|New era begins in USC-UCLA rivalry|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 05 December 2008 13:26|
For the first time in 26 years, Southern California and UCLA will both wear home jerseys when they meet for the 78th time at the Rose Bowl. That means cardinal red for the visiting Trojans and powder blue for the host Bruins.
``I think it's a cool thing,'' Trojans guard Jeff Byers said. ``It creates another aspect to this rivalry that's really cool.''
The Trojans and Bruins played their home games at the Los Angeles Coliseum until UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982. They began wearing home jerseys against each other the first time they met, in 1929, when USC won 76-0.
USC coach Pete Carroll announced this week he would gladly suffer the consequences - a lost timeout after the opening kickoff - to get back to the home jersey tradition. Carroll said he had thought about making the move for several years, but it didn't work out until now.
``It always looked awesome, it was just a part of the matchup and the spectacle, kind of playing for rights here in Los Angeles and in Southern California,'' he said. ``So hopefully everybody will get something out of it. I'm just willing to make the statement that we want to go for it.''
First-year UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel not only approves of the concept, he said he'll call a timeout immediately after USC's forced timeout to level the playing field.
In reality, though, that shouldn't affect the outcome. Fact is, a UCLA victory would be an absolute shocker since No. 5 USC is listed as a 33-point favorite over the mistake-prone Bruins.
``History isn't devoid of games where somebody who is a deep, deep underdog has found a way to get one more point,'' Neuheisel said. ``It isn't as though we have to reshape the world. This is football, and things happen, especially in rivalry games. We're excited about our chance.''
he Rose Bowl game.
As hopeless as the situation might appear, Neuheisel and the Bruins (4-7, 3-5) have only to look to what happened two years ago to give them hope. The Trojans were heavily favored, but UCLA came up with an outstanding defensive effort to win a 13-9 decision at the Rose Bowl, knocking USC out of the national championship game.
The Trojans had beaten their crosstown rivals seven consecutive times before the surprising setback, one of just 10 losses in 94 games for USC since the beginning of the 2002 season. USC rebounded with a 24-7 triumph over UCLA at the Coliseum last year.
UCLA's defensive coordinator is DeWayne Walker, the first assistant hired by Carroll when he came to USC in 2001. Walker served one year as associate head coach and secondary coach before becoming leaving to take a position with the NFL's New York Giants. He is finishing his third season with the Bruins.
The Bruins are solid on defense again, ranking second in the country in pass defense. They'd probably be in even better shape had the offense performed more effectively. UCLA has committed 28 turnovers while forcing only 17, with quarterback Kevin Craft throwing 20 interceptions including 12 in the last four games with only seven touchdown passes. And the opposition has recorded 35 sacks.
en he takes off and runs. They've had some problems with their turnovers.''
Craft had an especially difficult time in a 34-9 loss at Arizona State last weekend, when the Sun Devils scored all four of their touchdowns on defense - three on interception returns and the fourth on a fumble return. The Bruins allowed only 122 yards, their best defensive performance since the 1989 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas.
``We've got to be ready for their defense,'' said USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has passed for 2,525 yards and 28 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.
UCLA's shaky offense has to be ready as well. USC's hard-hitting defense has held nine of its 11 opponents to 10 points or less, and leads the country in total defense ((210.55 yards) and scoring defense (7.8 points).
``They are stacked across the board,'' Bruins tailback Kahlil Bell said. ``We have to play our best game, plain and simple. When that whistle blows, we're going to take our punches and give them a fight, because that's what it's about.''
UCLA's offensive coordinator is Norm Chow, who held a similar position at USC from 2001-05 before leaving under questionable circumstances.
``It was time for me to leave, time to move on,'' Chow said this week, declining to comment further.
Chow, fired after three seasons as offensive coordinator of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, joined the Bruins after Neuheisel was hired last winter.