LOS ANGELES — It's a moment in the 92-year history of the UCLA-USC rivalry so serendipitous that it feels manufactured: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, after running through the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for one of his six touchdowns in a 62-33 Bruins rout, signed a cap for an eager fan.
This wasn't Terrell Owens stashing a Sharpie in his sock for a premeditated celebration, though.
"When you see a kid just handing you a hat and a pen, it's just kinda second nature to just grab it," Thompson-Robinson said. "I'm definitely happy I got to make that kid's day."
College football's most memorable moments occur organically. To that end, Thompson-Robinson's literal signature moment gave an iconic image to his metaphoric signature contribution to UCLA history.
The 62 points the Bruins scored were the most by the team in the rivalry, and by a considerable margin. UCLA's previous best was 48 in a double-overtime win in 1996.
Fittingly, the touchdown that broke the record was a Thompson-Robinson rush — and was a more spectacular score than the carry that inspired an impromptu autograph session.
"That was insane," said wide receiver Kyle Philips. "We should have expected it, because he's always trying to hurdle someone. Then, he actually cleared the guy... We've been waiting for it to happen."
"It's just one of those things where it's in the moment, juices flowing," Thompson-Robinson said, a description not unlike the heat-of-the-moment autograph. "That's the move I decided to go with in that situation. I was really actually surprised that I got in the end zone, because I thought there was going to be someone else there to hit me."
With no other Trojans there to tackle him, DTR added the exclamation point on a performance destined for the annals of Crosstown Showdown history. It's a deserving moment for a quarterback whose career has been defined by hard times.
A signee in the 2018 recruiting class, Thompson-Robinson came to UCLA in the first group of newcomers under head coach Chip Kelly. DTR's spectacular, dual-threat playmaking at Las Vegas prep powerhouse Bishop Gorman looked like a perfect fit for the style Kelly popularized during his tenure as offensive coordinator before taking over as the head coach at Oregon.
And, indeed, Thompson-Robinson has been an outstanding quarterback in Kelly's system, albeit one with marked differences from the Oregon offense of a decade ago.
Ducks quarterbacks weren't airing it out quite like DTR the night he threw for 507 yards and five touchdowns in 2019, for example. In accounting for seven total touchdowns in the Bruins' comeback from down 28 points in the late third quarter to beat Washington State, 67-63, Thompson-Robinson penned arguably the greatest single-game performance in UCLA quarterback history.
But then, a week later at Arizona, Thompson-Robinson sustained an injury that prevented him from building on the record-setting showing on the Palouse.
Such has been his been UCLA career, four years marked with awe-inspiring highs and unfortunate setbacks often out of the quarterback's control — like in 2020, when Thompson-Robinson went 30-of-36 passing with four touchdowns against USC but could only watch from the sidelines as the Trojans scored with 16 seconds remaining to deny DTR his first win in the rivalry as a starter.
Thompson-Robinson was on the roster of the 2018 Bruins squad, the first of Kelly's tenure to beat USC in historic fashion. But Wilton Speight was at quarterback in place of an injured DTR as Josh Kelley set a rivalry record for rushing yards.
So, both beating the Trojans and adding his signature to the series really was a long time coming for Thompson-Robinson.
"It means everything," he said. "They had our [number] the last two times we played. To really hang it on them this time and to really get that win out on their field and their stuff really meant something special."
And special is the mantra Kelly recited when commenting on Thompson-Robinson's performance.
"I've said it since the beginning. I love the kid," he said. "He's as tough as they come both mentally and physically, and that was on display today."
The byproduct of Thompson-Robinson's toughness will remain at the forefront of UCLA history for a long, long time thanks to a signature moment that could never be manufactured.