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Running game powers USC over Cal, 27-9

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- It was not exactly a dominating way to bounce back from a loss, but No. 13 USC did enough to earn a victory Saturday, and that ultimately was enough for a team reeling after last week's loss to Stanford.

USC defeated California 27-9 before 83,421 at the Coliseum, but no one will confuse the Trojans' offense for the explosive group that was expected to dominate games this season. Quarterback Matt Barkley threw two more interceptions as the Trojans relied on the rushing game to win. Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal each went over 100 yards as the Trojans ran for 296.

"We really hit them in the mouth from the first snap," said Redd, who gained 158 yards and scored on a 33-yard run. "Everybody decided we can't let the distractions (of the Stanford loss) get us down."

Perhaps the best news for USC was the return of kicker Andre Heidari, back after tearing his meniscus in the season opener against Hawaii. Heidari made a 41-yard field goal to give the Trojans a 20-9 advantage with 14:10 left. He also made a 40-yard field goal in the first half.

"It helps me a lot to know your kicker's range," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "It's great to have him back."

USC also got a little of its swagger back with a more physical style of play after getting beat up by Stanford.

"This game was won at the line of scrimmage," Kiffin said. "We ran for almost 300 yards and didn't give up a sack. This could have been a hangover game (after Stanford)."

Cal dominated the early part of the second half and, trailing 17-9, looked ready to tie the game as the Bears drove to the USC 14-yard line. But Zach Maynard scrambled and threw a pass directly at USC safety T.J. McDonald. Maynard threw two interceptions in the game.

Cal drove to the USC 9-yard line on its first possession of the second half but could not get closer and settled for a 26-yard field goal by Vincenzo D'Amato that cut USC's lead to 17-6. D'Amato added a 35-yard field goal with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter. D'Amato tied his career-high for a single game with three field goals.

As Cal focused on stopping the USC passing game, Barkley's stats were decidedly un-Heisman. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 192 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"I'm not looking every week to get stats or have a flashy game," Barkley said.

Barkley, who went five quarters without a touchdown pass, broke the streak when he found Lee open for an 11-yard score in the second quarter to give the Trojans a 14-3 lead.

That did not mean his troubles were behind him. But another Barkley pass was tipped and intercepted by linebacker J.P. Hurrell with 4:16 left in the half.

"The defense made its share of plays," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It got some turnovers but also let some big plays get by."

The Trojans' ground game worked early as McNeal broke a 62-yard run and Redd scored on a 33-yard run to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead. Redd ran for 158 yards on 21 carries and McNeal gained 115 yards on 10 attempts. It was the first time USC had two tailbacks go over 100 yards since 2008.

McNeal gained 103 yards in his first five carries, the fifth time he has surpassed 100 yards. But his fumble in the third quarter drew the ire of Kiffin, who benched him until midway through the fourth quarter.

Maynard, who threw three interceptions last year against the Trojans, was intercepted in the first quarter when safety Jawanza Starling picked off his pass. Maynard completed 18 of 33 passes for 173 yards and two interceptions.

Barkley got off to a rough start when his end-zone pass for Woods was intercepted by cornerback Steven Williams. It was his fourth interception in three games.

Cal finally scored with 10:15 left in the second quarter when D'Amato kicked a 24-yard field goal to cut the Trojans' lead to 7-3.

NOTES: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott attended the game and said he understood the frustration of fans who are unable to watch games on the Pac-12 Network because it is not carried on all satellite and cable systems. Despite this, Scott said at least one more USC game will probably be televised on the network. ... Scott said he spoke to Kiffin on Friday to get his "point of view" regarding a potential conference-wide injury policy. ... Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen moved into 10th place in receiving yards in school history.
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