No. 24 USC rallies for wild 50-49 win over California


Cal loses to USC after failed 2-point conversion

Javian Thomas scores to make it a 50-49 against USC, but Fernando Mendoza misses on the 2-point conversion and USC holds on to win.

BERKELEY, Calif. -- — Jaylin Smith deflected Fernando Mendoza’s pass in the end zone on a 2-point conversion try with 58 seconds remaining, and No. 24 Southern California ended a two-game losing streak with a 50-49 win over California on Saturday.

The Trojans (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) rallied after trailing by 11 at halftime. USC scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and went ahead 50-43 on Austin Jones’ 7-yard touchdown run with 3:33 remaining.

Mendoza then drove the Bears 79 yards in nine plays, connecting with Jaivian Thomas on a 13-yard swing pass on third-and-9. With no shot at the conference title, the Bears (3-5, 1-4) chose to go for the win rather than an extra point to tie.

Mendoza dropped back and scanned the field before lofting a throw toward wide receiver Brian Hightower near the back of the end zone. Smith leaped to knock the ball away and the Trojans celebrated.

“That was a wild one,” Trojans coach Lincoln Riley said. “I’m really, really proud of the group. They could have folded there in the fourth quarter. The last two weeks, things haven’t went our way. To step up here on the road and go find a way to get this sucker done was huge. There’s a lot to build on and there’s a lot that needs to improve.”

It was the biggest play by USC’s defense, which gave up 527 yards but forced four turnovers.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans, bouncing back from subpar performances in losses to ranked foes Utah and Notre Dame.

“I had a few mistakes in the Notre Dame game, dumb passes that I threw. Last week I had a 70 percent completion or something like that,” Williams said. “So I had one off day in the past three years.”

MarShawn Lloyd rushed for 115 yards and two TDs tp help USC beat Cal for the 17th time in 19 years.

USC’s offense looked much more crisp than it had during the two losses. Against the Trojans’ suspect defense, Cal’s offense was nearly as good.

Mendoza, a redshirt freshman, ran for two touchdowns and passed for another. Jaydn Ott matched his career high with three touchdowns and rushed for 153 yards in what could be the final game between the longtime rivals. USC is headed to the Big Ten next year while Cal is going to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Mendoza passed for 299 yards with an interception.

Both teams piled up more than 300 yards of offense during a wild first half.

Williams and the Trojans scored on their first three drives. USC converted two fourth downs on its opening possession, and Williams completed 10 of his first 12 pass attempts including a 6-yard touchdown to Austin Jones that pushed the Trojans’ lead to 17-7.

“It’s a very talented team we just competed with and had a number of chances to win and we didn’t do it,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s the turnovers. That’s the story.”


The first half appeared to end after a long completion from Williams to Lake McCree put USC at the Cal 16-yard line. Officials initially ruled that time had run out, and both teams left the field. After consulting during halftime, referees announced that 1 second still remained on the clock, and Wilcox reacted angrily. When both teams returned, Denis Lynch missed a 33-yard field-goal attempt.


The start of the game was delayed for several moments after a group of about 15 fans sat near midfield at Memorial Stadium in protest. According to a statement released by the Cal police department, the people were protesting the suspension of a professor. The fans sat back-to-back in the middle of the Cal logo. Police and security guards approached the group as players from both teams stood and watched. The fans were eventually placed in handcuffs and escorted away.


USC: The Trojans were staggering coming into the game and down at the half before rallying. Riley’s team remains in contention for the conference title.

“I believe this team can win this league. I know we can,” Riley said. “We have to go do it. This team’s good is definitely good enough to beat anybody.”

California: The Bears played maybe their most complete game of the year and still came up short. The defense held up in the first half but couldn’t sustain the momentum in the second half.


USC: Returns home to begin a three-game stretch against ranked teams, starting with No. 5 Washington on Nov. 4. After that, the Trojans play No. 8 Oregon and No. 23 UCLA.

California: Travels to face No. 8 Oregon on Nov. 4.


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