It didn't take long for questioners to get Steve Sarkisian to Rivalry Week, even if it was just Thursday night nine days ahead of next Saturday's kickoff at the Rose Bowl. But he wasn't going there right away even if some of his Trojans players were.
Just another game, maybe. "We were looking at November, looking at our schedule, and the goal is to get to 4-0. We've got 2-0 and UCLA is the next game. We can't get to 4-0 until we get to 3-0. We are fortunate that we have extra time to prepare, get fresh and put together a really great gameplan in all three phases."
OK, but really, it's USC-UCLA. And so it is, as Sark continued. "I have been part of the game so many times. I love this rivalry. It's so uniquely special. It divides households. My two older sisters graduated from there so I have to keep my eye on them this week. This is what college football is about. You get to late November, you're playing rivalry games and this is a game that matters in our conference standings. This is a factor in first place in our conference.
"It can go two ways," Sark said. "You can get caught up in it or you can realize it's a great opportunity to perform and go to work to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally. That is where our focus will be."
"It's going to be fun," Cody Kessler said. "It's a big game . . . but you don't want to come out and try to do too much."
BY THE NUMBERS
129-22That's the margin USC has outscored opponents in the first quarter this season.
54Big uptick in how many originally recruited scholarship players USC dressed for Cal, up from the 48 at Washington State, the fewest all season.
9 of 16Great improvement for USC on third-down conversions over the two for 11 at WSU. And much better than Cal's three of 15.
14 for 159Believe it or not, USC's 14 penalties merely tied its season-high (also in the Oregon State game) but the 159 yards penalized were a season-high.
64,615Not a terrible crowd considering the weeknight 6 p.m. start, the slightly threatening weather, the opponent, the relevance of the game and the fact that it was on ESPN. They didn't get there early although they did leave early but USC will take it. And had two Pac-12 games been 15 seconds shorter, there would have been 25,000 more here.
79 on 35Those are the ugly rushing stats for USC -- just 2.3 yards a carry with Buck Allen's streak of six straight 100-yard plus games on the ground ended as he finished with 60 yards on 21 carries -- an average of 2.9.
279, 384Cal's passing yards were the Bears' second-lowest of the season (by two yards) and USC held a team with six games of more than 500 total yards to just 384.
4 X 6, 18 in 4Cody threw for four TDs in a game for the sixth time in his career including five times this season with 18 TD passes the last four games.
5, 13.5Su'a Cravens' second-quarter sack gives him a team-best 13.5 tackles for loss and a second-best five sacks.
6Leonard Williams' third-quarter sack was his team-high sixth.
Injury report:None that were reported as the Trojans managed a bit of an iron-man game . . . only two backup O-linemen hit the field -- Damien Mama and Nathan Guertler . . . Four non-starters did get credit for playing in the secondary rotation . . . Soma Vainuku was clearly back and active on special teams.
Nelson Agholor On becoming the first-ever USC player with back-to-back 200-yard receiving games: "I really can't think about that right now. I'm thinking about that third-down conversion I didn't catch."
Scott Felix On the UCLA game: "It's a big game . . . we don't like them, they don't like us."
Hayes Pullard On the UCLA game: "First of all, we have to take care of this win and get our confidence back and know we can finish games We will watch the film and be ready."
Randall Telfer On learning his 15-yard TD catch was the first touchdown by a senior all season: "Now I feel old and lonely . . . that's weird."
Steve Sarkisian On Josh Shaw's future. "I can't really answer that. I don't know yet. Like I said, it hasn't reached my desk. Until that happens, we will be here to continue to support Josh in every aspect that we can. If it gets to that point, we will make a decision."
Adoree Jackson On USC's second-half swoon: "We just gotta' stay strong, not be complacent. We've got to come out the way we did in the first half."
Cody Kessler On his taunting penalty toward the Cal bench after his TD pass to Telfer: "That's on me . . . I didn't say anything to them although I might have said 'Yeah' . . . my momentum just carried me there . . . I shouldn't have done that."
Cal Coach Sonny Dykes On trying to stop USC's passing game: "We've struggled with the pass rush all season. We tried to blitz a lot tonight and we had some success at times, and at times we didn't. Again, if you blitz, you can't double people and that leaves you in a one-on-one. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't."
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