UCLA celebrates its win over USC in 2006. (Los Angeles Times )
UCLA players and fans will never forget the Bruins' 13-9 victory over USC in 2006.
Neither will players from that No. 2-ranked Trojans team that lost a chance to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
"Losing to UCLA was never in our thoughts," former Trojans quarterback John David Booty said Monday from Louisiana, where he grew up and resides.
It remains UCLA's only victory over USC in the last 13 years.
But it still resonates with the Trojans.
"That was a bad game," former linebacker Oscar Lua said. "I have family members at UCLA and they say, 'Well, we got you that one time.'"
UCLA took a first-quarter lead on quarterback Patrick Cowan's touchdown run, but USC answered with a second-quarter safety and touchdown run by C.J. Gable. However, those were the only points the Trojans could muster, and UCLA got two second-half field goals from Justin Medlock.
"There was never a point in the game where we didn't feel, 'Hey, this series we're going to turn it on,'" Booty said.
After USC got the ball at its 29-yard line with about six minutes to play, Booty completed six of nine passes to move the ball to the Bruins' 19.
But on a third-and-four play, Bruins linebacker Eric McNeal leaped into the air and tipped a pass intended for receiver Steve Smith. McNeal came down with the ball for an interception that etched his name into series lore.
"It was a three-step drop and get it out of your hands quick," Booty said. "There's really not a whole lot you can do."
Said Lua: "There were missed opportunities that we didn't capitalize on as a team that put us in that spot. That was the nail in the coffin, but we put ourselves in the coffin the whole game."