The Bruins had one last Friday against Arizona State, but that aerial attack came in part because UCLA squandered a 17-0 lead and spent much of the second half trying to play catch-up.
"Our passing game has been something we struggled with all year," said quarterback Richard Brehaut, who completed 33 of 56 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns. "Fortunately, we were able to get that going. Unfortunately, we were able to get it going because we were down. We had to pass."
With the loss, UCLA fell to 4-7 overall and out of the bowl picture. The Bruins needed to win two of their final three games but have suffered back-to-back losses to Washington and Arizona State.
Since USC is banned from the postseason because of NCAA violations, Saturday's game in the Rose Bowl will be the 2010 finale for both teams. Certainly, this won't be the most glorious of matchups in the great rivalry.
But while UCLA will miss the postseason for the second time in three seasons under Rick Neuheisel -- and the Bruins were the last team into the bowl picture last season -- his job is safe.
"Of course, there's never been any question of that," athletic director Dan Guerrero told the Orange County Register. "There's no doubt."
--UCLA junior safety Rahim Moore, who led the nation last season with 10 interceptions, said he would return to the Bruins for his senior season. "I'm loyal to this team," Moore told the Orange County Register. "I need them, they need me."
--WR Nelson Rosario seemed poised for a big season after making 42 receptions for 723 yards last season, but that hasn't happened. The change to the Pistol offense, plus a nagging ankle injury, has made him a non-factor for much of the year. But he was dangerous again last week against Arizona State, catching a career-high nine passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. That's a good sign as UCLA takes aim at a porous USC secondary.
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads 42-28-7 (last meeting, 2009, 28-7 USC).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: USC has to respect UCLA's passing game now. The Bruins, who for much of the season have ranked ahead of only the triple-option service academies in passing, had a record-setting performance last week against Arizona State. QB Richard Brehaut set UCLA record for completions (33) and attempts (56) while passing for 321 yards. That's probably not what the Bruins want to do against USC, preferring to get a lead and then use their power running attack. But last week's proficiency through the air becomes an X-factor for the finale against USC.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This young unit has had a few solid moments but has had more tough times. In the past five games, UCLA has allowed 582 yards to Oregon, 583 yards to Arizona and 595 yards to Arizona State. Now, the Bruins will try to stop USC, which is hoping to get back QB Matt Barkley from an ankle injury. The Bruins are just 93rd nationally in total defense (415.18 yards per game) and 89th in scoring defense (30.55 points per game).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not up to Pac-10 championship standards, that's a fact. But I still believe we've got an unbelievable freshman class and a couple of classes stacked together. We're going to have to really evaluate where we are as an offense and as a defense to see if we can play the schemes that we're playing with who we have, and then make some decisions as to how we go forward." -- UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, in the Orange County Register, looking ahead to the offseason.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: USC at UCLA, Dec. 4 -- The Bruins have lost 10 of the past 11 games in the series, although their upset in 2006 likely cost USC a chance at the national championship game. Still, that's a long time with hardly any success, and UCLA will consider it a wasted opportunity if it doesn't take advantage of a weakened USC team this season. The young Bruins might be considered on the rise, while USC is heading into the teeth of sanctions that will reduce scholarships, so UCLA needs to send a signal that times are changing in L.A.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Gang up on the run. It worked for Notre Dame against USC, but that was when the Trojans had Mitch Mustain at quarterback. Matt Barkley might be back this week, but there is no guarantee that his ankle will be 100 percent, even if he does play. The Trojans have rushed for only 200 yards in the past two games, both losses, and that is a trend that UCLA will look to extend.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
PK Kai Forbath -- He has a huge edge in accuracy and distance over his USC counterpart, giving the Bruins a significant edge in a close game. Forbath, a senior, last week tied John Lee's school record with his 85th career field goal.
RB Johnathan Franklin -- A hard-nosed runner, Franklin had 73 yards last week against Arizona State, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark. He is the first UCLA player to reach that level since Chris Markey in 2006.
OLB Akeem Ayers -- Big games should bring out the best in big players, and Ayers has 9.5 tackles for loss, including four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
--DT Cassius Marsh left the Arizona State game with a head injury, but his status for this week was not immediately known.
--CB Andrew Abbott suffered a head injury at Arizona State, and his status for this week was not immediately known.
--MLB Steve Sloan, who had missed two games because of a left hamstring strain, was back for the Arizona State game, but freshman Jordan Zumwalt continued to start. Zumwalt had five tackles vs. the Sun Devils.
--MLB Patrick Larimore suffered a season-ending injury to his left shoulder against Oregon on Oct. 21. He said he was unsure if he would be available for spring ball after surgery.
--QB Kevin Prince suffered a season-ending knee injury against Cal on Oct. 9.
--KR Damien Thigpen suffered a broken right collarbone against Arizona on Oct. 30 and is out for the season.
--WR Jerry Johnson suffered a broken left ankle against Arizona on Oct. 30 and is out for the season.
--Freshman CB Anthony Jefferson suffered a season-ending foot injury against Cal on Oct. 9.
--DE Datone Jones, the team's only returning starter on the defensive line, suffered a season-ending broken foot in fall camp.
--Junior C Kai Maiava, a projected starter, suffered a fractured ankle in fall camp and is out for the season.
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