Golden Bears Drop 12th Straight to USC, Third Straight Overall


Another week, another national television game for the California Golden Bears against a Pac-12 opponent, another loss. The season continues to slip away for the Cal Bears, as they have dropped three straight games to conference opponents. After a narrow loss to the then-fifth-ranked Utah Utes and a blowout loss to the UCLA Bruins, the Bears dropped their matchup on Saturday to the USC Trojans, 27-21.

The sequel to the 2014 season is starting to look more and more like the original version. After beginning the 2014 campaign with four wins in five games, the Bears ended the year with six losses in seven games. This year, Cal started the season with five consecutive wins and have since dropped three straight games. With bowl eligibility just a fingertip away from Cal, they can’t stretch far enough to grab it.

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In front of over 60,000 fans at Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium, the Bears came out flat offensively, but were helped out by a strong start from the defense. But when the defense started to take on a little water, Cal’s offense couldn’t answer. On USC’s final drive before the half, they picked up a field goal. On the first drive after the break, USC opened up with a very impressive scoring drive, capped by a touchdown run on fourth down from the two-yard line, putting the Trojans up 17-7.

When Cal received the ball after the second score, quarterback Jared Goff was intercepted on a terrible lame duck throw, which sophomore cornerback (and wide receiver and return man) Adoree Jackson took back to the house, putting USC up 24-7 early in the third quarter. In a span of about seven minutes of playing time, the Trojans scored 17 points to tip the momentum scales completely in their favor.

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  • Cal answered on the next drive with a strong march down the field, eating up 81 yards in 10 plays and about three and a half minutes. The drive was capped off by a six-yard scoring run by senior Daniel Lasco, getting Cal back within two scores. Lasco played his most effective game since week two against San Diego State, when he rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries. Now fully recovered from a hip muscle strain, Lasco ran the ball 15 times for 64 yards, including the touchdown run.

    Down 27-14, Cal had another chance to get back within a score in the fourth quarter. With about seven minutes to play, Cal began the drive from their own 13-yard line, but quickly moved the ball down the field. At the USC 38, Goff and company faced a fourth-and-six. Goff floated a pass up to Darius Powe, who brought it down with an over-the-shoulder snag, picking up 29 yards and giving Cal a first-and-goal from the nine. On that pass, Goff surpassed 10,000 career passing yards during his time at Cal. On the next play, Goff hit Stephen Anderson in the endzone for a nine-yard touchdown, and bringing Cal to within one score, at 27-21.

    With 3:45 left on the game clock, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes made a curious decision to kick deep to USC, putting it on his defense to give the Bears the ball back. Cal had all three of their timeouts, and the defense had been solid, forcing a punt and a turnover-on-downs on their last two chances, but with offensive momentum now on their side, the decision to not try for an onside kick isn’t going to sit well. USC was able to run the ball on the last drive, converting two third downs to kill the clock.

    USC beat the Bears for the 12th straight time. Cal hasn’t been in the victorious side of this “rivalry” since 2003, when they needed three overtimes to beat the third-ranked and undefeated Trojans, 34-31. Since then, USC has claimed all 12 matchups, including eight by at least two touchdowns.

    Turnovers have been the biggest difference for Cal over the past three games, and this week was no different. Over the first five weeks of the season, Cal was +8 in turnover margin, and won the turnover battle four times, along with a breakeven. Over the past three games, Cal is -5.

    Cal’s defense forced 22 takeaways in the first six weeks of the season, a total that led the nation. Against UCLA, Cal managed just one takeaway, a recovered fumble in garbage time. While they won the turnover battle that day, it wasn’t enough. Against USC, Cal turned the ball over three times. Khalfani Muhammad fumbled on the third play of the game, dropping the ball right in USC safety Leon McQuay III’s bread basket. Goff was intercepted twice: once on an awful lame duck throw, and another on a poorly run route.

    Another loss drops Cal to 2-3 in the conference, leaving them fourth in the Pac-12 North. The team directly ahead of them, the Oregon Ducks, are 3-2 in the North, and the two meet next Saturday. Oregon is no longer the powerhouse that has been the head of the Pac-12, and this game is certainly winnable for the Bears. However, they actually have to go out and take it. If they sleepwalk offensively again, like they have for three weeks now, the Bears can hang another loss on their record.

    Next: Cal Dominated by UCLA for Second Loss

    With the Stanford Cardinal sitting pretty 5-0, Cal needs to turn things around before the two teams meet in three weeks. If Cal wants to make that game worth something to their season, they need to fix something soon.