Cal’s highly-regarded defense sparked a third-quarter scoring outburst and the Golden Bears ended their 14-game losing streak against host USC with a 15-14 victory Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Freshman quarterback Chase Garbers finished 14-for-26 passing for just 93 yards, but it was enough to get Cal its first victory at USC in nine tries. Cal’s defense, which started the day 19th in the country with 323.2 yards per game, held USC to just 41 yards of total offense in the second half.
Cal trailed by two touchdowns at halftime, but a bad USC snap on third-and-13 from the Golden Bears’ 22-yard line led to a safety early in the third quarter for the Cal’s first score.
Cal used its next drive to go on a 50-yard drive ending in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Garbers to senior wide receiver Vic Wharton III. The TD, with 12:51 remaining in the third quarter, cut USC’s lead to 14-9.
On USC’s next possession, Cal junior cornerback Traveon Beck intercepted a pass from Trojans freshman quarterback JT Daniels and Cal turned the ensuing possession into a 40-yard TD drive. Garbers scored from 5 yards out for the go-ahead score and his first career rushing touchdown.
The victory made Cal (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) bowl eligible, while USC (5-5, 4-4) was knocked out of the race for the Pac-12 South Division title.
Daniels gave the Trojans a 14-0 halftime lead when he connected with junior wide receiver Tyler Vaughns on two first-half touchdown passes. Vaughns caught 2-yard and 23-yard passes for scores. Daniels was 21-of-34 for 180 yards.
Cal put the game away with just over two minutes remaining when Patrick Laird rushed for 14 yards on fourth-and-1 from the USC 33-yard line. Cal ran out the clock from there.
The Golden Bears pulled off the victory despite going scoreless in the first half and collecting just to just 69 yards of offense in the first two quarters. Cal finished with 207 total yards in the game.
Vaughns caught eight passes for 91 yards for the Trojans, while senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries.
USC rushed for 98 total yards as Cal’s defense has not allowed 100 yards rushing for four consecutive games. Washington State was held to a Cal season-low 79 yards last Saturday.
Cal had held its opponents to a combined 36 points over the previous three games.
USC lost to Cal for the first time since 2003. The Trojans now have two consecutive losses at home after their 19-home win streak at the Coliseum ended Oct. 28 against Arizona State.
—Field Level Media