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UCLA Has USC’s Number, Again

November 24, 1996

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ Finally, it appeared Southern California was going to beat UCLA and make a difficult season a little easier to take.

The losing streak would be history, the Trojans could reclaim the championship of Los Angeles they’ve held so often in the past.

But it wasn’t to be. Somehow, the Bruins just wouldn’t allow it.

``It just seems like nightmarish things happen to us,″ USC coach John Robinson said after UCLA rallied from a 17-point deficit and beat the Trojans 48-41 in double overtime Saturday. ``My team played an outstanding game, but that’s just the way it went.″

Skip Hicks ran 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second overtime possession, and the Bruins then stopped USC to end the 3-hour, 47-minute game played before a Rose Bowl crowd of 80,644.

Robinson is 0-4 against UCLA since becoming USC’s coach for a second time before the 1993 season. He also coached the Trojans from 1976-82, when he went 5-2 against the Bruins.

Robinson has been under a lot of heat. The loss was the third straight for the Trojans, who complete their season next Saturday against No. 10 Notre Dame (8-2).

If USC (5-6, 3-5 Pac-10) doesn’t win, it will experience only its third losing season in the last 35 years. The Trojans are 0-12-1 in their last 13 games against the Irish.

UCLA’s win over USC was its sixth straight, the longest streak in a series the Trojans lead 34-25-7.

``I thought we got into SC’s head, five straight losses and all,″ said UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, who ran for two touchdowns and completed 29-of-47 passes for 356 yards and another score. ``We got into a zone in the second half.

``We made so many big plays it’s hard to pick out one or two.″

The Trojans seemed to be in excellent shape when backup Matt Koffler threw a 78-yard touchdown pass to freshman R. Jay Soward with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter to put USC ahead 38-21.

``I thought the game was ours,″ Koffler said. ``I thought we had it in the bag.″

Not so.

First, Bjorn Merten kicked a 47-yard field goal with 6:12 remaining. Then, Keith Brown’s 1-yard run with 2:49 left capped a 42-yard drive and drew UCLA within seven points.

The Bruins failed on an onside kick, but LaVale Woods fumbled on second down and Kusanti Abdul-Salaam recovered for the Bruins with 1:27 left. UCLA then moved 56 yards on six plays, scoring on an 11-yard run by Hicks.

The TD came with 39 seconds to play. Merten kicked the conversion to make it 38-38.

The Trojans had a chance to win in regulation, but Travis Kirschke blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt by Adam Abrams two plays after a 39-yard pass from Koffler to Chris Miller.

The teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime _ a 25-yarder by USC’s Adam Abrams and a 40-yarder by Merten.

UCLA (5-6, 4-4) hasn’t lost to USC since being beaten 45-42 in 1990.

``It’s quite a feat to beat our crosstown rival six (straight) times,″ first-year UCLA coach Bob Toledo said. ``I’m the happiest guy in the world.″

Soward caught six passes for 260 yards, a school record as well as an NCAA record for a freshman. Three of his six receptions went for touchdowns, two from Brad Otton.

``No matter what the receiving record is, if you don’t get the (win) behind it, it doesn’t matter,″ Soward said. ``I did everything I could for the team.″

It wasn’t enough.

Otton left early in the fourth quarter because of sore ribs following a hit by UCLA’s Weldon Forde. Otton completed 12-of-22 passes for 273 yards and three TDs.

``(The loss) probably hurt worse than actually getting hit,″ he said. ``It was tough for me to handle. And it was tough for the whole team to handle.″

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