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Gordon: Gorman alum, UCLA QB seeks one more win over USC

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson doesn’t hide his disdain for the University of Southern California.

“Obviously, we hate those guys across town,” he told reporters this week amid the No. 16-ranked Bruins’ preparation for their Saturday tilt with the No. 7 Trojans at the legendary Rose Bowl.

“There’s a bitter feeling with those guys.”

Doesn’t he know it.

Thompson-Robinson will play against USC for a fifth and final time as he nears the end of his storied career in Los Angeles. The fifth-year senior and Bishop Gorman alumnus already has one victory over the Trojans during his tenure as UCLA’s starter. Plus the school records for passing touchdowns (81 and counting) and starts at quarterback (45 and counting) that he’ll surely bolster before season’s end.

In a 62-33 victory last season over USC, Thompson-Robinson passed for 349 yards and four scores — adding 46 yards and two more touchdowns rushing.

“We want to be even better,” Thompson-Robinson said. “We want to break 60 and all that stuff so, like I said, we’re trying to improve on everything we’ve done this year and trying to maximize our game that way.”

‘Impressive from the jump’

Thompson-Robinson for one has maximized his game as one of the best quarterbacks in the country in this, his final year in Westwood. It’s befitting for the former four-star recruit, who departed Bishop Gorman as one of the top quarterback recruits in the graduating class of 2018.

He’d shine in several games that season as a true freshman for coach Chip Kelly, then in his first year at UCLA after four in the NFL.

Among them: a 49-21 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma, coached then by USC coach Lincoln Riley.

“He had to be 15 at the time it feels like. Good lord,” Riley told reporters this week, flashing a smile. “He was impressive from the jump. He really was. He’s a really good player, which looks like he’s continued that trajectory.”

Not among the games Thompson-Robinson shined that season: UCLA’s 34-27 victory over USC during which he recorded one carry for a loss of one yard as Wilson Speight quarterbacked the Bruins to victory. But ensuing games against the Trojans always brought the best out in the 23-year-old.

He passed for 367 yards and three scores during a 52-35 loss in 2019 and 364 yards and four scores in a 43-38 loss the following year.

Is there additional motivation this week?

“You could say that,” he said with a smile. “You can say that for sure.”

Best for last?

If this season is any indication, Thompson-Robinson is saving his best for last.

He’s completing a career-high 71 percent of his passes. He’s sporting a career-best passer efficiency of 160.1. He’s on track to eclipse his previous career highs for single-season passing yards and touchdowns. And he’s running as effectively as ever — totaling 462 yards and seven scores on the ground.

“When you watch him,” Riley said, “you see a guy that’s played a lot of ball. And played a lot of ball in that system. Knows it extremely well.”

Most importantly for Thompson-Robinson, though, is that the Bruins are among the Pac-12’s elite. UCLA won four games during his freshman season, eight last year and have eight wins already with two more games to play.

“The proof is in the pudding in the work that we’ve put in and the success that we’ve had this year in comparison to other years,” Thompson-Robinson said.

“But we’re by no means where we want to be.”

A victory over USC would certainly help.

“Just like anything with experience, getting to go through it again and again, you want more of it,” Thompson-Robinson said of the rivalry. “Obviously, we’ve been a little rocky at times with the consistency and staying with it in the games in previous years, so I think last year was a really good year for us going against them and trying to improve on that and not trying to go backward.”

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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