No. 13 USC defeated Cal for the ninth straight time in front of an announced crowd of 83,421 and improved to 3-1 on the young season. The Trojans now have a bye week before heading to Salt Lake City to face Utah on Thursday, October 4.
Here are three thoughts from their 27-9 win over the Golden Bears.
1. The Trojans do have a running game.
Tailback Curtis McNeal stated earlier this week the run game needed to be a bigger part of the offense. Well, he certainly got his wish Saturday. Lane Kiffin opted to run the ball early and often, and decided to stick with both McNeal and Silas Redd consistently throughout the game. Both players topped the century mark (Redd: 21 carries, 158 rushing yards, McNeal: 10 carries, 115 rushing yards), and as a team, USC finished with 296 yards (7.4 yards per carry) via the ground. It was the first time since 2008 against Washington State that the Trojans had multiple 100-yard rushers. McNeal and Redd can also give credit to an offensive line that was heavily criticized after the Stanford game. Kiffin opened up a competition for the starting left tackle job this week at practice. And to start the game, Abe Markowitz replaced Marcus Martin at left guard while Aundrey Walker rotated with Max Tuerk at left tackle. After the game, McNeal gave credit to the men up front.
"It’s the offensive line," McNeal said. "It was all the offensive line. They opened up holes for me and Silas and we just hit them."
2. USC's defense is coming into its own.
The Trojans finished with seven sacks when it was all said and done, with three of those coming from Morgan Breslin. It was the most sacks by a USC player in one game since Rey Maualuga finished with three in the 2008 Rose Bowl. And many more times, Zach Maynard was flushed out of the pocket and forced into some really bad throws, including two interceptions (one by Jawanza Starling and one by T.J. McDonald). Maynard finished just 18-of-33 for 173 yards, along with those two picks. Cal's running game wasn't much better, either, as it managed just 77 rushing yards on 36 attempts (2.1 yards per carry). Thanks to constant pressure from the front four, Maynard and Cal's tailbacks weren't able to generate much offensively all afternoon long. But it just wasn't the play of the line, as the defense as a whole was responsible for holding Cal to just 250 total yards of offense. And for the second straight year, the Golden Bears could only muster nine points on offense. In fact, here's a little interesting tidbit from the Daily Trojan.
USC has held Cal to nine points or fewer in five of their last seven meetings. Over that span, the Golden Bears, who failed to score a touchdown on Saturday, have averaged a mere 10.1 points per game.
3. Matt Barkley had a sub-par performance for a second straight week.
Though the running game was clicking, the senior signal caller had trouble getting into any sort of rhythm. His throw to Robert Woods in the back of the end zone on the game's first drive was just a really bad throw. But throughout the game, his passes weren't too sharp, either. Actually, through the first four games, his overall play has just been average. Yes, he does have 12 touchdown passes. But he also has five interceptions in four games this season --- two each in the last two contests. Remember: through 12 games a year ago, he just had seven interceptions.