LOS ANGELES >> Ed Orgeron’s remarkable turnaround tale at Southern California didn’t exactly have the storybook ending the Trojans wanted.
USC’s dominance over UCLA at the Coliseum is history, and the interim coach doesn’t know whether he’ll be a part of the Trojans’ next chapter.
Brett Hundley passed for 208 yards and rushed for two touchdowns, leading No. 22 UCLA past No. 23 USC 35-14 Saturday night and winning the crosstown showdown for the second straight season.
Javorius Allen rushed for 123 yards and a score for the Trojans (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12), who had won five straight in their revitalized season under Orgeron. Cody Kessler passed for 174 yards and hit Xavier Grimble with a TD pass, but USC’s defense couldn’t handle Hundley, who rushed for 80 yards and led the Bruins (9-3, 6-3) to their third win in the last 15 editions of the rivalry.
“I think it was the worst performance we’ve had since we started back together,” Orgeron said. “We started off very slow, weren’t able to run or pass the ball. No excuses. We just didn’t play well.”
A scoreless fourth quarter didn’t help the unlikely cause of Orgeron, who emerged as a legitimate candidate for the full-time USC job by revitalizing a stagnant USC program since replacing Lane Kiffin in late September.
Orgeron got the Trojans back into the national rankings, shocked No. 5 Stanford earlier this month, and made football fun again at USC — but he also lost to Notre Dame and UCLA, the Trojans’ two biggest rivals. Athletic director Pat Haden hasn’t said when he’ll pick a full-time coach.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed — especially when you don’t beat UCLA and Notre Dame,” Orgeron said. “That is what a head coach of USC is supposed to do. What the future holds, we don’t know. But I do know this: This group of young men and coaches will always be in my heart for what they’ve accomplished through extreme conditions. They’ve grown as a team, and I’m proud of them.”
Marqise Lee had six catches for 69 yards in what’s expected to be the final home game for the USC junior, who won the Biletnikoff Award last year before struggling with injuries all season long. Lee claimed he hasn’t thought about his decision to turn pro, and won’t decide until after USC’s bowl game.
“I’m upset that we lost, but when I think about the overall expectation, you can’t really be all that mad,” Lee said. “We left some things on the field tonight, but we’ve come a long way when nobody gave us a chance.”
Hundley saw the results a bit differently, of course.
“UCLA runs L.A. now,” the UCLA quarterback said.
Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes also rushed for touchdowns as the Bruins earned their first win at the Coliseum since 1997, retaining the Victory Bell with their biggest margin of victory over their rival since 1970.
“Oh, we run this town,” said Bruins defensive end Cassius Marsh, who killed two USC drives with back-to-back sacks and a fumble recovery. “It’s solidified. We’re 2-0. We won this game. It’s our city now. They can come try to get it next year.”
The crosstown rivals had rarely been so evenly matched heading into their annual meeting. UCLA and USC hadn’t been next to each other in the AP rankings for the game since 1976, and both schools are headed to bowl games after solid seasons.
The result only revealed just how much has changed in Los Angeles football since the Trojans beat UCLA 50-0 on this field just two years ago.
“You win two in a row in this town, and things start to change,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “If I’m a high school player, I want to play at UCLA. … There’s nothing like tonight. You don’t get that in the NFL. That was more exciting than the dang Super Bowl.”
Jack scored UCLA’s first points with a 3-yard TD run. UCLA added an 80-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter ending in a TD run by the 305-pound Vanderdoes, who committed to USC and Notre Dame before switching from the Irish to UCLA earlier this year.
The Trojans replied with an 11-yard TD run by Allen, who has seized the top job at Tailback U. from injured Silas Redd and Tre Madden.
UCLA’s offense was stopped on fourth down at the USC 12 late in the first half, but the Bruins went up 21-7 early in the second half on an 11-yard TD draw by Hundley, who went in untouched.
The Trojans responded with a 22-yard TD pass to Grimble, but the Bruins got another huge kick return from Ishmael Adams and scored less than three minutes later. Hundley took it in on a 5-yard run, beating USC’s Devon Kennard to the corner for his second TD.
USC had chances late, but couldn’t convert. After Jack recovered a fumble early in the quarter, Anthony Barr swatted the ball out of Kessler’s hand from behind with 6 minutes left, and Marsh fell on the fumble near midfield. UCLA’s Paul Perkins ran in the clinching TD from 8 yards out with 3:50 to play.