Click photo to enlarge
California Golden Bears' Kenny Lawler (4) reaches for a touchdown pass in front of USC Trojan's Kvon Keymour (13) in the second quarter of their game at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

BERKELEY -- For a brief instant Saturday, the Cal football team had momentum against USC, and it seemed coach Sonny Dykes might have a happy 44th birthday.

And then it was over.

The Trojans scored two touchdowns in a span of 39 seconds in the second quarter after Cal had pulled within seven points, and went on to rout the Bears 62-28, their 10th straight victory in the series.

USC, which has won four of five games since Ed Orgeron took over as interim coach, used three punt returns for touchdowns to forge a 41-14 halftime lead.

"We had momentum, we kind of got some confidence," Dykes said, "and our punt team killed us."

Nelson Agholor had two TD returns via the traditional route, racing 75 and 93 yards untouched to the end zone, and Josh Shaw converted a 14-yard return after a blocked punt.

The loss in their home finale in the Joe Roth Memorial Game sends the Bears (1-9, 0-7 Pac-12) to Colorado next week still hoping to halt three gruesome losing streaks: eight games overall dating to Sept. 7, 12 games to Pac-12 foes and 14 to Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.

It's been particularly one-sided against the Trojans. Cal hasn't even held a lead against USC since 2007 and has been outscored 150-20 in the first half of the past six meetings.


Advertisement

But the Bears' defensive woes have been a constant. They have allowed at least 30 points in every game and 447 through 10 games -- more than in any full season since they began playing football in 1882.

The Trojans (7-3, 4-2) knifed effortlessly through the Bears in the first quarter, forging a 21-0 lead on Agholor's first punt return, a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cody Kessler to running back Silas Redd, and Javorious Allen's 43-yard TD run.

Cal appeared lifeless.

But the Bears marched 81 yards for a score, capped by Jared Goff's 4-yard TD pass to Kenny Lawler with 12:47 left in the half. Then they used some trickery to get back in the game, if only briefly.

Running back Daniel Lasco lateraled back to Goff, who delivered a 24-yard flea-flicker pass to Darius Powe for a touchdown that made it 21-14 with 9:41 left.

"I promise you, there wasn't anybody on our sideline at that point that didn't think we were going to win," Dykes said. "That is a hard feeling to have when you are playing USC and you are 1-8."

"We always think we've got a chance," said Goff, who passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns, moving into second place on Cal's single-season passing yardage list. "At 21-14, of course we were in the game."

The good vibe didn't last.

The Trojans needed just five plays to cover 75 yards, with Kessler dumping a screen to Allen, who ran 57 yards into the end zone.

Then, exactly 39 seconds later, a missed blocking assignment allowed Soma Vainuku to block Cole Leininger's punt from deep in Cal territory. Shaw caught it in the air and virtually walked into the end zone for a 35-14 lead with 6:43 left.

"You can't let stuff like that discourage you," linebacker Michael Barton said, "but it definitely changes momentum."

The coaching staff wanted Leininger to kick the ball out of bounds the next time, but it stayed in play and Agholor took it 93 yards, pushing the margin to 41-14.

"There will be no excuses, none," said Mark Tommerdahl, Cal's special teams coordinator. "I've been doing this for a long time, and I don't need to put one person under the bus. This is my responsibility."

  • Cal finished winless at home against FBS competition (formerly Division I) for just the third time ever. It also happened in 1959 and 2001. The Bears' lone win this season was over Portland State, a Football Championship Subdivision team.

  • Goff moved past Nate Longshore (2006) into second on Cal's single-season list with 3,136 passing yards. With seven touchdown passes the past two weeks, he's pushed his season total to 17.

  • Lawler caught two more touchdown passes, giving him five the past two weeks. "I'm pretty confident with him down at the goal line," Goff said.

  • USC's Kessler was 14 of 17 for 170 yards and two TDs before leaving the game with more than 8 minutes left in the third quarter. Allen rushed six times for 135 yards and caught one pass for 57 yards, meaning he averaged more than 27 yards each time he touched the ball.

  • Because they are playing 13 regular-season games, the Trojans needed this seventh victory to become bowl eligible.

    For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.

    SATURDAY'S GAME
    Cal (1-9, 0-7 Pac-12) at Colorado (3-6, 0-6), 2:30 p.m. Pac-12 Networks

    online extra
    Scan this code with a smartphone to view a Cal photo gallery or go to http://photos.
    mercurynews.com.