By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
BERKELEY, Calif. - Chris Howard ran for two touchdowns, and Carson Palmer threw for 235 yards as Southern California handed California its 12th straight loss, beating the Golden Bears 55-14 on Saturday.
USC (5-5, 4-3 Pac-10) scored 35 straight points after a 75-yard scoring drive by Cal (0-9, 0-7) on the game's opening possession. Troy Polamalu had a 58-yard interception return for a TD, and kicker David Davis scored on a fake field goal early in the third quarter.
The Trojans capped a humiliating afternoon for the Golden Bears and lame-duck coach Tom Holmoe with linebacker John Cousins' 89-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 22 seconds to play.
Southern California won for the fourth time in five games and kept its bowl hopes alive by becoming the latest visitor to pound the Bears at Memorial Stadium. If the Trojans beat archrival UCLA in next Saturday's regular season finale, USC will be eligible for the postseason.
The gloomy, wet weather in Berkeley reflected the atmosphere around the Bears' final home game under Holmoe. Cal lost all six of its home games this year by 25.7 points per game while going winless at home for the first time since 1959.
Holmoe, who announced last week he will resign at season's end, dropped to 15-38 in five seasons at Cal. The Bears are down to two chances to avoid the school's first winless season since 1897: next Saturday's 104th Big Game at Stanford, followed by a trip to New Jersey to face 2-7 Rutgers.
Dating to last season, the Bears have lost their last eight home games. Cal's three-game winning streak against USC ended emphatically.
Howard had just 11 carries for 22 yards this season entering the game, but he scored both times he touched the ball in the first half as the Trojans surged ahead.
He broke a 25-yard scoring run for Southern Cal's first points late in the first quarter, and he capped another drive with a 15-yard TD run 3:39 before halftime.
After the Trojans' drive to open the second half stalled at the Cal 3, Davis ran untouched for a 3-yard TD on a flawless fake to put USC up 35-7.
Quarterback Kyle Boller scored on a 5-yard run on Cal's first possession, but he also threw two interceptions - including one to Polamalu, who ran untouched for a score - and was replaced by Reggie Robertson in the second half.
At times, USC appeared to be amusing itself while trying to stay fresh for next week's meeting with the Bruins. Linebacker Frank Strong saw action at tailback, and third-string cornerback Eric Reese ran for a 16-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Backup quarterback Matt Cassel lined up at receiver and caught a pass, and he also made a tackle while playing on the kickoff coverage team before completing his first collegiate pass in the fourth quarter.
Only a few thousand fans - most wearing USC red - remained in the stands by the game's end.
USC 7 21 10 17-55
California 7 0 7 0-14
Cal-Boller 5 run (Jensen kick), 12:03.
USC-Howard 25 run (Davis kick), 2:04.
USC-Polamalu 58 interception return (Davis kick), 10:01.
USC-Howard 15 run (Davis kick), 3:39.
USC-Davis 3 run (Davis kick), 12:17.
Cal-Arnold 8 pass from Robertson (Jensen kick), 5:23.
USC-FG Davis 33, :31.
USC-FG Davis 26, 11:37.
USC-Reese 15 run (Davis kick), 5:45.
USC-Cousins 89 fumble return (Davis kick), :22.
USC Cal First downs 27 12 Rushes-yards 47-213 34-68 Passing 235 155 Comp-Att-Int 19-37-0 13-26-3 Return Yards 220 80 Punts-Avg. 4-31.0 9-39.2 Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-1 Penalties-Yards 4-45 10-89 Time of Possession 35:09 24:51
RUSHING-USC, Howard 8-61, Palmer 8-45, Reese 6-25, Kelly 2-23, Cassel 1-20, Byrd 9-19, Pierson 4-11, Strong 5-6, Davis 1-3, Dickerson 1-2, team 2-(minus 2). California, Williams 14-63, Fields 1-18, Ward 1-7, Sparks 1-(minus 1), Boller 10-(minus 5), Robertson 5-(minus 6), Holtfreter 2-(minus 8).
PASSING-USC, Palmer 19-37-0-235. California, Boller 6-15-2-92, Holtfreter 4-7-1-45, Robertson 3-3-0-18, Ward 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING-USC, Kelly 4-88, Pitts 4-32, Hale 3-61, Landrigan 2-10, Dickerson 2-9, Cassel 1-12, Colbert 1-11, Holmes 1-7, Fletcher 1-5. California, Arnold 4-36, Toler 3-36, Ward 2-62, Fields 2-12, Williams 1-5, Swafford 1-4.