Saturday, November 8, 2008

Trojans smother Bears for 17-3 Victory

Let the critics sound off. This wasn’t Washington or Washington State. Saturday’s coliseum guest was the 21st ranked Golden Bears of Cal, who brought with them an offense averaging more than 36 points per game. And not only did they feature a high powered offense, they presented a formidable defense. A different opponent, but the same results, as the men of Troy allowed the Golden Bears no breathing room, surrendering just 3 points in the 17-3 victory.

Overall, Southern Cal’s defense has now giving up a national low of just 7 touchdowns in 9 games played. Even with the Trojans shooting themselves in the foot with overaggressive plays that led to penalties and extended drives, the Golden Bears could not cash in. The closer Cal moved to the red zone, the stiffer USC became. USC was penalized 10 times for 105 yards, including 2 penalties (roughing and pass interference) on the same drive that wiped out interceptions deep in their own territory. Even so, their opponent could manage nothing more than a kick between the uprights in 4 quarters of play. A telling tale of the defensive dominance and penalties that negated great play is Cal managing to total just 165 total yards, despite having 30:48 to 29:12 advantage in time of possession. The Bears rushed for a low 27 yards, with the quarterback duo of Longshore and Riley combining to pass for 138 and a pick. Kevin Riley, who was questionable before the game, after suffering a concussion the week prior, entered in the second half, but followed the same pattern of failure as Nate Longshore did in the first.

We knew Mark Sanchez and the Trojan offense would receive one of its greatest challenges this season, and challenged they were. Sanchez went 18/39 for 238 yards and a late score, but USC was 4-11 on third downs, and drives repeatedly stalled. The Trojans added another 173 yard ground effort, but again kicked themselves, as Joe McKnight made a dazzling play for a big gain, but then turned the ball over by leaving it on the turf. Again the defense held, and USC finally capitalized on Cal’s lack of movement, with Sanchez hitting Ronald Johnson for a touchdown with less than 3 minutes remaining, to ensure any Bears comebacks bids were out of reach.

This was the 5th consecutive victory for USC over their new rivals of Cal. Pete Carroll is now 25-0 in the month of November, and another step closer to the Rose Bowl. A key battle in the run for the roses will come next weekend, when this same Cal team collides with Pac 10 leading Oregon State.

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