USC Holds Bears to a Season-Low Offensive Output, Overshadows Cal's Defensive Effort

Photo: The Cal offense had trouble going anywhere against a Trojans defense that was as good as advertised, holding the Bears to their lowest point total since 2000.
Anna Hiatt/Staff
The Cal offense had trouble going anywhere against a Trojans defense that was as good as advertised, holding the Bears to their lowest point total since 2000.

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LOS ANGELES -- As per usual, No. 21 Cal played good defense in stopping No. 7 USC at a season-low output on Saturday.

The Trojans played better.

Limiting the Bears to 165 yards of total offense, USC grinded out a 17-3 win over Cal at the L.A. Coliseum.

Bears tailback Jahvid rushed for just 30 yards on 13 attempts, while quarterback Kevin Riley went 4-for-16 with an interception for 59 yards in second-half relief after Nate Longshore completed 11 of his 15 attempts for 79 yards and two picks that were denied the Trojans by penalties.

Both quarterbacks saw a good amount of USC safety Taylor Mays, who had four pass breakups and was seen jarring receptions loose on several occasions.

"I think everybody in the stands saw what a special group (USC has) on defense," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "They are. They're very well coached, they're good athletes."

Trojans tailback C.J. Gable led all runners with 79 yards, while quarterback Mark Sanchez tossed two touchdowns in a 238-yard effort. But both defenses kept it a close affair until the last few drives.

USC didn't secure more than a single-possession lead all game until wideout Ronald Johnson caught a six-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez with 2:59 left in the fourth quarter for the final score.

Aside from their two touchdown drives, the Trojans struggled to move the ball in Cal territory, though the same could be said for the Bears on the other end of the field.

"Our job is to score points, and we only had three," Cal center Alex Mack said. "We failed."

An illegal formation penalty negated Riley's would-be touchdown throw to tailback Shane Vereen, and the Trojans came up with an interception in the end zone three plays later. All in all, Cal was called for eight penalties (50 yards), and USC was whistled for 10 (105).

"Penalties just kill drives," Mack said. "First-and-10 is real doable, first-and-15 is hard, first-and-20 is really hard, second-and-30 is impossible. It gets more and more difficult every time. Having a touchdown taken away hurts, and not to come up with another one.

"We had so many opportunities. They had mistakes, too. We got lucky a bunch of times, and we didn't capitalize on them."

While the on-field officials waved off what was the closest the Bears would get to reaching the end zone, the replay officials wouldn't allow the 88,523 in attendance a second look at receiver Patrick Turner's 17-yard score in the second quarter.

Following the USC extra point, it appeared that the ground may have braced Turner's grab. Following the game, Tedford said that the replay was not shown inside the coaches' booth until after the point-after as well.

"(The replay) comes up at the very last second, oddly enough," Tedford said. "Once we saw it, we thought a little bit, but they were kicking the ball."

But whether or not the Trojans were favored by the technicians, USC flat out won the battle in the trenches.

Though no Trojans running back reached the 100-yard plateau, they rumbled for 179 yards on the ground as a team, averaging a 4.8 yards-per-attempt mark.

"They're good backs, definitely, but they weren't hard to contain," Cal linebacker Worrell Williams said. "They got loose every once in a while, but for the most part, we were able to stop them."

Still, aside from Joe Mcknight's fumble following his midfield dance routine, USC's backs were good enough to sustain their drives. Best, meanwhile, settled for a bevy of two- and three-yard gains for most of the night.

The sophomore was not 100 percent, according to Tedford.

"I'm not trying to blame any of my cutting on my injuries, but they do play a little part," Best said.

He added: "We just didn't establish what we came to do. We expected to run the ball, but weren't able to do that. So we just gotta go back this week, figure out what we did wrong and fix it."

The lone bright spot for the Bears came in their pursuit of Sanchez, though the Trojans bested Cal in sacks by a margin of 4-3.

Linebacker Mike Mohamed and ends Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan tagged Sanchez against a USC offensive line that had given up just nine sacks all season. Linebacker Zack Follett might have, too, but he drew a holding penalty instead, forcing an incomplete third-down pass in the third quarter.

"As a defense, we're always out to set a mentality that we're out to get the ball," Jordan said. "I think we did well, but I think we could've done better."


Contact Andrew Kim at [email protected]

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