 triumph at the Coliseum over Western Michigan on a sweltering Saturday afternoon ended on a happy ending. The Trojans finally broke open ties of 21-21 and 28-28 by outscoring the Broncos 21-3 in the last 6:57. But it was all USC could do to stop Western Michigan’s rushing game in the first half.
Both Los Angeles schools have big-time QBs who can take their teams a long way and both could receive serious Heisman Trophy talk. Sam Darnold at USC should compete with Rosen for crosstown attention.
It was Rosen who had the more spectacular game last weekend. He was 35 of 59 for 491 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Darnold completed 23 of 33 for 289 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. USC was saved by running back Ronald Jones II, who ran for 159 yards on 18 carries for three touchdowns. But the offenses won’t mean much if the defenses don’t tighten up quickly.
It was the ground game that nearly spelled doom for both the Trojans and the Bruins. Western Michigan rushed for 263 yards at USC and Texas A&M put up 382 against UCLA’s 70.
USC, ranked No. 4 before its opener, hosts No. 14 Stanford next Saturday night and the Trojans know what’s coming.
“I’ve been playing Stanford for going on four years now,” safety Chris Hawkins told The Associated Press. “I know what they are going to come do. We all know what they are going to do. They are going to run the football.”
UCLA, meanwhile, can afford to be sky-high all week after topping A&M. The Bruins host Hawaii next Saturday. While the Rainbow Warriors will be looking for their first 3-0 start since 2007, their wins so far are against the likes of Massachusetts and Western Carolina.
With Rosen commanding the offense, UCLA’s defense may have an easier task than USC’s.
THE WEEK JUST PAST
Now, while still trying to rehydrate after seeing Saturday’s USC game at the 99-degree Coliseum, here’s a look at the week just past:
- I really don’t think the Coliseum thermometer has worked in decades. I think someone just manually puts the needle where it’s supposed to be at the start of the game. It never seems to move from that spot.
- According to ESPN Sports & Information, the last team before UCLA to overcome a 34-point deficit was Michigan State on Oct. 21, 2006, defeating Northwestern.
- ESPN pays a lot attention — probably too much —to win probability. Texas A&M’s win probability was 99.5% as late as 4:21 left in the game.
- Also from ESPN S&I: Rosen’s 491 passing yards is No. 3 in UCLA history, behind Cade McNown (513, 1998) and Drew Olson (510, 2005). Rosen tied McNown with his 11th career 300-yard passing game.
- The Pacific-12 Conference went 12-0 for the weekend, which is no mean accomplishment for any conference. The only blemish the Pac-12 has so far is Oregon State’s 58-27 loss to Colorado State on Aug. 26. The Beavers defeated Portland State (barely) on Saturday. Everybody else is 1-0.
- Just as good as UCLA’s win Sunday was No. 21 Virginia Tech’s over No. 22 West Virginia. The Hokies won 31-24 for their first season-opening win in 11 games against an AP-ranked team.
- The feel-good moment of USC’s win without question was the Trojans having Jake Olson snap the ball for the point after their final touchdown. Olson was adopted by former coach Pete Carroll eight years ago after he lost both of his eyes to a rare form of cancer. He joined the team as a walk-on long snapper three years ago. He had previously snapped at Orange Lutheran High.
- One hero of Olson’s snap was umpire Mike Stephens, who steadied Olson beforehand and made sure he knew when the ball was about to be whistled ready for play. Another was Western Michigan coach Tim Lester, who had agreed not to rush a PAT attempt snapped by Olson.
- The Dodgers seem to be an entirely different team right now than they have in the last 4½ months. And not in a good way. That 2017 World Series may not be as much of a shoo-in as you thought.
- It’s likely the Dodgers would play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series, the same Diamondbacks who swept them last week and the same Diamondbacks who come to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series starting Monday.
- The only good things about the Dodgers’ weekend series in San Diego, in which they lost three of four, were 1.) Clayton Kershaw’s win Friday night (even though the Dodgers managed only one run) and 2.) Cody Bellinger homering on both Saturday and Sunday to break Mike Piazza’s club record for home runs by a rookie. Outside of that, the series was a stinkeroo.
- What do you suppose will ever happen to Joc Pederson? Sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Aug. 19, Pederson has hit only .125 in 12 games with one extra-base hit. He hasn’t been brought back up with other roster expansion players and now that Oklahoma City’s season is over, the word is Pederson may go to Double-A Tulsa or Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. Pederson has hit only .215 for the Dodgers this season with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs and .156 with two home runs since the All-Star break.
- Creepiest-sounding promotion of the year: The Dodgers are calling Tuesday night “Dia de los Dodgers.” It’s sort of like the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), in which people gather to pray and remember family and friends who have died. The Dodgers promotional blurb — which comes with a skeleton-looking batter drawing — says, “Honor the spirit and memories of those loved ones who shared your love for Dodger baseball.” The skeleton looks like the Dodgers offense these days.
- Meanwhile, the Angels continue to battle for an American League wild-card spot. They are 1½ games behind Minnesota for the second spot, tied with Baltimore. The Angels’ relief pitchers were named AL Bullpen of the Week after allowing seven earned runs and 21 hits in 30⅓ innings with 30 strikeouts and 15 walks. Closer Blake Parker had three saves.
- Stacy Lewis played in Portland, but won for Houston. Lewis won her first LPGA tournament since 2014 at the Cambia Portland Classic in Oregon and the Houston area native donated her entire $195,000 in winnings to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Her two biggest sponsors also helped out with Marathon Oil donating $1 million and KPMG matching Lewis’ donation.