Cal Bears

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

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AP

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.

THE TAKEAWAY

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.

UP NEXT

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

Justin Wilcox may be on to something at Cal

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AP

Justin Wilcox may be on to something at Cal

We should have surmised that college football was trying a new marketing campaign when Cal -- sad, downtrodden, debt-savaged Cal – beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill as a 13-point underdog.

Then Howard, a sub-average FCS team with three winning records in this century, became the largest underdog in history to win outright by beating UNLV at Vegas, 43-40.

And finally, UCLA parlayed a deft 44-10 late third-quarter deficit to Texas A&M into a 45-44 win, with the winning touchdown drive featuring a fake spike by Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen, all of which inspired an A&M regent to demand the immediate firing of head coach Kevin Sumlin.

And that new marketing scheme?

Easy. “We Play Drunk; We Coach Drunk/We Vent Drunk.”

Now with a 92-game inventory (and that’s just the bowl eligible games; don’t even ask me about St. John’s beating St. Scholastica, 98-0), you ought to have a few clangers here and there. I mean, Liberty (plus-33) beat Baylor, 48-45, making karma 1-0 this season.

But this is the part of college football that is riveting – the early-season piefights and coach-killers. You don’t typically get Howards and Libertys and Roy Buzbees (the A&M regent with the itchy trigger finger) right off the bat, but you absolutely never get them later.

And Cal? Justin Wilcox may be on to something, and if so, we can stop calling them downtrodden and debt-riddled. I mean, we don’t have to, but if this is the new Cal, we may as well fit this into the sport’s new paradigm:

Playing drunk, and for a precious few, being really good at it. And now that regents are in play on Labor Day, this could be the best season ever.

Until, as is always the case, Alabama fun-kills the whole thing like it always does.

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

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USATSI

The future of Cal athletics, or lack thereof

Your education dollars are always at work, so it is with pride and bewilderment that we report that the University of California’s incoming class (2021, for those few who can get out in four years) marched to Memorial Stadium and formed the world’s largest human letter.
 
It was . . . wait for it . . . a “C.” A 7,196-person-strong “C.”
 
But the school, as it occasionally does, missed a golden opportunity to seize a golden opportunity. All they needed to do was have a quick whip-round, get $55,586.44 from each and every one of the captives . . . er, students, and they could have wiped out their entire athletics deficit in one night.
 
You see, while forming gigantic letters is always fun (or as the kids used to say when double negatives didn’t mean voting, never not fun), Cal is staring at quite possibly the bleakest future a major athletic university ever has. The athletic department, whose chief officer, Mike Williams, has just announced his intention to quit, is over $400 million in debt between construction costs, ambition, shrinking allegiance and the absence of a Phil Knight-level sugar daddy to buy the pain away.
 
And before you blame Williams, he inherited this indigestible planetoid from his predecessor, Sandy Barbour, who grew it from her predecessor, Steve Gladstone, and hastened it from . . . well, you get the drift. 
 
Cal’s been blowing through money it hasn’t been taking in for years upon years, didn’t realize the deficit-cutting benefits of the Pac-12 Network (because they largely don’t exist), and the day of reckoning looms closer and closer, especially now that new chancellor Carol Christ (no apparent relation) described the deficit as “corrosive” and has insisted that the athletic department have a balanced budget by 2020.
 
In short, the school may only be able to afford a lower-case “C” before too long. Maybe in comic sans.