Big Defensive Effort Lifts Cal Over USC In Season Finale
BERKELEY – Trey Paster scored on a 55-yard fumble return in the second quarter, California's defense made a clutch stop near the goal line, and the Golden Bears held off Southern California 24-14 in the season finale for both teams.
Christopher Brooks added a pair of short scoring runs to help the Golden Bears (5-7, 4-5 Pac-12) to their first home win against the Trojans since 2003.
Jaxson Dart, making his third start for USC (4-8, 3-6) in place of injured quarterback Kedon Slovis, threw a 45-yard touchdown before being forced out with an injury in the third quarter.
It was USC's final game before new coach Lincoln Riley takes over next season.
The game - which came a day after the Pac-12 championship game - was originally scheduled for Nov. 13 but was postponed three weeks due to COVID concerns within the Bears program.
Cal's defense has been up and down all season but came through with enough big plays hand USC its fourth straight loss - the Trojans' longest skid since 2001.
Paster's long return came after Elijah Hicks jarred the ball loose from running back Darwin Barlow. Paster scooped up the ball on the run and raced down the sidelines to score as the Bears went up 17-7.
Trailing by 10, USC moved inside the red zone in the third quarter when Dart was shaken up after getting drilled by a pair of defenders scrambling toward the sideline. Dart lay face down momentarily before being helped to his feet and off the field.
Miller Moss, another true freshman, replaced Dart and completed his first throw but the Trojans were stopped on fourth down when tight end Erik Krommenhoek bobbled a direct snap at Cal's 3.
The Bears forced another turnover in the fourth quarter when Daniel Scott sacked Ross, jarring the ball free.
That set up Brown's second touchdown that extended the Bears lead to 17.