USC running back Allen Bradford has had an up and down career to say the least. The six-foot, 235-pound fifth-year senior has immense talent but has had fumbling issues and injuries pop up from time to time, while also being pinned under several backs on the depth chart during his time with the Trojans.
Well, none of that mattered Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. The Colton High product put on a show in the 80th Battle For The Victory Bell, leading USC to a 28-14 win over UCLA. Bradford finished the night with 28 rushes for 212 yards and a touchdown, while hauling in one pass for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Bradford’s 7.6 yards per carry average on the night bettered his average of 7.1 for the entire season. It was a phenomenal performance in what would be his final college football game.
Bradford arrived at USC in the Fall of 2006 as the No. 9 recruit in the country and the No. 1 rated outside linebacker according to Rivals.com. Because he was a bit undersized, Bradford was shifted to safety immediately, where he competed for playing time during Fall Camp with fellow freshman Taylor Mays. Because of depth at the safety position, Bradford was tried at running back as an experiment and Pete Carroll and his staff were sold immediately.
Turning Bradford into a running back became a project and many people around the program – including some parents of players – questioned the decision. Bradford was clearly a very good defensive player, but Carroll and co. were convinced Bradford’s ceiling was much higher on the offensive end.
Bradford suffered through injuries, including a hip injury (labrum) that cost him almost all of 2008 before finally getting a chance to start in 2009. He posted solid numbers while splitting carries with several other backs, rushing for 668 yards and eight touchdowns.
This year as a senior he again has faced injuries (toe, knee) but the guy just never stopped fighting. For the past five years he’s been a non-stop topic on USC message boards and among fans.
After all of that, what a way to finish his career. He was the absolute star of the night, and his 47-yard touchdown reception off of a swing pass with 11:17 left in the game Saturday night gave the Trojans a 21-7 lead and put the game out of reach.
Then with 3:31 to go, Bradford broke through the middle of UCLA’s defense on a quick, inside run for a 73-yard touchdown sprint, showing off his 4.4 speed by outrunning the entire Bruin defense.
So, hats off to Allen Bradford. The guy has faced so much adversity in his college career, and rather than transferring because of depth chart issues, or complaining about playing time, he continued to improve and fight, and this is how things ended for him.
His performance will live in the lore of the USC-UCLA rivalry forever. And he deserves that kind of recognition.