No. 24 USC scores 21 straight in fourth quarter to avoid upset at Cal

USC won 50-49 after Cal failed on a go-ahead 2-point conversion with 58 seconds to go

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (13) runs against California defensive back Patrick McMorris (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

No. 24 USC narrowly avoided a third straight loss in a 50-49 win over Cal on Saturday.

Cal scored with 58 seconds left and chose to go for a go-ahead two-point conversion instead of a game-tying extra point. But Fernando Mendoza couldn’t find anyone open in the end zone and his pass fell incomplete.

USC (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) trailed for much of the game after blowing a 17-7 first-half lead. Cal scored 21 straight points to take a 28-17 lead into a bizarre halftime sequence before the Trojans went on a 21-point run of their own in the fourth quarter.

Cal (3-5, 1-5 Pac-12) went up 43-29 early in the fourth before USC scored three touchdowns in less than eight minutes thanks to Cal turnovers. Cal fumbled a punt to set up USC’s game-tying score at 43-43 and USC took the lead after a fumble on Cal’s ensuing possession.

Cal was in position to win despite turning the ball over four times. The Bears fumbled three times and Mendoza threw an interception as USC had just one turnover.

The Bears also gashed the USC defense on the ground. Cal rushed 42 times for 235 yards and five touchdowns. RB Jaydn Ott had 21 carries for 153 yards and three scores before leaving the game in the second half with an apparent injury.

Mendoza had eight carries for 48 yards and two rushing scores.

Defending Heisman winner Caleb Williams had four total touchdowns. The USC QB was 23-of-40 passing for 396 yards and two TDs and also rushed for two TDs despite ending up with -13 rushing yards thanks to sacks.

The victory keeps USC’s hopes of a Pac-12 title alive before a three-game gauntlet to end the season. The Trojans host No. 5 Washington before visiting No. 8 Oregon and hosting No. 23 UCLA.