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Billboard of USC rival quarterback looms large in UCLA's backyard

Matt Barkley, alongside the words 'WE PLAY TO FINISH,' appears close to the Westwood campus, a situation Bruins players say is unacceptable.

August 28, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • A billboard in Westwood showing Matt Barkley has since been covered.
A billboard in Westwood showing Matt Barkley has since been covered. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

The rivalry between UCLA and USC is never dormant. Case in point: If Bruins players or fans had forgotten what Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley looks like, he can be found looking skyward at the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Lindbrook Drive.

Barkley, alongside the words "WE PLAY TO FINISH" — the LA in PLAY highlighted — graces a billboard in Westwood not far from the UCLA campus.

How far? Taking a couple of his best passes from USC's 50-0 rout of UCLA last fall, about two completions away.

Certainly too close for comfort, according to UCLA players.

"We need to change that. Oh, we need to change that," Bruins Y-back Darius Bell said. "This is our neighborhood."

USC has won 12 of the last 13 games against UCLA.

UCLA athletic department officials declined to comment on the billboard.

Tim Tessalone, USC's athletic department spokesman, said the billboard was one of 30 in Southern California that are part of USC's "WE PLAY" branding and marketing campaign, which encompasses multiple sports and also includes bus wraps and other media platforms.

"It's not a board to taunt," Tessalone said.

Craig Kelley, an associate athletic director for marketing, said USC chose locations for the boards.

"You have certain locations you can choose that are favorable and have high visibility, and we chose the ones that would work best for us at the time based on what was available.

"Anywhere we put a board, if it's not here in downtown Los Angeles, people look at it as their territory.

"It's a positive.… That's really what that board is about: Finishing what you start. That crosses all platforms and all schools."

The billboard is owned by Regency Outdoor Advertising, a company co-owned by Brian Kennedy, a prominent USC donor.

UCLA is expected to have its own marketing campaign up on billboards in the near future.

Game of chance

Of all the new experiences UCLA Coach Jim Mora has had in his transition from the NFL to the college ranks, this maybe the most difficult: There are no test runs.

Mora spent a quarter-century in the NFL, including stints as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. He's used to having four exhibition games to smooth out rough edges and evaluate players in game situations. After those dress rehearsals, the games began to count.

Thursday's game against Rice in Houston goes in the books.

"It's a little strange for me going into this week," Mora said. "I'm not used to this. It's an adjustment. At the same time, it's fun. There is nothing like jumping right in and seeing what we have."

Mora said he and his staff worked out some of the game logistics during a practice at the Rose Bowl last week.

"We put ourselves through a mock game," Mora said. "It's a new staff together for the first time, so we worked on communication, getting players in from the sidelines, things like that. Typically in the NFL, you work those things out over four games."

Oops

The Associated Press sent out a test story over the weekend that ended up published by some websites and newspapers — but not this one.

The headline: "UCLA stuns Oregon, 21-20."

For the record, the Bruins and Ducks are not even scheduled to play each other during the regular season.

Still, according to the AP story, "Bob Jones threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 10 seconds left, as UCLA stunned Oregon, 21-20."

Note to UCLA: There was a quarterback named Bob Jones who led Baylor to victory in the 1957 Sugar Bowl, but he's probably out of eligibility.

Seydel leaves

After meeting with coaches, offensive lineman Jacob Seydel has decided to leave the team.

Seydel, who played at Riverside College last season, will not count against UCLA's scholarship count this season, as he is leaving the team before school is in session.

Feisty till the end

UCLA has had more than three weeks of edgy practices getting ready for Thursday's game. Monday featured the latest scuffle, when defensive end Ellis McCarthy and guard Carl Hulick went at it … twice.

Defensive end Cassius Marsh, no stranger to post-play fracases, stepped in as peacemaker both times.

"I didn't know Cassius until I got here," Mora said. "I heard things about him. He has been nothing but a model citizen since I have been here. He's a mature guy. He had a scuffle or two earlier in camp and immediately afterward came in and apologized."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

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