It has been 15 long years.
The last time Cal beat USC, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Leinert were the starting quarterbacks in 2003 and the Trojans hadn’t lost to the Bears at the Coliseum since 2000.
The Golden Bears scored 15 unanswered points en route to a 15-14 victory over USC and ending a 14-game losing streak to the Trojans Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, former USC defensive coordinator, said the streak and all that, they don’t really talk about it.
“I didn’t even know about it until somebody brought it up this week,” Wilcox said. “We’re not playing the streak. These guys are competing and playing for each other.”
Despite leading Cal in a majority of statistical categories, USC was shut out in the second half and relinquished a 14-point lead.
USC (5-5, 4-4) suffered its third loss in four games and were eliminated from the Pac-12 South race. The Trojans need a win in their final two games to be bowl eligible.
“I’m sorry for the 5-5 season right now,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “I’ve seen programs across the country have a Rose Bowl, a Pac-12 championship, and then have an off season, and then come right back. Matter of fact, we’re going to compete against one of them [Notre Dame] in about two weeks. Sometimes you have a season that it just doesn’t go your way, but I believe in this coaching staff, I believe in the leadership, I believe in our players most of all.”
In the battle of freshman quarterbacks, J.T. Daniels outperformed his counterpart but Chase Garbers made the plays that mattered for Cal.
Daniels threw a pair of touchdowns to Tyler Vaughns in the first half but was held to just 33 yards in the second half and threw a costly interception.
A bad shotgun snap by center Toa Lobendahn flew over Daniels head before he could recover it in the end zone, giving Cal a safety early in the third quarter.
“A center is going to have a bad snap every now and then,” Daniels said. “Toa would give his life for me. He’s my best friend, he’s a captain and I trust him with my life too. It’s one bad snap.”
On the ensuing drive after the safety, Garbers hit Vic Wharton III for a 29-yard touchdown. Garbers ran for another score with 6:13 left in the third quarter to take a 15-14 lead.
“I’m not going to get over emotional and say the ship is sinking,” Helton said. “For us right now, we’re making too many mistakes across the board. Obviously a tough loss for our team overall. Like I told them it wasn’t one person who lost the game; it was a collective effort. We win together, we lose together.”
Next up for USC is the crosstown showdown at the Rose Bowl with rival UCLA on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
“There’s not going to be falloff from me at this stage,” USC linebacker Cam Smith said. “Two games to look forward to and that’s the last for a lot of us. Every game is important and we’re just going out there and we gotta have a great week of practice and look forward for UCLA.”