Biggest USC-UCLA football game in decades sparks 'bitter feeling' of years past

Biggest USC-UCLA football game in decades sparks ‘bitter feeling’ of years past

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is as fearless talking to the media as he is throwing tight passes or diving defenders.

The UCLA quarterback didn’t hold anything back earlier this week when discussing Saturday’s highly anticipated showdown against crosstown rivals USC.

When asked what his last game against USC meant to him, Thompson-Robinson told reporters bluntly, “Obviously we hate those guys across town. There’s bitter feeling with those guys.” The fifth-year senior added that he hopes to top his USC game-play exploits a year ago when he scored six touchdowns in a 62-33 UCLA rout.

“We want to be even better,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We want to break 60 years and all that.”

The Thompson-Robinson franchise provides new intrigue to what was already the highest-stakes USC-UCLA football game in 17 years. The Trojans and the Bruins both didn’t come into this game with such showy records as Reggie Bush zigzagged through defenses carrying cardinal and gold and Maurice Jones-Drew ran through arm tackles dressed in powder blue.

USC (9-1, 7-1 in the Pac-12) is the Pac-12’s last hope for a berth in this season’s college football playoffs. The Trojans need to win massive rivalry games against UCLA and Notre Dame, defeat Oregon, Utah or Washington in the Pac-12 title game, and hope that’s enough to move up from their current number. 7 spots in the Playoff Selection Committee standings.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) had six touchdowns in a 62-33 win over USC last year. He is looking for an encore performance on Saturday. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

While UCLA’s dim playoff hopes crumbled with last Saturday’s impressive face against Arizona, the Bruins (8-2, 5-2) have more to play for this week than just spoil the game. USC season. UCLA can still win a tiebreaker to advance to the Pac-12 title game if they win against USC and Cal and Washington lose at least one more game.

The stakes distracted Los Angeles sports fans from the Lakers’ struggles for at least a weekend. UCLA announced Tuesday that the USC game was sold out and expects an attendance of 16,700 students, which would be the largest in school history.

If UCLA’s loss to Arizona sucked air into Saturday’s showdown, Thompson-Robinson’s verbal jabs brought it back up. USC players reacted to the UCLA quarterback’s goal to break 60 points again with a mixture of humility, disbelief and determination.

“He said this?” USC security Calen Bullock asked reporters.

When told that Thompson-Robinson had done it, Bullock laughed and said, “He has his own opinion.”

“I know that’s not going to happen,” Bullock added.

Racking up an extra 60 points against USC is a lofty goal, but UCLA is explosive enough to strike fear into any defense. The Bruins have averaged 39.5 points per game this season thanks in large part to efficient passing and improvisation under pressure from Thompson-Robinson, assists from senior Zach Charbonnet and catches from Duke Transfer Jake Bobo. Charbonnet rushed for 167 yards in UCLA’s win last year. He should still be the focus of the Bruins’ game plan this year against a suspect defensive front in USC.

Where UCLA has been more vulnerable is on defense, especially in the air. Quarterbacks far less talented than USC’s Caleb Williams have consistently divided UCLA’s secondary so far this season. The Trojans will miss injured running back Travis Dye, the heart and soul of this year’s team, but Lincoln Riley has other players ready to step in. Stanford transfer Austin Jones can head the ball with skill and five-star rookie Raleek Brown was waiting for his chance to shine.

“These other guys are good,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly told reporters Monday. “And then there are weapons everywhere, whether it’s at the receiver, the quarterback or the running back. It’s not just a running back offense.

What the matchups suggest is that it’s likely to be a shootout, just like the last few games in this series have been.

Dec. On February 12, 2020, USC came to the Rose Bowl and took a 43-38 victory in the final minute. Afterwards, according to Thompson-Robinson, the Trojans talked trash to the Bruins as they left the field.

“I remember it very well,” the UCLA quarterback said. “Swearing at us, freaking us out. Disrespectful as hell.

Last year, at the Coliseum, the Bruins got their revenge. Thompson-Robinson earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a late touchdown run when he forced a 12-year-old USC fan handing him a UCLA hat to sign.

Now comes Thompson-Robinson’s final USC-UCLA game, the most important to date.

“There’s definitely a bittersweet feeling towards these guys across town,” Thompson-Robinson said, “so we’re going to try to do whatever we can to get out there and win.”

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