About 60 members of the USC Marching Trojans trumpet section assembled shortly after 3 a.m. for a decades-old ritual, said Hilary Fagan, 21, one of the section leaders.
"We do this every year before we play UCLA," Fagan said. "It's a tradition. We come here and play. This is our way of taking over the city."
The trumpeters were dressed casually in school sweats and jeans, not their crimson-and-gold uniforms. But they played like they meant business. The sound of the horns carried up the heights of City Hall and could be heard for blocks around in the nearly deserted Civic Center.
The crosstown rivalry, typically marked by pranks, started 1929.
This year, some stealthy USC supporters cut through some tarps guarding UCLA's Bruin Bear statue and slopped it with oil-based crimson and gold paint -- something UCLA officials called felony vandalism.
As of the trumpet heralding downtown, the Tommy Trojan statue remained unmolested, under wraps and guarded around the clock by students.
Today's game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum starts at 7 p.m.