The Keys to Beating SC

California faces USC this Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Cal, again, has the task of beating the Trojans if the Bears want to make it to the Rose Bowl. The last time the Bears beat USC was in 2003 by a score of 34-31 in 3OT. Since 2003, the only times Cal played USC tight was in 2004 (17-23) and in 2007 (17-24). Both games resulted in losses…

California must be able to execute the same game plan other teams used when they beat the Trojans. Cal Sports Digest will look at how the Trojans lost a few games over the last five years in the Pac-10 Conference.

Oregon State 27 USC 21 (9-25-08)

The Beavers were able to completely shut down the Trojans on their third down conversion attempts. USC finished the game 2-of-10 on third down attempts. The Beavers were able to keep a lot of their drives alive. Oregon State was 7-of-16 on third down attempts. The Trojans have one of the best defenses in the country and they are a very difficult team to run the ball on, but the Beavers were consistent and kept pounding the ball. Oregon State ran the ball 45 times for 176 yards. The Beavers were also able to win the turnover battle. USC lost a fumble and threw an interception.

Oregon 24 USC 17 (10-27-07)

Just like the Oregon State game from this year, the Ducks stuck to their running game. Oregon finished this game with 47 rushing attempts for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, the Ducks contained the Trojans running game holding them to 101 total rushing yards on 33 carries. USC also lost the turnover battle in this game. The Trojans threw two interceptions and lost one fumble.

Oregon State 33 USC 31 (10-28-06)

This was the first of two home victories over the Trojans. This game was decided on a two-point conversion pass from John David Booty that was knocked down in the end zone to seal the game for Oregon State. In this loss, the Trojans once again could not run the ball. USC was held to 86 rushing yards on 27 attempts. The Trojans also could not sustain any drives. They were 3-of-10 on third down conversions. The most telling stat from this game was the four turnovers that the Oregon State defense forced from USC. USC threw one interception and lost three fumbles.

California 34 USC 31 (9-27-03)

In this game, the Bears decided to run the ball and run the ball again. The yards per carry average was not important to Cal, but wearing down the Trojans front seven was a top priority. The Bears ran the ball 48 times for 143 yards and only three yards per carry. The Trojans trend continued on third downs. USC was only 3-of-12 on third down conversions.


The Trojans have not lost many Pac-10 games over the last five seasons. It is a rare occasion when the Trojans lose the turnover battle or allow their opponent to have success on the ground. For the Bears to win on Saturday, they must give Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen over 30 carries, and they must stop the Trojans on third down.

If the Bears remain stubborn, and continue to run, eventually there will be many big plays to be made in the passing game. The combination of Best and Vereen and the California defense will play a big part in how this game is played out.


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