UCLA football hangs with USC but can't overcome self-inflicted wounds – LA Daily News

LOS ANGELES — Josh Rosen smiled through the pain. He wiped his face and rubes his forehead. But don’t let the sheepish chuckle fool you. This one hurts.

“I really thought we won this game,” Rosen said while chuckling in disbelief.

UCLA hung with No. 11 USC in its annual rivalry football game on Saturday, but couldn’t overcome its many mistakes in its 28-23 loss. After three straight wins against the Trojans to start Jim Mora’s tenure in Westwood, the Bruins have now lost three straight in the series.

The Bruins (5-6, 3-5 Pac-12) were 16-point underdogs. They lost by five, but left at least nine points on the field after two red zone trips ended in turnovers from Rosen and another possession died on a missed field goal.

UCLA had been scoring on 88 percent of its red zone trips entering the game with 69 percent of them ending in touchdowns. On Saturday, the Bruins came away with points only three times out of their five visits inside the 20-yard line.

“We did exactly what we wanted to do,” Rosen said. “Just for some reason, we got inside the 15-yard line and spazzed out.”

UCLA outgained the Trojans 501-417. The Bruins gave up a season-low for rushing yards. Rosen was 32-for-52 for 421 yards and three touchdowns, but two red zone turnovers haunted the junior who has now lost both of his career starts against USC.

Video: UCLA puts up fight, but falls to USC

Rosen turned the ball over on the 17-yard line after getting sacked and stripped by defensive tackle Malik Dorton with UCLA driving at the end of the first half to tie the game. On UCLA’s first drive of the third quarter, the Rosen turned it over at the 14-yard line as safety Marvell Tell jumped the pass in the end zone. The quarterback thought it was a touchdown when he threw it. He said he never saw Tell.

“We had opportunities throughout the game and we squandered them,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. “We squandered them.”

The Bruins had 12 penalties for 100 yards. A clipping penalty by Najee Toran negated a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. That drive ended in a missed field goal from 47 yards from J.J. Molson. A defensive holding penalty on Darnay Holmes erased a critical third-down stop in the fourth quarter. With the second chance, Ronald Jones rushed for a 2-yard touchdown eight plays later that put the Trojans (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) up by 11 with 5:12 to go.

Jones, who averaged 184 rushing yards per game in the past three games, had only 98 rushing yards in the first three quarters. He had 26 more in the fourth quarter to finish with 124, including the game-sealing 2-yard rush on third-and-1 that allowed USC to kneel out the clock.

“We had to get that stop at the end,” defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. “We didn’t do it. We didn’t manufacture it and it’s on us.”

USC scored its first touchdown on trick punt play with one player faking as if he was catching a punt from Stefan Flintoft on the left side of the field when the ball was going to the left. It was a predetermined call for the punt to go to the right, Flintoft said. Yet the gunners still crashed to the left side, leaving Michael Pittman all alone on the right side where he took the punt for a 72-yard return.

With the loss, UCLA has one final chance to secure bowl eligibility next week at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins need a win over California on Friday to avoid missing back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1989-90. They’re 5-0 at home this season.

“It would mean everything,” Rosen said of going to a bowl game. “We just want to win. We feel like we’re such a better team than our record reflects.”

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