Thomas Duarte

Adoree’ Jackson punt return gives USC halftime edge on UCLA

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Never kick to USC playmaker Adoree’ Jackson. That si the lesson UCLA learned the hard way late in the first half in The Los Angeles Coliseum this afternoon. A 42-yard punt return by Jackson gave USC a 20-14 lead late in the first half and gives the Trojans the edge at the midway point of what amounts to the Pac-12 South Division Championship Game. The winner of this game moves on to next week to face Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

USC was the first to put points on the scoreboard in the Coliseum when a lengthy drive stalled inside the red zone, forcing the Trojans to send Alex Woods out for a 30-yard field goal. It would take two more offensive possessions by UCLA to put their own points on the board. Paul Perkins ripped off a 19-yard touchdown run on a fourth and one play from the USC 19-yard line, giving UCLA the 7-3 lead.

USC put together a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive a couple of possessions later, with quarterback Cody Kessler punching one in from the goal line. UCLA’s Thomas Duarte hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Josh Rosen in the second quarter to regain the lead, 14-10. That lead evaporated with USC’s special teams chipping in with a field goal and Jackson’s punt return.

Pac-12 South division race down to USC and UCLA

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Next week in the historic Los Angeles Coliseum, two rivals will enter but only one will leave with the Pac-12 South championship banner. Despite a loss today at Oregon, No. 24 USC (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) will get a chance to win the Pac-12 South Division at home and earn a trip to its first Pac-12 Championship Game. Standing in the way will be rival UCLA (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12), fresh of a road win against No. 13 Utah (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12).

UCLA did what it needed to do to remain in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South. Needing a win against Utah to secure a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Utes, UCLA got right to work out of the gate with a game-opening touchdown drive on the road (Josh Rosen to Thomas Duarte) and eventually took a 10-0 lead before letting the Utes wiggle back in with three field goals chipping away at the double-digit lead. Once Utah kicked a third field goal to cut the lead to one point, UCLA responded with a 14-play touchdown drive ending with Paul Perkins scoring a short touchdown run to put the Bruins up 17-9. That would prove to be more than enough, as that score held the rest of the way.

USC’s secondary was picked apart by Vernon Adams and Oregon in Autzen Stadium. Adams finished his day with six touchdowns thrown and 407 passing yards in a 45-28 victory over the Trojans. USC’s offense actually did some good things, outside of protecting quarterback Cody Kessler at times. Kessler avoided throwing an interception and Justin Davis led the running game with 141 yards. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had to leave the game temporarily in the first half but did return despite having to be helped off the field by trainers. USC’s defense gave up five touchdowns of at least 30 yards through the air, so they will have to find a way to tighten things up in the secondary before taking on UCLA next week. Oregon racked up 578 yards of offense in the win.

The Pac-12 South is now a two-horse race between USC and UCLA, as Utah has now been eliminated from contention. Utah needed to beat UCLA in order to stay ahead of the Trojans, but now the Utes cannot win as tiebreakers go against them. The winner of next week’s crosstown rivalry game will more than likely get a crack at Stanford. Stanford needs a win against Cal later tonight to claim the Pac-12 North title. A loss opens the door for Oregon to grab the North next week with a win over Oregon State. Stanford loses a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ducks after Oregon upset the Cardinal last week. Stanford’s Pac-12 schedule wraps up tonight and they play Notre Dame next week.

The Pac-12 Championship Game will be played on December 5 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. UCLA appeared in the first two Pac-12 championship game sin 2011 and 2012, although USC won the Pac-12 South and was ineligible for postseason play in 2012 (USC pounded UCLA 50-0 that season).

UCLA takes four-point lead on No. 13 Utah at the half

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UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte on the game’s opening drive to give the visiting Bruins an early lead in Salt Lake City on No. 13 Utah. UCLA owns a 10-6 lead at the half, putting them one half away from gaining control of the Pac-12 South heading into their final game of the season.

Utah took its first offensive possession of the game into the red zone but Joe Williams had the ball knocked out of his hands by UCLA’s Kene Orjioke and Randall Goforth recovered the loose ball. It was the second turnover of the drive for the Utes, who had a Travis Wilson interception overturned by a pass interference penalty on UCLA. Goforth, as it turned out, was the one who came away with the interception. Williams is taking on the task of running the football as Utah’s primary running back with Devontae Booker out of action this week.

UCLA will gain control of the Pac-12 South with a win today against Utah. With a win, UCLA would then play for the Pac-12 South championship next week against USC., regardless of what the Trojans end up doing in Eugene against Oregon.

Josh Rosen shines as No. 13 UCLA handles Viriginia

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Behind a true freshman quarterback that played anything like it, No. 13 UCLA cruised past Virginia for a 34-16 victory at the Rose Bowl. Josh Rosen, a California native and No. 1 quarterback recruit in the class of 2015, played flawlessly in his debut, hitting 28-of-35 passes for 351 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter with victory well in hand for the Bruins.

Virginia opened the scoring with a 42-yard Ian Frye field goal at the 9:19 mark of the first quarter, but Rosen took over from there. He hit Devin Fuller for an easy four-yard scoring strike in the first quarter to give UCLA a lead it would not relinquish, nailed Thomas Duarte for on a gorgeous 30-yard rainbow to put the Bruins up 14-6 midway through the second, and then found Kenny Clark for a three-yard score to push the lead to 31-9 late in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers moved the ball well in the first half but stalled on all three of its scoring opportunities, leading to three Frye field goals and a 17-9 halftime deficit. UCLA’s talented defense, led by lineman Eddie Vanderdoes and linebacker Myles Jack, tightened the screws in the second half. Virginia would not score until the 3:33 mark of the fourth quarter as Matt Johns hit Taquan Mizell for on a 19-yard wheel route to provide the final score.

Mizell provided most of the offense for Virginia, rushing 16 times for 45 yards while also leading the club with eight grabs for 100 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Johns completed 21-of-35 passes for 238 yards with a score and a pick.

Another true freshman, Soso Jamabo, led UCLA in rushing, racking up 79 yards on his nine mom-up carries. Pac-12 leading returning rusher Paul Perkins totaled 59 yards on 14 attempts while leading the club with 58 yards on his five receptions. In addition to making good decisions with the ball, Rosen spread the wealth; 11 different Bruins recorded receptions on the day.

UCLA (1-0) heads to UNLV next week, while Virginia (0-1) heads home to face, gulp, No. 11 Notre Dame in the second of three games against ranked foes in the month of September.

No. 13 UCLA leading Virginia at the half

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No. 13 UCLA leads visiting Virginia 17-9 at the midway point at the Rose Bowl.

True freshman Josh Rosen has looked every bit like the No. 1 true freshman in the country, hitting 17 of his 23 passes for 175 yards and both of UCLA’s touchdowns. Pac-12 leading returning rusher Paul Perkins has added 30 rushing yards on six carries and 58 receiving yards on five grabs. Thomas Duarte has two grabs for 46 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown on a beautiful Rosen lob.

UCLA had a chance to extend the lead to 21-9 just before the brake, but Rosen overshot an open Duarte from the Virginia seven with seven seconds remaining, leaving the Bruins to settle for a 25-yard Kai Fairbairn field goal.

For Virginia, Matt Johns has completed 12-of-15 passes for 133 yards, and Taquan Mizell has led the Cavs’ ground and air efforts with 10 carries for 29 yards and five grabs for 64 yards. Virginia has moved the ball successfully (177 total yards) but stalled each time it neared the end zone, leading to three Ian Frye field goals.