The 2020 battle for the Victory Bell was one of the most dramatic and shocking games the Bruins and Trojans have played in years.
With leader changes and groundbreaking fourth quarter games at the Rose Bowl that night, it had to be an instant classic.
But no one was there to see it.
“(The energy) was always there because you play against the little boys across the street, but there are no fans out there to cheer you on,” said linebacker Bo Calvert. “So it was pretty interesting doing that, but I’m super excited to go out this year and be able to have fans in the stands and go into their turf and take the bell back from them.”
UCLA football (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) will cross town to visit rival USC (4-5, 3-4) on Saturday, after losing last year’s game 43 -38 at home. Now heading to their rival’s campus, the Bruins will look to avoid losing to the Trojans for the sixth time in seven years.
One of the UCLA veterans who was on the teams that lost to USC in 2019 and 2020 is quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The fourth-year signalman got a snap in a quarterback run against the Trojans in the Bruins’ only recent victory in 2018, but he’s yet to beat them as the offensive leader.
Another achievement that had already eluded Thompson-Robinson during his first three years at Westwood was to bowl, and he broke that barrier by leading UCLA to a victory over Colorado last week. That being done, Thompson-Robinson is in the process of checking the next box on his preverbal list.
“I haven’t been too successful in terms of wins in the last three years that I’m here, so I really want to take this one home,” said Thompson-Robinson. “We’ve already got the bowl so we really want to beat the rival and keep rolling.”
Thompson-Robinson is one of the many upper class students who have progressed through the program by the time coach Chip Kelly took it over in 2018, but there are other more recent faces who are just as convinced. rivalry between cities despite the shorter time frame.
Florida-raised forward Qwuantrezz Knight played three seasons at Maryland and one year at Kent State before transferring to UCLA in 2020. The only time he played at USC he didn. There hadn’t been a Beat SC Rally or bonfire, and there was usually very little. fanfare to talk about thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Knight was a keynote speaker at said gathering on Wednesday night, leading the Bruins’ student body in chants and promising that he and his teammates would ring the victory bell all night long if they showed up to support their school.
The graduate transfer said he heard stories and got advice from his teammates on the lore behind the historic rivalry, and it didn’t take long for him to fully integrate into them.
“It was definitely a game I had circled on my schedule,” Knight said. “Every kid in this program is looking forward to this game… it’s for everything, it’s for bragging, it’s who runs the city and I’m really excited that there are fans in the stands.”
With the 89th all-time meeting between the two teams coming up on Saturday, the UCLA-USC game is one of college football’s longest-standing unremitting rivalry games, and straight to the top on the West Coast, but it is the only one where the two schools are close by.
“There are some games that always stand out: Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, SC-UCLA,” Kelly said. “I think the unique thing about it is just the proximity to schools, that’s what I think makes it a little different and a little special.”
On this campus east of Westwood, real freshman Jaxson Dart has spent the week preparing for his first career debut with Kedon Slovis still battling a leg injury. Slovis was the starting quarterback in the Trojans’ victories over the Bruins in 2019 and 2020, but it’s now up to his successor to keep the streak alive.
If the experience of Thompson-Robinson, Knight, Calvert and company in the rivalry match is worth anything, the new face will have to watch the Victory Bell get painted blue on Saturday.
Kick-off between UCLA and USC is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the game will be televised on FOX.
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