LOS ANGELES — The 10th win was a lot like the first nine for USC. Turbulent, imperfect, good when it had to be.
The Trojans weathered Josh Rosen’s passing brilliance and a surprisingly feisty UCLA defense to notch their third consecutive win in the series, 28-23. After 12 consecutive weeks of football, they get a breath before they play in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 1.
The game did wind up on national prime time Saturday night, and it still brought out all the built-up snark that rivalries are supposed to, at least according to the Trojan fan who wore his “I Bought My Sunglasses” T-shirt.
But college football is preoccupied with its playoff now, and the Crosstown Showdown has little to do with that. Not only has the game lost part of its external significance, it hasn’t been very interesting either. The last time either team won by fewer than 10 points was 2006, when Eric McNeal’s interception gave the Bruins a 13-9 upset in the Rose Bowl that shoved USC out of a national championship bid.
Rosen has more games in the Coliseum left, depending on his NFL destination, but he had only met USC once, and that didn’t go well. In 2015 both teams arrived with a chance at the Pac-12 South title, and Rosen went 19 for 37 with two interceptions and a TD. The Trojans won that one 40-21, then ripped the Bruins last year 36-14 with Rosen injured.
Video: UCLA fights, but USC holds on
The first half Saturday night was a near-perfect snapshot of Rosen’s three-year career at UCLA. He was brilliant, his teammates weren’t, and his efforts finally faltered at the end of a first half that the Trojans led 14-7.
USC took a 7-0 lead on a bit of punt return chicanery produced by special teams coach John Baxter. Ajene Harris camped out on the right side of the field and pretended to get into position and the Bruin punt coverers followed, not realizing that the punt was actually headed toward Michael Pittman on the left sideline. Pittman responded with what…