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USC vs. Cal: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Published by Bleacher Report on Sun, 01 Nov 2015

The USC Trojans picked up their second win in a row under interim head coach Clay Helton, defeating the California Golden Bears 27-21 on Saturday in Berkeley, California.While Helton's specialty is the offensive side of the ball, defense is quickly becoming the hallmark for his USC team, as the Trojans intercepted Jared Goff on two occasions and limited the high-powered Cal attack to 389 yards, down from its season average of 505 yards per game entering Saturday.Goff went 23-of-31 for 272 yards, two touchdowns and two picksthe second game in a row in which he was held to under 300 yards through the air.Defense played a big role for the Trojans in the win, but the running game was equally vital. Coming into the game, USC ranked 105th in time of possession (27.3 minutes per game). The Trojans held the ball for 35 minutes, eight seconds Saturday.USC gained 185 yards as a team on 50 carries. The trio of Ronald Jones II, Tre Madden and Justin Davis helped control the clock and keep the Golden Bears offense off the field.The Trojans haven't started well in any of their last three games, but in what's becoming a trend under Helton, they have started to find their footing once the second quarter kicks off, per Reign of Troy:Goff helped put the Golden Bears ahead 7-0 with a six-yard TD pass to wideout Bryce Treggs early in the first quarter, but USC reeled off 24 unanswered points to take control.Jones got the Trojans on the board with a 13-yard touchdown run to help tie the game 1:33 into the second quarter. Alex Wood then gave USC a slim 10-7 lead with a 22-yard field goal as halftime approached.Madden added to the lead at the 9:46 mark of the third quarter after finding the end zone on a two-yard run. USC did a great job of wearing down the Golden Bears defense, eating up 67 yards in a little over five minutes on 13 plays.For Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times, the drive echoed the same trademarks that made the Trojans successful in the past:While it wasn't a knockout blow for Cal, the next play from scrimmage was disastrous for the Golden Bears and potentially the biggest moment of the game.Goff is one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL draft, but the Golden Bears signal-caller did nothing to bolster his stock with this throw on Cal's first drive of the second half, per thePac-12 Networks:Goff gifted Adoree' Jackson the interception, but the star defensive back demonstrated his athleticism by weaving his way to the end zone. SB Nation's Brian Floyd noticed that Goff suffered further indignity on the play in addition to the pick-six:Neon Tommy's Paolo Uggetti highlighted how the USC front seven played a big role in causing the turnover:Goff rebounded after the interception and led Cal on a 10-play, 81-yard drive that culminated in a six-yard touchdown run by running back Daniel Lasco to help get the home side within two scores, 24-14.But Wood nailed his second field goal of the game to provide USC with more breathing room. Then, as the Golden Bears looked poised to trim the deficit, Goff threw his second interception of the game. Goff was looking for Kenny Lawler on the sideline but only found Trojans defensive back Kevon Seymour.SB Nation's Spencer Hall found the silver lining for the junior QB:Not to be deterred, Goff completed a critical fourth-down throw on Cal's next drive, and the Golden Bears scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Stephen Anderson:Cal head coach Sonny Dykes eschewed an onside kick, opting instead to rely on his defense. With 3:52 left in the game after Anderson's TD grab, you couldn't blame Dykes for his decision.The strategy nearly paid off after the Golden Bears looked to stuff Madden on 3rd-and-1, but the senior somehow bounced outside and gained 14 yards. ESPN.com's Arash Markazi provided a great look at how the play was developing before Madden found the open field:USC picked up another first down, which enabled the Trojans to run out the rest of the clock and secure the victory.As bad as things looked for USC following its loss to Washington on Oct. 8, the Trojans' hopes of winning the Pac-12 South aren't dead. They're just a game behind Utah, which still has to play Arizona on the road and UCLA, both of which could be tricky games.USC shouldn't book those tickets for Santa Clara, California, for the Pac-12 Championship Game yet; the Trojans still need some pieces to fall in their favor. Still, fans have to feel better about the team now than they did with former head coach Steve Sarkisian on the sidelines.For Cal, the defeat all but eliminates the Golden Bears as contenders in the Pac-12 North. With a 2-3 conference record, they need too many teams ahead of them to slip up in order to secure first place.Post-Game Reaction"We're 2-0 in the second half of the season and dang proud of it," said Helton in his post-game interview with FS1's Molly McGrath (via Markazi).An injury to playmaker JuJu Smith-Schuster put a small damper on the win for USC, though. According to Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News, Smith-Schuster has a fracture in his hand, which may require a cast for the immediate future.On the other sideline, Dykes will have to deal with keeping his players in the right frame of mind after a third consecutive loss, with the defeats to USC and Utah coming by six points apiece."It's not good right now. We're disappointed," Dykes said of the mood in his locker room, per Cal football's Twitter account. "We've felt like we've played good enough to win two games. We certainly have played well enough against two teams that have at one time or another been in the top 10 this year. For us to go into the 4th quarter and be in it to win, we want to do it and that's the next step for us."
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