PASADENA, CA- Redshirt junior UCLA running back Joshua Kelley broke through the USC defensive line and dashed 55 yards to the end zone. The Bruins took a 28-27 lead with 10:39 remaining and held on down the stretch to upset crosstown rival USC, 34-27. Kelley gained 289 yards on 40 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“If you’re going to buy stock in a human being, buy stock in Josh Kelley,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said. Kelley added, “It’s crazy, you know. 40 carries, it’s a lot. Tomorrow morning I’m (going) to feel all 40 of those.”
— Blake Atwell (@blakeatwell5) November 18, 2018
UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight complimented Kelley’s monster game with a solid performance, completing 13 of his 22 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown in the latest installment of the crosstown rivalry game between the two schools. Speight also rushed for a score.
“There’s a calmness about him,” Kelly said of Speight’s demeanor.
Theo Howard caught five passes for 76 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore defensive back Darnay Holmes said of the UCLA victory, “We stuck together throughout the season. We have a great coaching staff that told us just to keep pushing.”
— Blake Atwell (@blakeatwell5) November 18, 2018
USC true freshman quarterback JT Daniels tossed for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Vavae Malepeai led the USC rushing attack, collecting 77 yards on 15 carries. Michael Pittman Jr. (106 yards) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (98 yards and one touchdown) were USC’s main targets through the air.
Holmes picked off Daniels one play after Kelley’s 55-yard touchdown run, and UCLA capitalized on the possession opportunity. J.J. Molson converted on a 19-yard field goal to put the Bruins up by four, 31-27. UCLA’s defense kept the momentum going for the Bruins, forcing USC into a quick three-and-out. Molson came through for the Bruin offense again during UCLA’s next possession, nailing a 48-yarder.
Daniels led the USC offense down to the Bruins’ 30-yard line, but failed to complete a fourth down pass to St. Brown with 32 seconds left. UCLA captured the Victory Bell and their third win of 2018.
“This place was jumping,” Kelly said. He added, “I think the fans were awesome. It was such a great experience to be a part of this game and to play in front of that crowd.”
To start the second quarter action, USC junior linebacker Jordan Iosefa sacked Speight for a nine-yard loss. On fourth-and-16 from the 19-yard line, redshirt junior wide receiver Jake Russell blocked Stefan Flintoft’s punt. Freshman wide receiver Devon Williams scooped up the ball and returned it five yards for a USC touchdown. The Trojans took a 17-14 lead, one minute into the second quarter.
The USC defense responded by forcing a fourth-and-9, handing Daniels an opportunity to extend the Trojans’ narrow first-half advantage. One play into USC’s possession, Daniels was intercepted by UCLA senior defensive back Nate Meadors at the 45-yard line.
UCLA fired right back with another scoring drive of their own. Deep into the Bruins’ possession, Speight found Howard for a 22-yard completion. Kelley scored from 1 yard out, four plays later, putting UCLA back in front 21-17 with just over eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Facing more first-half adversity, Daniels quickly led USC down the field in five plays. Velus Jones Jr. scored on a 45-yard catch-and-run pass from Daniels to put USC ahead 24-21 with less than six minutes remaining in the first half. The 75-yard drive took USC just over two minutes.
USC’s first possession began with their offense firing on all cylinders. Facing second-and-6, Daniels rolled outside the pocket and found St. Brown for a 20-yard first down pickup. Daniels found Pittman Jr. for a 27-yard catch and run four plays later. UCLA linebacker Lokeni Toailoa halted the Trojans’ momentum with an eight-yard sack. Michael Brown netted a 46-yard field goal on fourth-and-14 to give USC a 3-0 lead.
The Bruins responded by punching USC straight in the mouth. Speight spun out of a sack and threw a 29-yard bomb to tight end Caleb Wilson, advancing UCLA to their own 44 yard-line. After three Kelley runs for a combined 16 yards, Speight tossed a 33-yard over-the-shoulder dime to Howard for a UCLA touchdown. The Bruins took a 7-3 lead with 7:53 remaining in the first quarter.
USC held their composure and continued to move the ball. Daniels connected with Josh Falo for a 37-yard pickup, two plays into the Trojans’ next possession. For the second consecutive drive, however, the USC offense stalled out in UCLA territory. After failing to convert on third-and-1, Brown missed his second field goal attempt of the afternoon (42-yards).
UCLA claimed possession at their own 24-yard line and took advantage of the Trojans’ inability to capitalize inside the red zone. Three plays into the drive, Kelley blasted down the left sideline for a 61-yard gain. Three plays later, Speight escaped pressure, rolled outside the pocket and waltzed past the pylon to give UCLA a 14-3 lead after a four-yard run.
With their backs against the wall early, USC failed to convert on yet another third-and-short. To the surprise of Bruins, the Trojans faked the punt on fourth down and snapped the ball directly to sophomore tight end Erik Krommenhoek who earned an 8-yard first down. Daniels completed a 44-yard momentum-shifting touchdown pass to St. Brown on the next play from scrimmage. USC climbed back within single digits, 14-10, with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
USC senior cornerback Isaiah Langley intercepted Speight in the end zone three plays into the third quarter. Daniels hit Pittman for a 37-yard gain and senior tailback Aca’Cedric Ware picked up 15 yards on the ground. USC drove inside the 10-yard line but failed to convert deep inside UCLA territory. Brown nailed his second field goal of the afternoon, this time from 22 yards out to give USC a 27-21 lead midway through the third quarter.
Ware (6 carries, 27 yards) left the game in the second half due to a shoulder injury and did not return. The Trojans (5-6 overall, 4-5 Pac-12 South) are in danger of not becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2000 (excluding USC’s bowl ban from 2010-2011).
Before dropping the ball against UCLA, USC had not lost to an eight-loss team since 1960. USC faces their second straight major rival to close out the regular season, a home matchup with No. 3 Notre Dame. UCLA (3-8 overall, 3-5 Pac-12 South) finishes the year Saturday (Nov. 24) against Stanford (6-4 overall, 4-3 Pac-12 North) in Pasadena.