The UCLA Bruins have freed the market in Los Angeles by beating the hated USC Trojans, and have completed a remarkable one year turnaround under Jim Mora.
This time it means something.
It only took a few months. It took a coaching change, a new quarterback, a few new upgraded hires, and suddenly the UCLA Bruins have showcased the ability to beat anyone in the Pac-12. And it ended with a convincing win over their tormentors across the city.
UCLA pummeled USC. They took a 24 point lead early, overcame their mistakes and held on for dear life. After taking every punch from the desperate Trojans, the Bruins fought back and responded to every challenge. No more laying down to the Trojans; UCLA kept their heads up and eyes forward on the crown.
The Bruins have accumulated so much talent for so long that it only felt like a matter of time before they would make use of it rather than limping along being UCLA's lapdog. They finally realized it this year with Jim Mora, as the new Bruins coaching staff has them believing adapting, and improving. The ceiling on this program no longer exists. The path to sustaining excellence suddenly doesn't seem too far off.
A few hiccups aside, UCLA's path to their second straight (and first legitimate) Pac-12 South title came quick and fairly easy. There's no reason to think the winning can't keep on coming in Westwood.
What were the biggest factors to UCLA beating USC, and who were the biggest stars?
Ryan Rosenblatt, Bruins Nation: The Bruins, at least in the beginning, simply wanted it more. This game meant a lot to them and Jim Mora said during the week that he actually had to rein the team in during practice because they were so amped up and it showed. SC came out flat and UCLA was ready to go. The 24-0 start showed it.
It is tough to pick out a couple stars because so many players played well. Brett Hundley looked nothing like a freshman, again, and Johnathan Franklin was his typical outstanding self. Eric Kendricks was massive and Jeff Locke's kickoffs gave Marqise Lee no chance, which was huge. Maybe the biggest stars were Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, who really struggled this year, but stepped up and kept SC's great receivers in check.
SB Nation Snippets (All from Bruins Nation)
The biggest praise I can give the UCLA offense is that they controlled the pace of the game until the last 8 minutes where the Trojans made their last effort to get back in the game. The slower tempo and focus on the running game kept the Trojans offense off of the field. An 18 play, 84 yards drive gave UCLA a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and took 7 minutes and 42 seconds. The drive to give UCLA a 24-0 lead was 14 plays and took 4 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. And the clinching drive of 9 plays and 83 yards milked 3 minutes and 14 seconds off the clock in the 4th quarter.
Since he has come aboard Coach Mora has overwhelming made all the right moves both on and off the field. I admit I was wrong because I didn't think Mora would be a good recruiter in the college world. I didn't see a straight shooting version of Pete Carroll in him because he didn't have Carroll's college experience before taking over in Westwood.
But he clearly came in with a plan of hiring the right people, setting the right mindset, and getting the job done in recruiting. As for on the field performance, we were clear about where we are in terms of expectations, and he has now met all of them, setting UCLA up for our most special season since 1997.
The Bruins have a similar proposition in front of them. Every Bruin fan has to be ecstatic with where we are. 9-2 and a win over those guys across town, a real win by a real team, is all we asked for. It would be pretty easy to rest on our accomplishments so far, and we'd all probably be pretty happy with the season. After all, we've met Bruins Nation's expectations, and we know no one with any sense or heart was asking for anything close to that, right? How hard is it going to be to try to step up even further, to find another mountain to climb, or another bridge to cross and go beyond what we expected?