USC to face UC Berkeley in postponed final game of season

Sophomore wide receiver Gary Bryan Jr. looks at the football as a BYU defender bats it out of the air.
Sophomore wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. had 56 yards on 5 receptions with 1 touchdown against BYU at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday. (Patrick Hannan | Daily Trojan)

USC is set to travel to UC Berkeley to play the Bears in the final game of the season. The Trojans are looking to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2001, with Berkeley having won three of its last five games. After Saturday’s loss, the Trojans enter the game officially bowl ineligible for the second time in four years. As the two programs meet for the 108th time, USC leads the series with a record of 70-31-5 dating back to 1915.

Originally set to square off Nov. 13, the game was postponed following a coronavirus outbreak within Berkeley’s team. 

The Trojans head into this game fresh off hiring Lincoln Riley as the new football head coach. 

“There’s definitely high energy,” said sophomore wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. in a press conference Tuesday. “It’s a change in our future but everybody’s locked into the now. Everybody’s focused on Cal.”

Saturday’s matchup will also be emotional for some players on the team, who will play their final game for the Trojans. 

“Last game was very emotional for the seniors,” said interim Head Coach Donte Williams after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll also have some juniors or redshirt juniors that may want to look at the NFL and give that a try, so now this is not just even about the seniors but it’s about all those guys that could be playing their last game in a USC uniform.”

USC’s last matchup against Cal occurred Nov. 16, 2019 at Berkeley, where the Trojans came out on top 41-17. Despite a losing record at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this season, USC has a .500 record in road games this season, coming up with victories over Washington State and Colorado while losing against Notre Dame and Arizona State. 

Both teams enter the game with 4-7 records with USC in fourth place in the Pac-12 South and Cal in fourth place in the Pac-12 North. USC will rely on its passing attack to get the job done on offense. The Trojans enter this game first in the Pac-12 in yards per game with 447 and also lead the conference in pass yards per game at 301.

USC will also look to gain contributions from the run game as well, with two running backs coming off season highs in rushing. Redshirt senior running back Vavae Malepeai and sophomore running back Darwin Barlow had 99 and 81 rushing yards respectively against BYU. Senior running back Keaontay Ingram, who is currently 89 yards away from a 1,000 yard season, is listed as questionable with an upper-body injury, but attended practice Tuesday.

USC’s offense will go against a Cal defense featuring players such as safeties Daniel Scott and Elijah Hicks along with outside linebackers Muelu Iosefa and Cameron Goode. The Bears’ defense is fourth in the Pac-12 in yards per game allowed and points allowed. Cal’s defense is also in the Top 25 nationally in turnover margin and interceptions. 

The Trojan defense currently ranks second to last in the conference in yards per game allowed, giving up 422 yards per game and last in scoring defense, giving up 32.5 points per game this year. They will be going against a Cal offense led by senior quarterback and four-year starter Chase Garbers. Garbers is Cal’s record holder for most quarterback rushing yards and touchdowns. 

Williams emphasized keeping his focus on the final game at hand after practice Tuesday, even in the midst of a leadership turnover within the program.

“Everything for me, it’s always been about going 1-0,” Williams said. “It’s been about the process, the journey week to week. This is just how I’m wired, I’m not a person that’s gonna worry about something tomorrow until it becomes tomorrow.”

USC will take on Cal 8:00 p.m. Dec. 4 at California Memorial Stadium.