Bruins look to release frustrations vs. Trojans
LOS ANGELES -- There's one key play that still stands out from last year's rivalry game between UCLA and USC: Anthony Barr laying a hit so vicious on star quarterback Matt Barkley that it separated his shoulder and ended his season.
It's not something Barr likes to talk about, it's not what he wants to be known for. He instantly became the subject of Troy's vitriol.
"It's just a hit," Barr said. "I don't look too much into it. I think the way we played is more important than the game itself."
But it does show just how far the Bruins have come since head coach Jim Mora took over. They aren't the same team that can be pushed over and shut out like in years past.
"I think it symbolized sort of where this team was and where we are now," said quarterback Brett Hundley. "I think that hit really symbolized sort of our mindset. Not just that game and sort of what we're trying to accomplish. We're a new team, we're a different type of team and we're really trying to show what we have done these past two years."
After defeating the Trojans last season, the Bruins lost their final three, including the Pac-12 Championship game and the Holiday Bowl. The danger of repeating the mistakes from last season is still inherent, but the Arizona State loss - what some called the most painful this season - and the nature of the rivalry game could prevent UCLA from falling right back into old patterns.
"It's not just a rivalry here in L.A., it's one of the biggest rivalries in college football," Hundley said. "We're both right on the edge of where we want to be and getting the 10th win."
"The way we lost last week, it's still with us," Barr said. "It still bothers us. A win this week will let us release some of those frustrations."
When Barr was asked if he thought the 22nd-ranked Bruins would defend a pro-style offense like USC's better than Arizona State's zone-read attack, Barr didn't mince his words.
"Hopefully better, because we didn't defend the zone-read very well," Barr said. "Hopefully it's a little easier for us."
The Bruins all but shut down Arizona State in the second half of Saturday's 38-33 loss at the Rose Bowl, but a disastrous first half ultimately doomed them. But USC has bucked the trend of the spread offenses with running quarterbacks in favor of a more traditional, pro-style offense. It's been the trademark of the Trojans throughout history. The only other pro-style system UCLA has faced this season is Stanford's.
"All we've faced is the spread offense," said linebacker Erik Kendricks. "Pro-style is a little different. We've got to get back in the books and back in the film."
But while running quarterbacks have continued to plague the Bruins since the first game of the season, USC's Cody Kessler is anything but a running threat -- he's ran for negative 83 yards this season.
The Bruins are leaving the zone-read defense behind and preparing for more play-action.
"The Pac-12, there's a lot of running quarterbacks," Kendricks said. "USC, off the run they throw the play-action, the deep ball. They're really explosive. We've got to get our keys right in play-action."