John Hefti - USA Today Sports
It was turnovers that did in the Bears. Don't believe it? The fourth quarter numbers tell the tale. Cal turned the ball over four times in the final frame, off of which USC scored 14 points. The yardage? 49 yards. 2.1 yards per play. 37 of those yards came on the two touchdown drives of 4 yards and 33 yards.
What's even more incredible in the progression of the defense is the lack of explosive plays. Tim DeRuyter noted that they want to limit the opposing offense's explosives (plays over 20 yards), and with all the weapons USC has, they didn't manage a single one, with Sam Darnold's 19 yard scramble being the longest play of the day.
The defense is growing every week, forcing two turnovers, and almost another with Josh Drayden's almost INT being ruled as an incomplete pass. USC coach Clay Helton said, "They are really becoming a physically tough football team." That's what they have to be, but Ray Davison noted postgame that they need to create more defensive plays regardless of what the offense does.
"We don't want to feel like this again," Davison said postgame.
- Ross Bowers is only on his fourth start, which is forgotten by some people. Either way, the six turnovers involved the redshirt sophomore QB. Marques Tuiasosopo has noted that his main thing for Bowers is to be turnover free, and that didn't happen today. Bowers took the responsibility post-game, most notably on the deep ball to Wharton that got picked and returned for the Trojans to set up their second TD of the 4th quarter. He noted that he was trying to make something happen where it wasn't.
- With that, Justin Wilcox noted that Ross is the QB, and that there won't be a QB change. Beau Baldwin hasn't made QB changes in-season in the past, though the backups have gotten minor amounts of playing time. Pat Laird noted that he hadn't seen Bowers flinch in any situation, and he won't flinch as the season rolls on.
- The offensive line struggled particularly against Christian Rector, who's an emerging factor for the Trojans. Ryan Gibson started for the first time in place of Valentino Daltoso, and he struggled a bit, moving between both guard spots. Mike Saffell made his first appearance on the line, springing a big run by Vic Enwere on 4th and 1 on a pull block.
- Other first appearances came from Zion Echols, Derrick Clark, and Jeremiah Hawkins, who all recorded stats. Melquise Stovall also returned to the playing field, after not suiting up for the first three games
- Drops are still an issue, as the receivers look to improve. Demetris Robertson is missed, but Wharton noted that it's on him to step up and make the tough plays regardless. Kanawai Noa had a career high day though, making 6 catches for a total of 110 yards. Wharton and Noa are stepping up into a bit of a void left by Chad Hansen and the transition to a new offense. That being said, the Bears did not finish drives, leaving 8 points on the table in the first half and 15 or so off the table due to mistakes or not finishing drives.
- Onto the special teams. It's unclear what's happened to Matt Anderson at this point. He missed a gimme field goal that would've put the Bears ahead in the 3rd quarter, a chip shot from 29. It's usually a mental thing for kickers, and that appears to be the case with Anderson. That's his fourth miss of the year so far, and he had six during his career before this.
- Cal ran an outside return set for the first time this year, with Ashtyn Davis having a bit more success in that regard. Still no big returns or much of a punt return game.
- Defensively, Drayden's interception pops out, as it's the exact same play he made during one of the open scrimmages during fall camp. It was a seam route to SC's best wideout, Burnett. He kept with it, played it perfectly, turned as the ball was in the air and made a fantastic play.
- Great forced fumble by Malik Psalms as well. His move to OLB was partially motivated by the want to get him on the field. That play shows why.
- Devante Downs had a somewhat quiet 14 tackles, though he was all over the field.
- USC came into Memorial Stadium converting 56% of their 3rd Downs, Cal held them to a 40% conversion percentage, along with 0-2 on 4th downs.
- The Cal front wasn't getting blown off the line like they were against Weber State, despite playing plenty of nickel packages when they adjusted to what USC was doing in the early going. Gang tackling has improved, and the Bears held the Trojans to a surprisingly low 4.7 yards per play.
In the end, this game is on the turnover situations. It's math. 6 is more than 2, and you can't win with six turnovers.