Across town, the escalating UCLA-UCLA rivalry clash had all the bravado and grit one would normally expect from a game like this.
Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson is now in his fifth draft of the series (although he barely saw the field at the 2018 meeting as a freshman).
It sure seems personal to him.
“Obviously I know what’s at stake – trying to teach my little mates the lore and everything that goes on in this game. We obviously hate those guys all over town. It’s a bittersweet feeling with those guys,” Thompson-Robinson said Monday.
It’s not over…
“I remember [the 2020 game in the Rose Bowl] Clear as day, curse us, turn us around. “Lack of respect you can get,” he said.
Back at Howard-Jones Field two days later, USC quarterback Caleb Williams could not have taken a different tack while speaking after Wednesday’s Trojans practice.
Asked what he learned about competing before his first run, Williams said, “I didn’t learn a lot, to be honest with you. I treat it like another game. It’s another game. I’ve been in other great rivalry games so far in my career.” So treat it like another game.
Of course, it’s not just another game.
With USC (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12) ranked seventh in both the AP poll and CFP rankings and UCLA (8-2, 5-2) ranked 16th in both, it’s a national marquee showdown at the time of year when The Trojans need the eyes of the selection committee on them.
He’s also getting the full attention he deserves domestically, as the Bruins announced a sellout at the Rose Bowl on Saturday (5 p.m. PT on FOX).
USC could clinch its spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a win and keep its hopes of a playoff berth alive, while UCLA would still play in the conference tournament if it won.
While it’s not a top-10 matchup it might have been if UCLA hadn’t lost to Arizona last week, this is still the highest combined ranking for opponents in this game since 2005, when the Trojans finished first and the Bruins No. 11.
“The energy is different. I can tell who [Monday] “When we’re walking down the block, it feels like it’s time,” said USC receiver Jordan Addison, who is also in his first competitive role. that A week, so it’s time to go.”
Sophomore safety Kalen Bullock said, “Everyone knows what the week is so everyone has that seriousness to them—don’t really mess around, more than locked up this week…we know what kind of week it is for us.”
So, the caged Trojans have shown no interest in responding to the verbal jabs coming from Westwood this week.
“I have a general disdain for SC just because you’ve been here for two months, just because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” said UCLA wide receiver Jake Bobo, a Duke transfer who is originally from Massachusetts.
Were the Trojans listening? It sure doesn’t look like it…
“No, we’re really not paying attention to any of that. We’re just focused on what we really have to do,” Pollock said.
USC players who were made available for interviews this week had to be informed that Thompson Robinson said “we want to break 60 points,” referring to UCLA’s 62-33 win last year at the Coliseum against an entirely different Trojans team.
“He said that? said Bullock.
Addison said, “I don’t see any of that, but who wouldn’t want to put a 60 against us? I mean, we’re USC. But they have to stand behind that. That we stand on their words.”
Veteran tight end Nick Figueroa, who picked the Trojans over the Bruins as a highly desirable transfer at JUCO several years ago, was asked about other Thompson-Robinson comments and wouldn’t bite.
“Those are his comments. I know sometimes you get those questions that are a little bit retaliatory. I’m sure that’s kind of what it was. I don’t really have anything to say,” Figueroa said.
And sixth year center Brett Nealon?
“Obviously he’s a fierce competitor, and he competes with superhuman strength. Those guys over there have had a great season. It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be physical. He’s a great player,” Nealon said.
Really sharp comeback.
One can only assume the directives from coach Lincoln Riley not to trade trash talk before a game.
Also, though, much of this roster and coaching staff don’t really have a point of reference for the USC-UCLA rivalry, as the Trojans have brought in 29 newcomers via transfer or as a freshman since last season.
Defensive backs coach Donte Williams is the sole coach, while coach Roy Manning spent one season on the other side of the competition at UCLA in 2018.
“It’s a big match for this town,” Addison said, “and a couple of people were talking about it across the room, so I’m starting to get a little bit of a feeling.”
Linebacker Shane Lee, who came from Alabama this year, has plenty of experience competing in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. But he had to learn firsthand about the nuances of UCLA’s week on campus.
“I think the first thing I noticed was that I walked out after a Monday morning meeting and saw the statue taped up with tape. I thought UCLA had done that or something. They told me it was just for protection, so it really set the mood for the week,” Lee said. “It’s been great. It’s always about us, and it’s always what we’re doing, but you definitely feel the energy.”
Both Riley and the returning USC players said there was little public focus on educating the first-year Trojans about the history or specifics of the rivalry.
“Honestly, we’re not doing anything too specific with this rivalry. I mean, and we’re not underestimating it in any way. We acknowledged that this game is going to feel different in some ways. We acknowledged that it’s a rivalry game, there’s a lot of history behind it, and it’s going to be a great game.” But in the past I think we’ve really focused on what we think will help us play well and that’s where we focus early in the week,” Riley said early in the week. frank. And they’re great – one of the best parts of our job is training in these outfits – but our focus is getting these guys ready to play.”
Veteran offensive guard Justin Dedic said: “Both teams have had such good records this year, the rivalry has been kind of fused for these transition kids. They know it’s a big game to us. teaching in. I think they can kind of understand the rivalry, seeing all the things on the record, and the importance that both schools take in it.”
USC has won five of the last seven meetings, but the Bruins took the big win at the Coliseum last year. UCLA has not won consecutive years in the competition since having three consecutive years from 2012-14.
Overall, USC is 49-33-7 with two wins in the series that dates back to 1929 and has been played every year since 1936.
And this may be the most anticipated release from him in a long time, even if it’s one-sided petty talk this year, many of the Trojans’ key players are freshmen and the coaching staff just don’t make the story. week internally.
As Nealon said, it shouldn’t take any extra effort to get the message across anyway.
“If you’re not ready for this game, something is wrong,” he said.