USC blows big lead, drops to Cal at home for first time in 18 years
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chase Garbers threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, and California snapped its 14-game losing streak against Southern California with a 15-14 victory Saturday night.
Vic Wharton III made his first TD reception of the season as the Golden Bears (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit and secured bowl eligibility for just the second time in seven seasons with their first win at the Coliseum in 18 years.
Cal did all of its scoring in an eight-minute span of the third quarter, starting with a safety when a shotgun snap by USC (5-5, 4-4) went 22 yards backward into the end zone.
J.T. Daniels passed for 180 yards and threw two TD passes to Tyler Vaughns, but the Trojans were shut out in the second half of their third loss in four games. USC gained just 41 yards after halftime against Cal's sturdy defense, losing at the Coliseum for the second straight game after a 19-game home winning streak.
Cal beat USC for the first time since its famed 34-31, triple-overtime victory over the vaunted Trojans in Berkeley in 2003. The Trojans hadn't lost to the Bears at the Coliseum since 2000, coach Paul Hackett's final season at USC before Pete Carroll took over.
Both defenses were solid early on a chilly night at the Coliseum, but the Trojans appeared to be in good shape for yet another win over their upstate rivals despite failing on a fake field goal in the first quarter.
A few minutes after Vaughns caught a 2-yard TD pass in the second quarter, Ajene Harris stripped Garbers after a 23-yard run. Daniels then hit Vaughns for a 23-yard score one play after completing a tough fourth-and-6 pass to fellow freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown.
USC could have had more, but Cal's Luc Bequette stripped the ball from St. Brown at the Cal 10 in the final minute before halftime.
But after managing only 69 yards of offense in the first half, the Bears quickly got back in it. After Cal got a safety on Toa Lobendahn's horrific shotgun snap, Garbers promptly threw a 29-yard TD pass down the middle to an unguarded Wharton, who somehow hadn't scored in 10 games as a starting wideout despite leading the Bears in yards receiving.
Garbers had only 30 yards passing all night before that 29-yard scoring throw.
Daniels then threw his first interception to Traveon Beck, and Garbers mounted Cal's go-ahead drive culminating in his 5-yard TD run. Garbers celebrated by raising the Trojans' famed V for Victory gesture — and then turning the "V'' downward.
California: Despite another mediocre offensive game, coach Justin Wilcox has more tangible proof of progress in his second year with this gutsy win in a tough venue. The Bears will go bowling, and they're riding momentum into the Big Game with Stanford next week.
USC: Coach Clay Helton's second game as the Trojans' play-caller was good in stretches, but not nearly good enough. His seat is even hotter now, and it'll be scorching if the Trojans don't beat UCLA to secure bowl eligibility next week before No. 3 Notre Dame visits after Thanksgiving.
California: Host Stanford in the 121st Big Game on Nov. 17.
USC: At UCLA in the annual crosstown showdown on Nov. 17.