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UCLA ends USC winning streak, 38-28

Bruins return to the Pac-12 championship game, this time without an asterisk, as defense keeps Trojans in check for most of the day.

November 17, 2012|By Chris Foster

This was a voice long muffled.

UCLA's defense took the field with 40 seconds left. A victory over USC was in hand. The echo throughout the Rose Bowl was "U … C … L … A," a fan chant often left in cold storage against the Trojans for more than a decade.

"That gave me goose bumps," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "I started smiling."

There was a lot for the Bruins to grin about after a 38-28 victory Saturday.

PHOTOS: USC vs. UCLA 2012

UCLA (9-2 overall, 6-2 in Pac-12) clinched the Pac-12 South Division championship and will play in the conference title game Nov. 30 for a spot in the Rose Bowl.

USC's five-game winning streak in the series came to an end.

The Trojans (7-4, 5-4) were left to line up for bowl games with one of those long names — the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, perhaps?

All that was made possible by the UCLA's defense. From the first play to the last moment, the Bruins proved a match for USC's Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee and Co.

Aaron Hester intercepted a Barkley pass on the first play, setting up the first touchdown. At game's end, Hester twirled and hopped to the student section — part Baryshnikov, part Easter Bunny — to celebrate only the second victory over the Trojans in the last 14 seasons. He stopped short of diving into the crowd, as other Bruins did.

"Too dangerous," Hester said. "I'm just so happy."

The Trojans were considered national championship contenders when the season began, but now they still must face Notre Dame, then await a lower-tier bowl bid.

Coach Lane Kiffin was unsure what caused the fall.

"I don't know that exactly," he said. "I think the No. 1 glaring thing in our losses is turnovers."

UCLA forced three turnovers and blocked two kicks Saturday — a punt and a field goal.

Whether the Bruins were the better team, Kiffin said, "I can't argue that."

It wasn't open for debate, as UCLA is in the Pac-12 title game for the second consecutive season. And with Stanford's upset of Oregon, the Bruins can determine whom they play for the title.

If the Bruins defeat Stanford, and Oregon defeats Oregon State, UCLA would face Oregon.

If the Bruins lose to Stanford, they play ... Stanford.

It doesn't matter to them.

"We wanted show the nation and world that we deserved to be in the Pac-12 championship game," UCLA defensive end Datone Jones said.

They did, and the reason was simple to Jones.

"Matt Barkley didn't know what he was up against," Jones said. "He does now."

The Bruins had plenty of offense as well.

Quarterback Brett Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards. He threw for one touchdown and ran for two others. Johnathan Franklin had 171 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns, including a 29-yard coup de grace for 38-28 lead with four minutes left.

But it was the defense that dictated terms.

Barkley threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns. He also had two passes intercepted. His afternoon ended when he was flattened by linebacker Anthony Barr with two minutes left.

"We knew we could play with them," Barr said. "We tried to say it respectfully during the week. But we knew."

USC finished with 513 yards, but UCLA made the big plays, doing so from the first play.

Barkley went to Lee. Hester went for the ball.

"When you kick off to a team like USC, you hope they don't run it right down your throat and ruin all that emotion you had when you came out the tunnel," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "To get an interception made us believe that [we could] play with these guys."

It wasn't only the interception. The turnover set up a short drive that ended in Hundley's one-yard touchdown run.

"It was like, 'We got the ball, let's go, let's score,'" Franklin said.

And they didn't stop there, jumping to a 24-0 second quarter lead.

It wasn't going to be that easy. Barkley threw two touchdown passes in the first half. A follow-the-bouncing-ball fumble recovered for a touchdown by USC defensive tackle George Uko in the third quarter left UCLA with a precarious 24-20 lead.

But there was a running theme for the Bruins: defense. And they kept it up until the end, with Kendricks intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.

"We knew we had to bring our A game," Kendricks said. "And we brought it from the first play."

PHOTOS: USC vs. UCLA 2012

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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