Mike Ferrara/USC Athletics

Remembering the 'Rivalry'

It's funny what you remember when you go back through all the USC-UCLA games you've attended. Or maybe not. It's not all Reggie Bush leaping over Bruins into the end zone as he did here in 2005 in a 66-19 Trojans win.

The thought today was to go back through my limited archival material of USC-UCLA games -- since 2002 as a USC beat person -- and highlight those special moments that make it just that -- special.

It would go perfectly with the 20th Anniversary celebration for USCFootball.com, a time period over which the Trojans have managed a 13-7 advantage against the Bruins despite a pair of three-game losing streaks -- one nearly two decades ago and one ending up last year.

I could go back to the first year I was in LA in 2001 and the Trojans' absolutely unexpected 27-0 romp over the 20th-ranked Bruins. Or the 99 points USC scored in two games in 2002-2003 in the middle of a USC seven-game win streak. Or the back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005 for the Pac-12 title. Or 66-19 in 2005. Or 50-0 in 2011.

There were the three Trojans at the top of their games -- Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush - all headed to Heisman Trophies having to be at the top of their games. Or Mike Williams, just a sophomore who might have been headed to a Heisman himself if he'd stayed around, but whose 11-reception [for 181 yards] first-half performance against UCLA in 2003 was so dominating, he decided to go pro.

But that effort in USC's 47-22 win when it became one of those "men vs. boys" scenarios come to life might help us understand what happens for USC fans, and those of us who look at the Crosstown Rivalry from a Trojan point of view, when it comes to the way we handle the history here.

And that might be a caution for these USC players today.

Because as we remember how that single sensational performance of Mike's was pretty much his swan song, we also know that those 66-19 and 50-0 romps ended USC win streaks in that 12-1 USC run from 1999 through 2011.

One truism about the USC-UCLA rivalry. It's not like the rivalry with Notre Dame. Against the Fighting Irish in the historic intersectional series unlike any other, we remember the wins more than anything -- the "Bush Push" game in 2005, the Anthony Davis-led 55-24 "Comeback" in 1974.

Not so with UCLA. Just check out that 12-wins-in-13-years run. What's the game that jumps out there?

It's that "one" not the 12. It's that game a decade ago at the Rose Bowl against backup quarterback Patrick Cowan that ended USC's NCAA-record streak of scoring 20 or more points in 63 straight games. Not that they came close to 20. They didn't get to double digits and have yet to block UCLA's defensive ends.

All that loss did was knock the second-ranked Trojans out of the BCS Championship game and the opportunity for an unprecedented third national title in four years. We like to think of those seasons -- 2003 and 2008 -- when the BCS jobbed USC. But in this game, USC jobbed itself.

Sure, that 2006 game gave USC fans the memorable video highlight of Rey Maualuga nearly decleating and de-helmeting Cowan at the sideline. But that was it.


Unless of course you count the near-bench-clearing dustup with 5:52 left that earned both teams unsportsmanlike conduct penalties as the Trojans objected to the way the Bruins huddled near the sideline late in the game and did the same in what became a bouncing-up-and-down, arm-waving shouting match forcing the coaches and officials to intervene. 

In the end, Bruins' first-year defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker had the last laugh against USC's offensive braintrust of coordinator Lane Kiffin and assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian. Wonder whatever happened to those guys?

And as a result, USC would head to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl and miss out another championship shot thanks to a loss to the unranked "gutty little Bruins." For USC fans, those 13 and 9 numbers are just as ingrained as "4th and 9."

You never forget. Not even through the highs of 66-19 or 50-zip.

A loss tonight (ESPN, 7:30) at the Rose Bowl, where USC still could be headed in the postseason no matter what happens in the earlier Washington State-Colorado game, would derail one of the sweetest comeback seasons for this 7-3 Trojans team going for its seventh straight win here and a 7-2 Pac-12 record.

All the good from last week's Washington win and all the good words from the ESPN College GameDay crew this morning would seem mighty sour if the Trojans don't keep it going tonight.

That it would happen at the hands of the team USC most hates to lose to, or the fans Trojans most do not want to have to listen to for the next 365 days would make it even worse.

And maybe even more is the way this would stay with these Trojans seniors who have rallied so impressively after living through some of the greatest challenges any USC players have faced -- from the midseason firing of two head coaches, the scholarship reductions from ridiculously unfair NCAA sanctions and for the fifth-year guys like Zach Banner, three straight losses to UCLA to start their college careers.

So in a game where only one team has anything to look forward to, these Trojans would seem to have all the incentive here not to live with any more recurring nightmares.

Then there's this thought expressed so eloquently by Winston Churchill: "History is written by the victors."

And remembered even better.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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