The Rose Bowl press box was shaking. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had found wide receiver Logan Loya on a crossing route across the middle and the receiver had turned it into a 70-yard touchdown. The score put the Bruins up 10 points on No. 11 Utah and sent the crowd on hand -- most of the season-high 42,038 sitting in the shaded side of the stadium -- into a frenzy.
If it took a second for those inside the box to notice the movement, it's because the Rose Bowl press box hasn't moved much, if at all, this season. After two games with fewer than 35,000 fans in attendance, the Bruins' 4-0 start had more people gawking at half-empty stadium pictures online than witnesses on hand.
But the sport's most storied venue got more crowded when UCLA upset Washington on Sept. 30 to earn a No. 18 ranking in the polls and a host of national attention. The snowball effect carried over to Saturday's kickoff against Utah. Before the game, the Rose Bowl sidelines were peppered with a plethora of alumni, former players, boosters and guests that had shown up to watch the Bruins warm up and eventually move to 6-0.
"The energy and excitement around this team is palpable," UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond told ESPN. "Best ball in the country is being played at the Rose Bowl."
About 14 miles southwest of the Rose Bowl, a few hours after the Bruins pulled off their second upset in two weeks, USC athletic director Mike Bohn and USC president Carol Folt stood at the south end zone of the Los Angeles Coliseum and continued what has become tradition: greeting players and coaches after wins. On Saturday night, a lei-wearing Lincoln Riley shook hands with Bohn and Folt before greeting recruits as he walked off the field 6-0 as USC head coach after beating Washington State. The program hasn't been 6-0 since 2006 -- or as people around these parts more commonly know it, the Pete Carroll days.
"I think it's really positive," Bohn told ESPN of the two schools being undefeated. "This is what makes L.A. sports great."
Saturday marked a unique day in the city: Over the course of eight hours, across multiple L.A. freeways filled with traffic, UCLA proved it belonged in the upper echelon of college football, while USC continued to display traits of an elite team. The last time both teams were undefeated through the first six games was 2005. A lot has changed since -- at each program, in the city (there are two NFL teams now!) -- but after a handful of down years for college football in L.A., things are looking up on both sides of town.
"To succeed in L.A., you not only need to win," said Jeff Fellenzer, a professor of sports, business and media at USC who grew up in a UCLA household. "You need to win and be entertaining when you win, and you need to have star power, and [both teams] are checking all those boxes."