USC-Cal: USC runs Cal aground.
USC kept itself grounded tonight. Literally.
Much like the smackdown of Nebraska I reported on back in September, the Trojans resembled the student body right days in wearing down the Cal Bears in a 24-17 win. For the game, USC ended up with 239 yards on the ground, though it seemed more like 500 yards. The Men of Troy air attack gained just 129 yards.
But 16 of SC's 19 offensive plays in the fourth quarter were running plays, accounting for 82 yards.
Chauncey Washington led the grindhouse offense, churning out an impressive 220 yards on 29 carries.
But Stefon Johnson's meager 11 yards was just as important, including the game-winning touchdown and also getting the key three-yard gain on the game-deciding third-and-two with just over a minute left.
"We changed our gameplan." said Washington. "When we went through our walk-through this morning the coaches told us it was going to rain so we were going to pound the ball tonight."
Now, it's the Bear defense's head that is pounding after the punishment they took from Washington. Especially on the final touchdown drive.
"We were fired up. We weren't going to let anything stop us from having that great drive." Washington stated. "Our defense got us pumped up."
Indeed they did Mr. Washington, as the defense kept itself on pace to steady improvement. They really put the clamps on Nate Longshore, who ended the second half going just 5-of-15 for 72 yards and a pair of picks.
But if someone deserves to send Cal coach Jeff Tedford a thank you note, it has to be the Trojan D, because Justin Forsett was running roughshod through the Cardinal and Gold, with 209 total yards, 164 of it on the ground. But for some reason Cal would eventually forsake the talented tailback time and time again and have its drives come to a grinding halt.
"I thought Justin played well," Tedford mumbled in the soaking press room afterward. "That's the number three defense in the nation, not many people run for 100 yards against those guys."
Of course, when it came to the passing game of the Bears, it didn't hurt that Longshore's receivers continually either ran the wrong route or didn't make the correct adjustments on the plays that Coach Tedford had called for them. Most of the Cal's second half passes merely landed harmlessly on the Memorial Stadium turf in the middle of nowhere. Both of Longshore's interceptions were costly, one setting up a USC field goal to put them up 17-10 in the third quarter. The other one sealed the game with 2:47 remaining.
Surprisingly, Coach Tedford wasn't disappointed with the passing offense on this soggy night. "I thought Nate played well. Obviously there were some throws he'd like to have back but he was making pretty decent reads. The rain effects the game, but it's not an excuse."
It may not be an excuse, but the rain, and the curious play-calling are two of the many reasons why Cal lost this one tonight.
- Player of the game:
Chauncey Washington, USC.
This was an easy pick here after he wore the Bear defense down with the aforementioned 220 yards on 29 carries. He also scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 36-yard sprint early in the third quarter. USC would not trail again in the game after that run.
"You saw how he carried the pile. He is a big back that runs hard. He doesn't go down with arm tackles." - Jeff Tedford, Cal coach
- Play of the game:
John David Booty's 33-yard pass to Fred Davis on 1st and 20 on the game winning drive.
Coming back from a holding penalty that negated a 33 yard catch by Vidal Hazelton, the Trojans could've gone into a funk and hung their heads over another bad penalty. Instead Booty came right back to hit a wide-open Davis and rejuvenated the drive. Four plays later Stefon Johnson waltzed into the end zone on a breezy three-yard run.
- Poor Call of the Game:
Nate Longshore's second interception with 2:47 remaining.
Just when Cal was on the move to tie the game, expressly through the services of Justin Forsett breaking the Trojans back, Jeff Tedford and Company decided to have Nate Longshore attempt another pass. And another poor result befell them as Terrell Thomas picked off the underthrown ball at the USC 17. Cal wouldn't get the ball back again.
USC: Thanksgiving night at Arizona State.
With Ohio State's loss today, Oregon could be on track to play for the national title in the BCS title game. That would mean USC's Rose Bowl hopes got a major shot in the arm with this win tonight. The ASU game could eventually be for the trip to Pasadena.
Cal: Next Saturday at Washington
With the legitimacy hits the Bears have been taking for the past month, this season has spiraled ever since they hit the No. 2 spot in the polls. Cal needs a win at Washington or their morale will hit an all-time low.