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December 6, 2008Pasadena, Calif. - Three missed field goals, a lost timeout, a fumble on the first offensive play of the game, uncertainty heading into the game surrounding the offensive coordinator and a loss in the turnover battle - typically, this is how upsets happen.
But, as the USC defense has proven time after time this season, it's nothing close to typical. And with such a dominating group on the field, The Trojans seemed almost impervious to mistakes and distractions.
"We really can't (get upset)," defensive tackle Fili Moala said. "We may want more sacks and wanted to be even more physically dominant, but we'll take it however it's given to us."
Holding UCLA to 3.1 yards per play, USC trampled its crosstown rivals 28-7 at the Rose Bowl Saturday. USC has now won nine out of the last 10 meetings in the series.
The win assures the Trojans their seventh-straight Pac-10 championship. USC will now almost certainly play in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day against Penn State, pending a severe BCS shakeup.
"I'm really proud of the consistency here over the years," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "That's the thing I'm most proud of that we've created in this program - that we consistently stay on top and find ways to win these championships."
The Trojans scored 28 unanswered points against the Bruins, including a pair of touchdown passes for quarterback Mark Sanchez.
After the game, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian ended any speculation about his future, saying he'll be announced as the new head coach of the Washington Huskies.
"I'm excited about the opportunity," Sarkisian said. "(Washington's) been a great program, not only in the Pac-10, but in the country. Obviously, it's down at this point, but hopefully we can go in there and restore some of the tradition."
Sarkisian, Carroll and the staff made it point to not let his future get in the way of the task at hand - dispatching UCLA.
"We dealt with it," Carroll said. "We had a lot of fun with it, to tell you the truth. By dealing with it, we defused any concerns about it. We forgot about it and played football."
The USC defense got off to its typically dominant start, but C.J. Gable's fumble on USC's first offensive play put the Bruins in prime position.
A double pass on third-and-long, though, got UCLA in the end zone, with Dominique Johnson finding Kahlil Bell for a 21-yard score.
"We knew their offense was about to get shut down," cornerback Cary Harris said. "The only way UCLA was going to get points on us was with that trick play.
After that, though, the Trojan offense began to move the ball. Sanchez picked apart the Bruin defense, and USC scored on a 12-yard Joe McKnight run and a 12-yard reception by Damian Williams.
The Trojans added third score in the first half after having a drive extended by a roughing the kicker penalty against UCLA. Stafon Johnson capitalized on the miscue later in the drive, scoring on a two-yard run.
USC added another score early in the third quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Patrick Turner.
The passing game did lose a big piece late in the first half, when Williams went to the locker room with a dislocated right shoulder. He returned to the sidelines in street clothes and a sling, and said he'd be out for two weeks.
Still, Saturday, like it's become whenever the Trojans take the field, was again all about the defense.
After the quick score, the Trojan defense flexed its muscle and stifled the Bruins in front of its home crowd.
"We got together without the coaches and said we weren't giving up any more touchdowns or any more yards," Rey Maualuga said. "We came back and got three-and-outs.
"That just showed our poise and how good we are."
Next, the Trojans will gather early Sunday evening at Heritage Hall to watch the BCS selection show.