1988 USC-UCLA game is one of the sweeter Trojan victories in the rivalry

There is plenty to discuss regarding the 1988 game between UCLA and USC.

While it was not as significant as the 1967 game — no Trojan-Bruin game has yet matched that one in terms of overall in-season importance and historical resonance — it was still very big. The two schools had great teams led by elite quarterbacks.

USC had fallen on hard times earlier in the 1980s under previous coach Ted Tollner, but Larry Smith came from the University of Arizona to boost the Trojans in the late 1980s. Terry Donahue was at the height of his powers at UCLA. This game was a really big deal at the time.

Let’s look back on it, thanks to college football historian Chris Kreager, whose comments appear below:

THE RANKINGS

Troy Aikman vs. Rodney Peete, Round 2, No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 2 USC.

CHRIS KREAGER'S COMMENTARY

“After the Trojans routed Arizona State 50-0 on November 12,” Kreager wrote, “Peete fell under the weather with what turned out to be a case of measles bad enough that the USC signal-caller felt he might not be able to start.

“Peete was questionable to start even on Saturday, but he gave it a go and the L.A. QB showdown was on.”

EARLY IN THE GAME

“With good field position thanks to UCLA punting from the end zone, the Trojans drove to a touchdown with the help of a crucial 16-yard Peete connection to Erik Affholter, one play after UCLA almost got an interception.”

BRUINS STRUGGLE

“Aikman led UCLA on a long drive that bogged down on a missed third and 9. To add insult to injury, the Bruins got no points when the 50-yard field goal attempt was short.”

AFFHOLTER!

“The Trojans turned that missed opportunity into second-quarter points when Peete threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Affholter.”

NOT GONNA GET IT DONE

“UCLA had to settle for two more field goals (one of them came after a dropped touchdown pass), and it was 14-9 USC.”

RICKY ERVINS

“With the Trojans leading 14-9, Ricky Ervins’ 60-yard kickoff return gave USC great field position.”

KEY PLAY

“Peete’s huge third-and-10 conversion of 14 yards to Paul Green set up a one-yard Peete touchdown plunge.

“Just like that, it was 21-9 USC.”

IMPROVEMENT

“The Trojans already had more points in the first half than they had in 60 minutes of the 1987 game.”

AIKMAN RESPONDS

“Just before halftime, Aikman finally got into the end zone: 7 plays and 70 yards on six completions, the last one a 10-yard TD toss to Reggie Moore (who had dropped a potential touchdown earlier in the second quarter).”

HALFTIME SCORE

21-16 USC.

NUMBERS

After running only 17 times in the first half, USC ran the ball 37 times after halftime, with Aaron Emanuel getting 20 of those carries for 100 yards.

USC DEFENSE

“While Junior Seau and Mark Carrier were the marquee players, two other USC defenders came up big. Ernest Spears intercepted Aikman and Tim Ryan’s sack stopped another Bruin drive.”

BOLD

“The biggest play of the final 15 minutes was when the Trojans, on a fourth and 1 on their own side of the field, decided to go for it rather than punt.”

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

“Aikman led the Bruins to a late touchdown, but a failed 2-point conversion cost them any chance of a realistic comeback.

“Final score: USC 31, UCLA 22.”

TROY AIKMAN

Aikman’s stat line: 32-48, 317 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.

COMMITMENT TO THE GROUND GAME

USC ran 54 times for 179 yards and an average of just over three yards per carry.

THE COACH ON HIS QB

Larry Smith on Rodney Peete:

“It was a superhuman effort.”

FACT

This was USC’s first win over UCLA in Pasadena since the Bruins moved to the Rose Bowl in 1982 (through 1981, all Victory Bell games were at the L.A. Coliseum).

RICKY ERVINS

19 Nov 1988: Running back Ricky Ervins of the USC Trojans runs down the field during a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. USC won the game 31-22. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell /Allsport

UCLA GREATS

Terry Donahue and Troy Aikman — USA TODAY Sports

USC CELEBRATES

USC quarterback Rodney Peete (16) is congratulated by teammates Scott Galbraith (86) and John Jackson after scoring on a one-yard run in the second quarter at Pasadena, Calif., Nov. 19, 1988. The Trojans remained unbeaten at 10-0 with a 31-22 victory over their crosstown rivals at the Rose Bowl. (AP Photo/Mark Terrill)

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire