The trash talk between USC and UCLA got started early this season and with the game now in clear sight, the tension has only gotten worse as the two teams jostle for the top spot in Los Angeles.
The Bruins struck first, when wide out Shaq Evans expressed his feelings for the Trojans earlier this season.
“I’m from the ‘Wood so all I hear is SC. ‘Oh, when y’all play SC, they’re going to beat you,”’ Evans said on 710 ESPN Los Angeles in September. “Beating them last year and knowing that we’re going to beat them again this year, especially two years ago when they beat us 50-0, we owe them a little bit when we go to the Coliseum. Last time we were there, they embarrassed us. So this year we’re going to try and embarrass them, honestly.”
Evans wasn’t finished, taking a moment to revel in USC’s early season misfortune.
“It’s so much fun…Now, they’re struggling. It’s just awesome to see that. I hate ‘em, so I’m just loving it. I’ve always hated them.”
Let’s ignore, for just a second, the fact that Shaq Evans has “always hated” USC so much that he committed to play football for the Trojans back in 2008.
Let’s also disregard the lesser publicized comments of that interview, when Evans called himself the best wide receiver in Los Angeles over All-American, Biletnikoff Award-winner Marqise Lee, while simultaneously digging Cody Kessler (and Max Wittek) as Lee’s “little quarterback issue.”
At the time, USC runningback Silas Redd tweeted a response:
— Silas Redd (@Coast2CoastSii) September 19, 2013
Now, however, the Trojans are downplaying the statements.
“We’re not worried about his comments. Everybody hates USC,” freshman safety Su’a Cravens said. “They hate us. We hate them.”
Upperclassman Dion Bailey echoed the sentiment: “We’re a completely different team. Those remarks don’t bother us.”
Bailey is right. This is a completely different team to the one that lost to Washington State amid boos.
Evans’ comments came back when the Trojans were are their lowest. Now, with Ed Orgeron leading the charge, USC is one of the hottest teams in college football and they ride into the Coliseum this weekend with a five-game winning streak.
When asked if he regrets his comments, Evans didn’t exactly walk things back, “I probably could’ve said it in a different way, but what I meant by it, I don’t regret.”
And again, Evans wasn’t finished: “We know it wasn’t a fluke last year. But I feel like people in LA, people around the country think it was. I know those guys over there think it was,” he said. “To go out there and beat them in their house would pretty much verify that we run this town now.”
Running this town is all that will be on the line after Arizona State beat UCLA to knock both the Bruins and the Trojans out of the Pac-12 South running. In a rivalry game with just 13.4 miles dividing the schools, that’s all the stakes you need.
“All year we couldn’t wait for this game. It’s circled on my calendar,” Bailey said after the Colorado game had finally wound down and everyone could speak thoughts that had been brewing since last year’s loss. “Especially because they think they are better than us.”
Orgeron isn’t leaving any doubt about how he feels. In his usual passionate manner, the interim head coach pumped up the crowd at the “Conquest” rally Monday night.
“Come Saturday night, we’re gonna let those little boys from across town into our stadium and we’re gonna lock the gates.”