5 turnovers send Cal to 30-9 loss to USC
Zach Maynard's introduction to the Pac-12 has been anything but friendly.
The transfer from Buffalo threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in California's 30-9 loss to Southern California on Thursday night, sending the Golden Bears to their eighth straight defeat against the Trojans.
''Ever since I've been here, we've lost to them,'' senior receiver Marvin Jones said. ''They've shut us out in the first half. I'm not going to say they have our number.''
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The series has been decidedly one-sided ever since Cal upset USC 34-31 in triple overtime back in 2003. The Trojans have run away from the Bears since, with USC outscoring Cal 125-29 the last four years.
Matt Barkley threw two touchdown passes and USC took advantage of five turnovers by California, including four by Maynard. Marqise Lee and Brandon Carswell caught TD passes but it was the defense that bailed out USC (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) on a night its offense struggled to click.
''Mistakes. Turnovers. You can't beat a good football team like SC when you turn the football over five times, especially down deep in their territory,'' Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. ''There's no question there is some good things, but there are some things that absolutely need to be improved.''
USC lost Lee to an apparent right arm injury in the first half and leading rusher Marc Tyler to a shoulder injury in the third quarter.
But after allowing 84 points and 946 yards the previous two games, the Trojans kept Cal off the scoreboard until late in the third and doubled their turnovers caused this season with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Maynard committed four of Cal's five turnovers - surpassing the team's season total coming into the game - and the Bears dropped their sixth straight conference game since late last season. Cal is off to its worst conference start ever under Tedford.
''Are they disappointed? No question. Is the morale down right now? It's OK to be disappointed but not be discouraged,'' Tedford said. ''There are tough weeks we've had the last few weeks. I have all the confidence in the world that they will come back. ... We're 3-3. There's a lot of football left.''
Maynard threw for 294 yards and ran for a touchdown and his half brother, Keenan Allen, had a career-high 13 catches for 160 yards. But it wasn't enough to overcome the litany of mistakes.
''I tried to force the ball on a couple plays,'' Maynard said. ''There's a lot of mental errors. We've got to get better on our check downs and make a better play.''
Cal fell behind 23-0 early in the third quarter before the offense finally got going, with Maynard leading the Bears to a field goal and then scoring on a 3-yard run with 6 seconds left in the third to cut it to 23-9.
But Maynard's third interception midway through the fourth led to Curtis McNeal's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 30-9 with 5:14 remaining. The Bears turned the ball over four times in the first half, including three alone by Maynard, and failed to convert a fake punt as they fell behind 20-0 at the break.
''The fact he really telegraphed every ball he was going to throw made it easy,'' said USC linebacker Chris Galippo, who picked off one of Maynard's passes. ''When a quarterback stares down his targets like that, you just follow his eyes.''
It wasn't quite as bad for the Bears as the game a year ago in Los Angeles when USC led 42-0 at halftime. Cal's defense actually did a decent job defending Barkley and the Trojans' high-powered offense, but USC took advantage of short fields for its scores.
Allen fumbled on Cal's fourth play from scrimmage to set the tone for the game, but the Bears withstood that miscue thanks to an odd play call by USC coach Lane Kiffin.
On fourth-and-goal from the 8, the Trojans lined up in an off formation and snapped the ball diagonally to Rhett Ellison, who dropped it for a turnover.
The Trojans capitalized on the next turnover as Nick Perry forced a fumble by Maynard that led to Andre Heidari's first field goal.
USC then broke the game open with 17 points in the second quarter, getting a 39-yard TD catch from Lee over fellow freshman Stefan McClure, a field goal after Galippo intercepted Maynard's pass deep in Cal territory and a 7-yard TD pass from Barkley to Carswell after punter Bryan Anger was stopped on a fake that made it 20-0.
Barkley completed 19 of 35 passes for a season-low 195 yards. Robert Woods, the nation's top receiver, was held to five catches for 36 yards.
Cal's only sustained drive of the half ended in the final minute when Maynard threw into triple coverage and was intercepted in the end zone by Dion Bailey.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP