Stud: Brett Hundley
The Bruin quarterback was the difference maker in the game. Brett Hundley’s numbers weren’t mindblowing, but he did everything that he needed to do to secure the win over USC.
He neutralized the Trojan pass rush with his threat on quarterback draws and scrambles. When he didn’t take off and run, he found open receivers so quickly that USC didn’t have enough time to get in his face. Most importantly, he never let himself get rattled.
Two rushing touchdowns from Hundley demoralized the Trojan defense in the key moments of the game and ensured him a 2-0 record over his rivals.
Dud: Cody Kessler
Cody Kessler was everything that Hundley wasn’t.
With defenders in his face, Kessler was indecisive, taking sacks instead of throwing the ball away. When he had time, more often than not he missed his receivers outright. Athletic grabs from Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee were required to make up for his inaccuracy.
All in all, this was not the Kessler who stepped up in the pocket and made plays on third down against Stanford. This was the Kessler of Washington State and his return could not have been more poorly timed.
Stud: Jim Mora
Jim Mora has USC’s number.
In two match ups against the Trojans, Mora has come out on top in terms of the coaching battle. Simply put, his teams have been better prepared, more focused, and more passionate.
UCLA came into this game an underdog despite being ranked higher and USC was the trendy pick to win the game. Clearly, the Bruins took their underdog role to heart and came out looking to punch the Trojans in the mouth. Some players took that literally, and the early ejection of Caleb Benenoch for punching J.R. Tavai in the facemask could have been the stupid play that cause UCLA’s wheels to fall off.
Mora, however, got control of his team and they turned that aggression into positive energy.
Dud: Ed Orgeron
Ed Orgeron was supposed to do what Mora did. Instead, when the going got tough, the Trojans laid back took it.
The conventional wisdom was that Orgeron needed a win over UCLA to give himself a shot at winning the full-time head coaching position. He got his players to talk the talk all week, but when it came to game time, he couldn’t get them to walk the walk.
Orgeron and his entire staff were outcoached from start to finish.
On offense, you could forgive Orgeron for having little impact, but it was the defense who truly laid an egg on the night and it is defense that Orgeron specializes in.
Whether he cost himself the job will be determined. He certainly didn’t do enough as a head coach to get the win.
Stud: Buck Allen
Disregard the fumble, which was truly devastating, but in no way cost USC the victory. Buck Allen was the only reason USC was even in the game at that point.
With 123 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries along with three catches for 30 yards, it was Allen who provided the spark for the Trojan offense.
The fact that he received just eight carries in the second half is a major indictment of offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who turned to Kessler and the passing game instead of riding what worked on the ground.
Dud: The Lines
The USC offensive line was already an underachieving unit this season, but they were particularly bad on this night. Losing two starters within the early stages of the game certainly didn’t help matters. Center Marcus Martin was a major loss. Losing Aundrey Walker at right guard made things go from bad to worse.
It isn’t just about the quality of the players USC lost. It’s about the chemistry and understanding on the line, which has never been able to establish itself. As a result, the Trojans gave up six sacks on the night.
The defensive line has no excuse. One of the best fronts in the Pac-12 all season, they were handled by a UCLA offensive line that was a patchwork group of freshman and back ups. When they got pressure, they over-pursued, missed tackles and left the middle of the field wide open for Hundley to exploit with his legs.