LOS ANGELES – Cody Kessler threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and Southern California clinched the Pac-12 South title with a 40-21 victory over No. 22 UCLA on Saturday in their 85th crosstown showdown.
Darreus Rogers and Taylor McNamara caught TD passes while the Trojans (8-4, 6-3) scored 20 consecutive points in the second half before raising the Victory Bell in the frenzied Coliseum. USC improved to 5-2 under interim coach Clay Helton and ended its three-year losing streak in the annual city rivalry game.
USC, which won five of its last six games after coach Steve Sarkisian's midseason firing, will face Stanford in the Trojans' first trip to the Pac-12 title game.
Paul Perkins rushed for two touchdowns for UCLA (8-4, 5-4).
Adoree Jackson returned a punt 42 yards for a touchdown shortly before halftime, and Rasheem Green put the Trojans ahead to stay in the third quarter when the freshman defensive lineman returned quarterback Josh Rosen's fumble for a 32-yard touchdown.
Rosen passed for 227 yards and his Thomas Duarte for an early TD, but the touted freshman also threw two second-half interceptions to Iman Marshall.
Serious injuries and season-long inconsistency finally caught up to UCLA, which lost two of its final three games. The Trojans grinded out 235 yards rushing against the Bruins' beleaguered run defense.
Kessler sneaked into the end zone to cap an 85-yard USC drive early in the second. Rosen hit Duarte for a 19-yard TD moments later, but USC's defense finally got pressure on Rosen on consecutive plays deep in UCLA's end late in the first half. Jackson took the ensuing short punt all the way back, showcasing his track-star speed to put the Trojans ahead 20-14.