Cal has surprised people with its recent performance. Unfortunately, they don’t have anything to show for it.
Zach Maynard struggled and wasted a great outing by Cal’s secondary in the Bears’ 27-9 loss to USC. Cal intercepted Matt Barkley twice, and both times USC was on the move in Cal territory. However, Cal’s offense couldn’t punch the ball in the end zone or get going.
Marquise Lee and Robert Woods were covered well, but Lee caught two touchdowns. One was on a screen pass, where he just got into the end zone to seal the win for USC, who is now 3-1 and 1-1 in Pac-12 play. Cal dropped to 1-3 and 0-1 in Pac-12 play, despite their stellar defensive performance.
Matt Barkley, USC’s quarterback and Heisman hopeful, had a good game but made some mistakes. He looked for Woods on a fade in the first quarter, but the throw was a bit off-line and Steve Williams made a great adjustment. He intercepted the ball in the end zone, making Curtis McNeal’s 64-yard run useless. A batted ball led to another interception in the second quarter, which halted another Trojan drive.
Cal did a nice job defending Barkley and a spectacular Trojan pass game, but they couldn’t stop the run. USC combined for just under 300 yards on 40 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Silas Redd ran for 158 yards on 21 carries, and McNeal racked up 115 yards on 10 carries. In the first quarter, Redd found a hole on the left side and sprinted untouched to the end zone for a 33-yard scamper, which opened the scoring. One more score would’ve been enough for USC’s defense, which was amazing. However, they got some help from the Bears.
Maynard was inaccurate all night, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. He was sacked several times, and USC’s defensive line got in his head. He rushed throws and wasn’t able to find his receivers, as he completed just over 50 percent of his passes for fewer than 200 yards.
Cal’s running game failed to get going, too, as they averaged just 2.1 yards per carry as a whole. Brendan Bigelow didn't get the playing time he deserved, and Cal's offensive line couldn't open up holes.
Because of this, USC’s defense dominated. Their secondary was marvelous, which allowed their defensive line to get to Maynard time and time again. Their coverage was great especially on one play, when Maynard had tons of time but couldn’t find a receiver.
He tried to force a throw and ended up throwing the ball short; it was intercepted by T.J McDonald. Cal was in the red zone and down by eight at the time, so a touchdown and two-point conversion would've tied the game. If Maynard had performed better, Cal could've won the game.
But, unfortunately, they didn't, and they're now 1-3. However, despite their subpar record, Cal has shown lots of promise and looks completely ready to dominate their next two games, which are both at home.
Cal takes on Arizona State next week at home, while USC faces Utah on Thursday, October 4 in Salt Lake City.
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.