(Saturday, November 8th)
Final Score: (7) Southern California 17, (21) California 3
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Mark Sanchez threw two touchdown passes and the USC defense held California to just 165 yards of total offense, as the seventh-ranked Trojans survived the 21st-ranked Bears with a 17-3 triumph in a crucial Pac-10 showdown.
Sanchez threw for 238 yards on 18-of-29 attempts, while Patrick Turner and Ronald Johnson each caught a TD for USC (8-1, 6-1 Pac-10), which moved closer to capturing an unprecedented seventh consecutive Pac-10 title with the victory.
Since losing to Oregon State in late September, the Trojans have reeled off six straight wins, outscoring their opponents 231-23 during that stretch. USC is now 25-0 in the month of November under head coach Pete Carroll.
"I felt we did a good job moving the football. We played under control and sustained some nice drives," Carroll said. "The defense was playing like crazy--lights out tonight. I really feel the game was more in control than the score showed."
Giorgio Tavecchio gave the Bears their only offense with a second-quarter field goal while both Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley struggled in moving the ball from under center.
Longshore was 11-of-15 for 79 yards before being replaced in the second half by Riley, who completed only four passes on 16 attempts for 59 yards with an interception for the Bears (6-3, 4-2).
"With the pass rush they had in the first half, I felt like Kevin (Riley) could move around and make some plays," Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said of the switch. "Nate (Longshore) had a couple bad decisions in the first half on interceptions that we were lucky to get back on penalties."
The Bears next travel to take on an Oregon State squad that moved to 5-1 in the conference with a convincing win over UCLA earlier Saturday.
The Trojans play at Stanford next Saturday before an open date the following week. USC's game at hand will be wiped out as Oregon State will follow its matchup against Cal with a road test against Arizona that could very well determine the conference champion.
"There will be a lot of good that comes out of this game. I have a lot of confidence we'll play well at Oregon State," Tedford said. "Our defense played well. They did a good job of stiffening up, especially in the red zone."
Trailing by a score to start the second half, Cal took its opening possession deep into Trojan territory behind Riley, who completed a 31-yard pass to Verran Tucker to get to the USC 27. A pass interference call on 3rd-and-13 gave the Bears a new set of downs at the 15 but on second down Riley had a pass tipped by Will Harris and Josh Pinkard picked it off in the end zone.
Both defenses continued to dominate throughout the second half until the Trojans started a drive from their own 16 with 17 seconds left in the third. A seven-yard pass to Anthony McCoy moved the ball into Cal territory but on the next play Joe McKnight made one too many cuts on what was an otherwise productive run and was stripped of the football by Zack Follett.
Cal took over on its own 33 but lost three yards on the three-and-out and mustered only one yard on its next abbreviated drive, giving the Trojans the opening they needed to put the game away.
Starting at its own 27, USC embarked on a 13-play drive that killed all but three minutes off the clock. The Trojans reached midfield on a 16-yard completion to Turner and Johnson hauled in a back-breaking six-yard TD to go up by two scores.
The Bears' last possession was reminiscent of their earlier struggles as they punted after gaining one yard on four plays, essentially ending the game.
Cal opened the contest with a three-and-out and USC countered with a sustained drive that covered 56 yards in eight plays and ended with a 23-yard field goal from David Buehler.
Each team punted before the Bears were able to put together an arduous 12-play drive that shaved over eight minutes off the clock. Longshore found Cameron Morrah for a 20-yard gain to get into Trojan territory. Cal moved to the USC 18 and received a fresh set of downs on a pass interference call, but was subsequently whistled for three penalties itself and settled for a 35-yard field goal from Tavecchio with 8 1/2 minutes left before the half.
USC answered Cal's points with its first TD drive. Sanchez hit McCoy right out of the shoot for 20 yards to gain midfield, and on 3rd-and-6 from the Bears' 46, Damian Williams caught a 30-yard pass to move into the red zone. Three plays later, Turner made a diving catch on a skinny post to the back of the end zone and Sanchez split two defenders with the 19-yard scoring strike as the first half ended with USC up 10-3.
USC has won the last five meetings and leads the all-time series 61-30-5... USC's defensive unit came into the game ranked first in the nation in scoring (7.1 ppg) and total yards (211.6 ypg)...The Trojans have surrendered only seven touchdowns this entire season and they have generated 21 turnovers and 23 sacks...Despite the loss, Cal won the time of possession, 30:48 to 29:12...The Bears were 5-for-14 on third down conversions...C.J. Gable gained 79 yards on 10 carries for the Trojans...The Trojans defense allowed a season- low 27 yards rushing from Cal...Sanchez has now thrown at least one TD pass in all 12 of his career starts...Williams led the Trojans in receiving with 67 yards on four catches.
11/09 03:02:34 ET