Cal hosts USC in final home game of rough season
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)
California is running out of chances to put any sort of positive spin on a disappointing first season under coach Sonny Dykes.
The Golden Bears (1-8, 0-6 Pac-12) will look for their first win against an FBS opponent in nearly 13 months when they play their home finale on Saturday against rival Southern California (6-3, 3-2).
''No one expected the season to go like this,'' senior receiver Jackson Bouza said. ''We worked really hard in the offseason and no one is happy with the results we have gotten. Getting a win this weekend against a really good football team would be a really good thing for the program, the fans and the city of Berkeley.''
Cal has lost 13 straight games against teams in college football's top division since beating Washington State in October 2012. The Bears' only win this season was a seven-pointer over Portland State of the lower-level FCS.
The Bears' drought against the Trojans is much longer. They haven't beaten them since a memorable triple-overtime upset in 2003 against a team that went on to win a share of the national championship that season.
Few of the games have even been competitive, with Cal losing the last nine meetings by an average of more than 18 points and getting outscored 135-35 the past four seasons.
''We haven't beaten USC for a long time here,'' defensive end Dan Camporeale said. ''There are a lot of fans who are anxious for that. We are, too. Although the main goals you set out at the beginning of the season may not be able to be reached, our goal for this week is to beat USC. That's what we're trying to do.''
Here are five things to look for when USC visits Cal:
PRESSURE POINT: Cal has had problems all season protecting quarterback Jared Goff, allowing a Pac-12 worst 28 sacks through the first nine games. A game against USC and its athletic front is not a recipe for success. The Trojans lead the Pac-12 with 29 sacks this season and figure to have success against an offensive line that features three freshman starters. ''We've given up our share of sacks and hits on the quarterbacks so when you play a team with that kind of pass rush, it concerns you,'' Dykes said.
COACHING CHANGE: USC has played like a different team since the in-season firing of coach Lane Kiffin following a 62-41 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 28 that dropped the Trojans to 3-2. They have won three of four games under interim coach Ed Orgeron, allowing just 31 points the past three games. A win this week would assure USC of being eligible for a bowl game. ''We're seeing them having fun again, wanting to be at practice,'' Orgeron said. ''Walking around with our chest out, eyes up, feeling good about themselves, not in a cocky way but just having a little pep in our step. That's a good feeling. We see them getting better week by week. We're not where we need to be but there is improvement.''
SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT: The Bears are coming off their tightest game yet against an FBS opponent in a 33-28 loss last week to Arizona. Cal led in a game for the first time since Sept. 7 against Portland State, while holding the Wildcats to 33 points. That was the best defensive performance of the season against an FBS opponent.
LEERY OF LEE: A year after catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards, USC receiver Marqise Lee has struggled a bit because of injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. He had only two catches in October, missing two games with a sprained knee and only playing one half against Notre Dame. But he looked more like his old self in last week's win at Oregon State, catching five passes for a season-high 105 yards and scoring his second touchdown of the season. Now he gets a matchup with the defense that has allowed the most passing yards per game in the country at 340.9. ''I'm sure he'll be a big part of the game plan this week,'' Dykes said.
REVIVED RUNNING GAME: Cal has gotten a little spark in recent weeks from a revived running game that helps takes some pressure off Goff. After averaging only 2.9 yards per carry the first seven games, the Bears have upped the production to 4.7 yards per carry the past two weeks. Daniel Lasco provided a big lift last week with 71 yards on 12 carries.