Christopher Brooks ran for a pair of touchdowns, and Trey Paster returned a fumble 55 yards for a score on Saturday to lead Cal past USC 24-14 in Berkeley, Calif., its first home win over the Trojans since 2003.
Cal (5-7, 4-5 Pac-12 Conference) turned a pair of USC turnovers into touchdowns, including Paster’s long return of a fumble forced by Elijah Hicks, and the Golden Bears held the Trojans to conversions on just 1-of-3 red-zone opportunities.
Cal stymied one trip to the red zone with a fourth-down stop near the goal line. The other ended inside the 10-yard line when Daniel Scott jarred the ball loose from Miller Moss on a sack.
Cal nearly forced a third turnover when Lu-Magia Hearns III made a spectacular leaping grab for an interception, but an offsides penalty negated the play.
USC (4-8, 3-6) scored later on the same drive when Moss –replacing starter Jaxson Dart at quarterback in the third quarter when Dart was helped off the field following a hard hit — found K.D. Nixon for a 16-yard touchdown.
The late fourth-quarter score came too little, too late, as Cal recovered the ensuing onside-kick attempt to preserve the win.
Chase Garbers went 18-of-21 passing for 177 yards. He added 12 yards rushing on a night that Cal only gained 88 yards on the ground, led by Brooks’ 49.
Despite the lack of explosive offense and being outgained 409 yards to 265, the Golden Bears were helped by the turnovers and good field position. One of Cal’s scoring drives went 62 yards, culminating in a Dario Longhetto field goal of 22 yards, and nother covered 65 yards, ending with a 2-yard Brooks rush.
The Trojans concluded the season on a four-game losing streak and finished with eight losses for the first time since 1991, when they went 3-8.
Vavae Malepeai rushed for 107 yards on Saturday. Before coming out, Dart went 17-of-26 passing for 191 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown to Kyle Ford.
The loss of Dart compounded issues for an already depleted roster.
USC had only “about 60” players dressed for the season finale, according to the Los Angeles Times.
–Field Level Media