No. 5 USC capitalizes on miscues to beat Cal

By Jake Curtis, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 23, 2017 at 9:04 PM
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BERKELEY, Calif. -- USC took advantage of six California turnovers as the fifth-ranked Trojans broke away from a halftime tie to defeat California 30-20 on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

While winning its first road game of the season, USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) won its 13th straight game dating to last season, and beat Cal (3-1, 0-1) for the 14th consecutive time.

The pivotal play of the game occurred early in the fourth quarter when the ball slipped out the hand of Cal quarterback Ross Bowers as he was throwing a pass from just outside his end zone. The ball was caught in the air as a fumble recovery by USC's Uchenna Nwosu at the Cal 3-yard line, leading to Stephen Carr's 2-yard scoring run that gave the Trojans a 23-13 lead.

Ykili Ross intercepted a Bowers pass on Cal's next possession and returned it 49 yards to the Cal 33, setting up quarterback Sam Darnold's 4-yard scoring pass to Deontay Burnett that put the Trojans ahead 30-13 with 10:56 left.

Darnold completed 26 of 38 passes for 223 yards and two scores, but he also threw his seventh interception of the season to go along with his nine TD passes. Carr was USC's leading rusher with 82 yards while Burnett had nine receptions for 76 yards.

Bowers was 22 of 50 for 303 yards and a touchdown, but he threw four interceptions along with the critical fumble. Patrick Laird added 82 yards on the ground for the Bears, and wide receiver Kanawai Noa caught six passes for 110 yards.

USC was without its leading rusher, Ronald Jones II, who averaged 107.3 yards per game over the first three games but was out with an ankle injury. Both teams were missing a starting wide receiver. Cal's Demetris Robertson missed his second straight game with an unspecified injury, and USC's Steven Mitchell was out with a groin injury.

Cal missed a chance to jump ahead early in the third quarter. Laird dropped what would have been a 14-yard touchdown pass, and Matt Anderson missed a 29-yard field goal attempt.

The Trojans scored the first points of the second half when Chase McGrath booted a 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, giving USC a 16-13 lead. Nwosu then came up with the unusual fumble recovery that pushed the game in the Trojans' favor.

Cal opened the scoring on Anderson's 36-yard field goal, which ended a 43-yard drive on its first possession. A Jack Jones interception of a tipped pass gave USC possession at the Cal 38, and resulted in a 37-yard field by goal by McGrath, which tied the game.

Cal took a 10-3 lead on Vic Enwere's 1-yard fourth-down run, but the Trojans tied the score 10-10 on Darnold's 16-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Petite.

The Trojans took a 13-10 lead on McGrath's 34-yard field goal, and Cal tied it on Anderson's 21-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

NOTES: The last time Cal beat USC was 2003, when current Bears head coach Justin Wilcox was Cal's linebackers coach. ... Wilcox was USC's defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015, and served under Clay Helton, who was the Trojans' interim head coach in 2015. Wilcox and three other assistants were fired six days after Helton was named USC's permanent head coach on Nov. 30, 2015. ... Saturday's contest was the Joe Roth Game, named after the Cal quarterback who led the Bears to a Pac-8 co-championship and a victory over USC in 1975 but died of cancer at the age of 21. Cal wore throwback uniforms that the Bears wore in 1975. ... Most of the injured USC defenders who missed all or part of last week's game were available against Cal. Starting LB Porter Gustin (toe, biceps) did not play, however.

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