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Trojans Take Care of Cal Despite Second-Half Slump

Cal came storming back, but USC held on.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Behind Nelson Agholor's incredible 16-reception, 216-yard, two-tocuhdown performance, the USC Trojans knocked off the California Golden Bears, 38-30. But it wasn't without a scare late Thursday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Trojans jumped out to a 31-2 lead in the first half only to see Cal slowly come back point by point until the Bears made it 38-30 and tried for an onsides kick with just 90 seconds remaining.

Even though the game never seemed to be much in doubt, tt was a definite tale of two halves. USC absolutely dominated the first half with Cody Kessler hitting Nelson Agholor for a pair of first half scores, along with a 32-yard strike to George Farmer and a 3-yard touchdown run from Justin Davis.

Andre Heidari capped the Trojans' first-half scoring with a line drive skimmer that just made it over the crossbar from 25 yards out. The short, but ugly kick put USC up 31-12. Cal got an offensive score just before halftime, punching in a score to make it 31-9.

In the third quarter, the two teams traded punts before Cal put together a strong drive, topped by a 5-yard Daniel Lasco touchdown run. After the Lasco touchdown, the Trojans went on a ridiculously lengthy drive, taking more than seven minutes to go 78 yards on SIXTEEN plays -- the most plays for a USC drive since the season-opening 17-play, 90-yard drive against Fresno State.

USC finished the drive when Cody Kessler threw his fourth touchdown pass, this time to tight end Randall Telfer -- for the first touchdown by a senior since 2011 when Brandon Carswell scored -- also against California.

But that was the last scoring threat USC put together. Instead of locking up the game with a strong drive late in the fourth quarter, USC allowed Cal to chip away at the score. After Telfer's touchdown, Cal went 72 yards on 11 plays, culminating in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Bryce Treggs.

Following a USC first down and a punt soon after, the Golden Bears took 10 plays to drive 80 yards with Goff throwing a 29-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Anderson to make the score 38-30. Unlike against Arizona, USC was able to grab the onsides kick and finished the game off with three rushing plays.

Nelson Agholor came one reception shy of the 17-catch USC record set by Robert Woods against Minnesota. But Agholor did become the first USC Trojan receiver to record back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. Lynn Swann? No. Keyshawn Johnson? Negative. Mike Williams? Nah, bruh. Robert Woods or Marqise Lee? C'mon son! I said no.

While Agholor was spreading the defense, Cody Kessler ended up throwing for 372 yards on 31-for-42 passing with four touchdowns and one interception. Running back Buck Allen also continued his streak of 100+ yards from scrimmage after rushing for 60 yards and catching four passes for 49 yards.

On the defensive side, USC defensive lineman had eight tackles, including 1.5 sacks to give him six this season. Linebacker/safety Su'a Cravens led the team with 10 tackles and pulled down the quarterback in one of his 1.5 tackles for loss.