USC beats UCLA, earns spot in Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. — For a few precious minutes, UCLA had visions of a second straight shocking upset over Southern California at the Rose Bowl.

Then, reality set in.

Mark Sanchez passed for 269 yards and two touchdowns, USC’s hard-hitting defense stuffed UCLA at every turn, and the fifth-ranked Trojans won 28-7 Saturday to give them nine victories in the last 10 games between the crosstown rivals.

The win assured USC (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) of an unprecedented seventh consecutive BCS bid, seven straight 11-win seasons and seven conference championships in a row. They’ll also made a fourth straight appearance in the Rose Bowl game, where they will meet No. 6 Penn State on New Year’s Day.

UCLA stunned USC 13-9 as 131/2-point underdogs two years ago at the Rose Bowl, bouncing the Trojans out of the BCS championship game. The 33-point underdog Bruins (4-8, 3-6) inspired hopes for a repeat performance by taking a 7-0 lead in the opening four minutes, but they were unable to pose a scoring threat after that, crossing midfield just once.

USC opened its overall lead in the series to 43-28-7.

The Trojans rolled up 33 first downs and 478 yards of total offense while the Bruins had just seven first downs and gained only 159 yards against the national leader in total defense and scoring defense.

USC beat UCLA seven straight times before the surprising setback two years ago, one of just 10 losses in 95 games for the Trojans since the beginning of the 2002 season. They rebounded with a 24-7 triumph over the Bruins last year at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Sanchez completed 18 of 33 passes with one interception, and Joe McKnight gained 99 yards on 15 carries for the Trojans.

UCLA’s Kevin Craft completed 11 of 28 passes for 89 yards with one interception, and Kahlil Bell rushed for 36 yards on 14 carries.

For the first time in 26 years, both teams wore home jerseys in their annual matchup. That meant cardinal red for the visiting Trojans and powder blue for the host Bruins.

They both played their home games at the Coliseum until UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982, and the NCAA passed a rule the following year that would penalize teams one timeout if they didn’t wear their proper home and road jerseys. So the Bruins wore white at the Coliseum in 1983, and the visitors had done the same ever since.

USC was penalized a timeout after the opening kickoff, and UCLA voluntarily took its first timeout immediately thereafter, as coach Rick Neuheisel promised. The timeouts prompted a large cheer from the Rose Bowl crowd of 87,790.

After UCLA went three-and-out, C.J. Gable fumbled on USC’s first scrimmage play and Korey Bosworth recovered at the Trojans’ 20. Two running plays lost a yard before Dominique Johnson threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Bell, giving the Bruins their early lead. Craft tossed a backward pass to Johnson before the sophomore wide receiver was successful on the first pass of his career.

USC quickly moved into UCLA territory on a 20-yard pass from Sanchez to Patrick Turner and a roughing the passer penalty, but David Buehler was wide right on a 41-yard field goal, the first of three misses for a kicker who went 8-of-9 in the first 11 games of the season.

The Trojans tied the game on their third possession, scoring on a 12-yard run by McKnight two plays after Sanchez threw an 8-yard pass to Anthony McCoy on fourth-and-4 from the UCLA 35.

That was just the beginning for USC.

Sanchez threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Damian Williams before the first quarter was over, capping a four-play drive in which Sanchez passed for all 60 yards on three completions against the country’s second-best pass defense.

Gerald Washington then blocked Aaron Perez’s punt, and the Trojans moved to the UCLA 34 before Michael Norris made a leaping interception at the Bruins’ 11.

Helped by a roughing the kicker penalty against David Carter, the Trojans moved 70 yards on 16 plays for a 21-7 lead, scoring on a 2-yard run by Stafon Johnson with 1:55 left before halftime.

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