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UCLA-USC game gives these Bruin seniors their biggest final

UCLA hasn't prevailed against their cross-town rival since 2006. Eighteen Bruin seniors get their last chance to end that cardinal-and-gold streak Saturday. 'It means everything. It's my last shot,' says one.

November 16, 2012|By Chris Foster
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Approximately 350 players have signed with UCLA since the 1999 season. Only 85 can say they were on a team that beat USC.

The Bruins upset the second-ranked Trojans in 2006, their only victory in the series since the 1998 season. UCLA has 18 seniors who get one more crack at it Saturday in the Rose Bowl.

"It means everything," senior running back Johnathan Franklin said. "It's my last shot. I haven't beaten since I have been here. It's the biggest rivalry in college football."

A victory would also put the Bruins in the Pac-12 championship game on Nov. 30. That's the bonus. No matter where the Bruins have finished, a victory over the Trojans made it a successful season.

Coach Jim Mora tried to temper those thoughts this week, telling the Bruins that emotion is fine, but approach this like any other game.

They tried. Senior Cornerback Aaron Hester said opponents "are nameless and faceless."

But not colorless. The cardinal and gold can still make him see red.

"The stakes are higher" this year, Hester said. "We're in a better position than we were coming into this game last year. This team is more prepared than we have been in the past."

As for the last shot at USC, Hester said: "It's a rivalry game, that's external stuff. We have to follow what Coach Mora has preached. That's what has gotten us this far."

Outside UCLA's current five-game losing streak to USC, only twice in the history of the series have the Bruins gone five or more consecutive years without a victory — three losses and three ties from 1936-41 and seven losses from 1999-2005.

"It is one of those things when you're thinking about committing here, you ask, 'When's the last time you beat SC?' " UCLA linebacker Dalton Hilliard said. "One of the deciding factors when I committed was to make sure I did beat them before I left."

Senior defensive end Datone Jones did his best to downplay the game.

"If we lose, it always hurts," Jones said. "When we lost to California, it hurt. When we lost to Oregon State, it hurt. A loss is a loss."

But another loss to USC?

"All I can say, I'm an L.A. guy," Jones said. "You know what that means."

chris.Foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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