UCLA and USC had retreated to neutral corners. The Bruins came out swinging. The Trojans came out with a letter.
UCLA put an end to a tradition — the pregame ritual of the USC drum major stabbing the turf with a sword — then went wild at its own annual event.
A bonfire rally at UCLA Thursday night brought out some of the rivalry's rancor.
"We hate those dudes across town," senior fullback David Allen told the crowd. "We're taking it back this year."
Meanwhile, across town, there was displeasure with UCLA not allowing the drum major to stab the field.
Keith Yoerg, the drum major who most recently has been applying the coup de grace to the sod, released a statement admonishing UCLA for preventing what he said was a USC band tradition played out in every stadium "for 40 years, including [at] Stanford, Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA and bowl games."
UCLA officials threatened to ban the band from performing at halftime if the drum major stabbed the field. Athletic department officials have refused to comment, but privately they have questioned whether it demonstrated good sportsmanship.