Saturday night’s kickoff led to an eyebrow-raising USC vs. Cal final score, in which the Trojans scored the most points on the Bears’ defense all season. They won 41-17.
The lowdown: Saturday night’s game started a bit differently for the Trojans. Captain Christian Rector won the toss for USC and promptly deferred to the second half for the first time all year. Minutes later, the senior defensive end was ejected from the game following a targeting call during the Golden Bears’ march to a game-opening touchdown.
But while Chase Garbers returned to action to lead Cal to a 7-0 start, the change in coin toss strategy paid off. The Trojans weathered the early setback to score 10-straight points on drives of 75 and 40 yards, before taking completely control around the half following another Garbers injury that brought on backup quarterback Devon Modster.
USC’s Kedon Slovis led two dominant scoring drives to bookend the half, in which he completed 10 of 11 passes for 142 yards, each capped off with touchdown passes. It gave Troy a 24-10 early third quarter lead that Cal’s 4.3 yards per play offense had virtually no chance of coming back from.
The Trojans would pour it on further in the second half, as the Bears proved to be lifeless under Modster. They finished the night with a 41-17 win to run their record to 7-4 (6-2).
The takeaway: USC saved their best performance of the year for game No. 11. The Trojans carved up one of the stingiest pass defenses in the Pac-12 to the tune of a four-touchdown, 406-yard night from Kedon Slovis, while completely nullifying a dismal Cal offense on the other side of the ball.
That’s exactly what good teams do: exploit good systems and take advantage of bad ones. It’s just exceedingly frustrating for the Trojans to wait until November to play a 60-minute game, long after already taking the shine off their season with four losses.
Player of the game: With his patience and poise, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis lit up another in-state rival on Saturday night. Through two games against California Pac-12 teams, he’s thrown for 783 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions, all with a ridiculous passer rating of 214.5. He’ll get to face one of the worst pass defenses in the country next week, when the crosstown UCLA Bruins come to the Coliseum.
Stat of the game: With 11 catches, wide receiver Michael Pittman moved into USC’s Top 10 list for single-season pass catchers, eclipsing Mike Williams’ 81-catch freshman season in 2002. Pittman has 82 catches for 1,118 yards on the season, to go with nine touchdowns.
Next on tap: The Trojans will wrap up the regular season with their annual showdown against arch-rival UCLA at the Coliseum next Saturday.