‘It got too close there in the end’: Closing out games continues to be issue for Trojans

JuJu Smith and USC took care of Cal on Thursday night.

On the USC sideline and in the eyes of head coach Steve Sarkisian, there was relief.

Leading 38-30 with just over 1:30 to play, Cal attempted an onside kick and it was recovered by Darreus Rogers to secure the USC victory on Thursday night.

Just last month in Tucson, USC was unable to recover vs. Arizona and game away with the loss.

Against the Golden Bears, that wasn’t the case. 

"We won," Sarkisian said describing his thoughts watching his team recover the onside kick. "It’s always great to win. We’re 2-0 in November."

The game ended with Cody Kessler taking the snap on 3rd down and 7. He began zigging and zagging to eat up some clock before finally giving himself up after a 19-yard loss.

Kessler successfully did his job and USC was able to leave the Coliseum with a win.

After throwing 371 yards and four touchdowns, Kessler’s scamper had to substitute for the victory formation.

There would be no dropping to one knee because USC, once again, had its difficulties closing out a game.

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USC took a 31-2 lead in the second quarter and proceeded to get outscored 28-7 the rest of the way, including 21-7 in the second half.

"It got too close there in the end," Leonard Williams said.

It appeared the team took their foot off of the gas in the second half. Sarkisian says the second half was more about Cal’s offense waking up and less about any type of let up on the part of his team.

He did acknowledge that late in games there is an issue of confidence within the team.

"We need to find a way to play with confidence late in the games," Sarkisian said. "I don’t think our guys thought the game was in the bag. Because of the season we have had, the type of game we have played, those things creep into your head."

For the fourth time this season, the team was shutout in the third quarter.

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The team knows there has to be some sort of killer instinct developed going forward if they want to keep up their undefeated ways in November. 

"We’re working towards it," George Farmer said. "It’s going to test us these next two weeks to close out the game, especially if we have a lead like we did (Thursday night)."