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October 9, 2004: "The Goal Line Stand"

USC's victory over Cal kept their national title dreams alive, a dream that was accomplished later that season.

Despite his great NFL career, Aaron Rodgers still remembers 10/9/04.
Despite his great NFL career, Aaron Rodgers still remembers 10/9/04.
Jonathan Daniel

As the USC Trojans prepare to take on the California Golden Bears tonight in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it brought up the memory of the epic battle between the teams 10 years ago on October 9, 2004. A game that will always be remembered as "The Goal line Stand."

When the two teams faced off at the Coliseum on that warm fall day, USC was ranked No. 1 in the nation, but had revenge on their mind after falling to the No. 7 Bears in a triple-overtime thriller the year before in Berkeley, 34-31. The game was going to matchup perhaps two of the best quarterbacks in the nation: USC had Matt Leinart and Cal featured Aaron Rodgers.

USC scored on their opening drive on a five-yard pass from Leinart to running back LenDale White. After stopping the Bears on a second consecutive fourth down attempt, the Trojans extended their lead to 10 as kicker Ryan Killeen nailed a 31-yard field goal with :04 seconds left in the first quarter.

Cal outscored USC 10-6 in the second quarter highlighted by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver Geoff McArthur with 1:37 remaining in the second quarter. However, USC maintained a 16-10 lead heading into halftime. Talk about perfect, Rodgers was 14-for-14 with 133 passing yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Trojans' defense was going to have to stop Rodgers to stay undefeated.

USC couldn’t have had a better start to the second half, going seven plays for 66 yards including a 16-yard touchdown pass from Matt Leinart to wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett to extend the USC lead to 13. The Bears countered with a score of their own on the following possession to cut the Trojans lead to six. The score remained the same heading into the fourth quarter.

After a Cal missed field goal, USC started their drive with 6:53 remaining in the game, needing a long drive to put the Bears away. For the second consecutive drive, the Bears' defense stepped up and forced USC to go three-and-out. Cal got the ball with 4:11 left and two timeouts left.

Six plays into its drive, Cal had the ball on USC’s 9-yard line with 1:47 left, needing a touchdown to stay undefeated. To this day, I have never seen the Coliseum as loud as it was on this day.

On first and goal, Rodgers threw his first incompletion of the drive. The next play, defensive tackle Manuel Wright came up the middle and sacked Rodgers for a loss of five. Rodgers would scramble to his left on third down and throw to his favorite target (McArthur) in the end zone but it fell incomplete.

Before perhaps their final play of the game, the Bears took their final timeout. On fourth and goal, Aaron Rodgers lined up under center with two wide receivers to left and one to the right. Immediately after hiking the ball, Rodgers felt pressure from the USC defensive line and was forced to step up in the pocket and throw to McArthur on a slant route but it was too far and the Trojans won the thriller, 23-17.

USC went on to win the National Championship that season, defeating Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl.