Although the California Golden Bears scored 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, the USC Trojans endured and secured a 41-35 victory. The matchup ignited a mutual sense of frustration among both teams.
“We had some opportunities, we could have separated, and we didn’t,” said Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley. “Then obviously defensively, we had some opportunities in the second half to put it away and we didn’t.”
Although the Golden Bears made four touchdowns in the second half and accumulated 406 passing yards compared to the Trojans’ 360, California head coach Justin Wilcox noted the importance of converting that effort into a victory.
“The expectation is to play better football, I love the competitiveness, the guys play really hard, they compete, they never quit,” Wilcox said. “It’s been like that for the last five, six years, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning.”
Wide receiver Michael Jackson III had 115 reception yards and two touchdown catches along with 19 rushing yards.
“It’s amazing, that guy has been on a journey,” said USC wide receiver Tahj Washington about Jackson III. “Just seeing his performance, his dream come true … it makes me excited.”
The Golden Bears struck first with a rushing touchdown by running back Jaydn Ott in the early minutes of the game. The Trojans returned the favor in their next possession with quarterback Caleb Williams relying on his passing skills to gain first downs. Williams committed a sneak to put the Trojans on the board, but a failed extra-point attempt put USC within one point of Cal.
“I wasn’t really enthused about how we started the game,” Riley said. “But I didn’t feel any complacency.”
Early in the second quarter, Williams escaped a fourth down with a 20-yard pass to wideout Terrell Bynum, putting the Trojans in the Golden Bear red zone. Rusher Travis Dye made a 12-yard touchdown run on the next play to put the Trojans up 13-7.
Later in the second quarter, the Golden Bears escaped three third downs to reach the USC 23-yard-line but had to turn over on downs. When the Bears gained possession again, safety Calen Bullock committed an interception for the Trojans.
The turnover turned into a scoring drive, boosting the Trojans to a 20-7 lead by halftime. USC wide receiver Michael Jackson III caught a 59-yard pass to score, giving the Trojans a 20-point advantage near the start of the third.
As California continued to battle, the Trojans made a costly pass interference penalty. That was the first of three pass interference calls that were made by the Trojans.
“We kept bailing them out with penalties,” Riley said. “When you give a team momentum like that, you’re asking them to take advantage of it.”
Cal quarterback Jack Plummer sent a 47-yard pass to wideout Mavin Anderson to score early in the fourth. The Golden Bears committed an onside kick to regain possession and scored again, putting them within seven points of the Trojans.
The postgame press conference after USC defeated California 41-35 pic.twitter.com/eaIJjwTp6a
— Amanda Scurlock (@Amandtastic) November 7, 2022
“It seems like we kind of took our foot off their necks,” said Trojans defensive back Calen Bullock. “In the beginning, we’re dominating, they could barely move … but that second half we had our foot off their neck and we kinda got a little bit too comfortable.”
Williams targeted wide receiver Michael Jackson III for a 29-yard pass and Jackson III rushed for 19 yards on the next play. Tight end Lake McRee pegged the Trojans at a 41-27 lead.
That did not slow the momentum of the Bears as they advanced across the field in the final minutes of regulation. Ott scored the final touchdown for California on a four-yard rush.
“Honestly, we just had a little bit of bad luck coming down the stretch,” Dye said. “I just can’t wait to see that game of our full potential because it’s coming.”
USC will battle Colorado on November 11 at 6:30P.M. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.