The set up: Cal, who was playing in the fifth different stadium for the fifth straight game, played host to USC in the annual “Weekender” game at AT&T Park. Coming out of a bye week, the Trojans’ defense hoped to make statement after allowing a school-record 37 first downs to Arizona two weeks before.
The story: Despite being outgained by Cal, USC cruised to a 30-9 victory in an impressive offensive display. Zach Maynard, whose completion percentage is the worst in the conference, struggled to string together consistent series after consistent series. The Bears had several miscues, including botched snaps, interceptions, fumbles, and a fair catch on a punt inside their own 5 yard-line.
The Trojans squandered a field goal opportunity early in the first quarter by faking the kick, but they forced a fumble two possessions later, parlayed it into a field goal for a 3-0 lead, and never looked back. In the second quarter, USC settled in to a groove and scored 17 points of three consecutive possessions to take a 20-0 lead in to the half.
USC opened the second half with a seven-minute drive that milked the clock and added three points to the lead. Cal inched closer with a field goal and a touchdown in the third quarter to cut the lead to 23-9, but Matt Kalil blocked the PAT and Cal lost the mometum it gained. Midway through the fourth, yet another Maynard interception led to a USC touchdown and the final score of the game
Although the defense played well, the USC offense was a bit out of sync. Robert Woods only totaled 5 catcher for 36 yards, and junior quarterback Matt Barkley barely missed him deep a few times.
After the game, Barkley commented on his performance. “Alright,” Barkley said. “Just alright. Not good enough to win big games, but always stuff to improve on.” However, the junior quarterback remained optimistic. “When you play football, you play to win,” Barkley said. “If we’re winning, I’m fine with that.” The offensive captain also acknowledged a need for improvement. “But we just can’t let mistakes happen over and over again against better teams because then that will hurt us. We really have to get it more fine-tuned.”
Turnovers galore: After receiving a heap of criticism during the bye week, USC’s defense showed up and made a definitive statement. The Trojans forced five turnovers, including three interceptions and two fumbles. USC had only forced five turnovers in its previous five games. “It was huge for us as a confidence booster,” linebacker Dion Bailey told reporters after the game. “We had to come out and show everybody that we aren’t as bad a defense as everybody thinks we are. We held them to only nine points. It was huge today. We picked up our offense. Hopefully next week we’re firing on all cylinders and we’ll be dangerous.”
Banged up: Although USC emerged victorious, the win came at a cost. Redshirt senior tailback Marc Tyler dislocated his shoulder and is expected to miss some time. Cornerback Anthony Brown broke his ankle and will require surgery. Finally, freshman standout Marqise Lee sprained his shoulder after falling in to the end zone for a touchdown. Lee, an integral part of the offense, expects to play at Notre Dame.
Up next: USC travels to South Bend for its annual rivalry game with Notre Dame at 5:30 pm (PDT). The Trojans hope to get back on track after Notre Dame snapped an eight game losing streak last year in Los Angeles.