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Cal Football

Bears Take Care of Trojans in Season Finale, 24-14

December 4, 2021

Cal watched USC spend most of Saturday night piling up yards at Memorial Stadium. But whether it was the Bears’ defensive effort or the Trojans’ own mistakes, USC failed when it got close to the goal line. And that was the key to Cal’s 24-14 victory.

“Those were the type of plays needed by the defense,” head coach Justin Wilcox said. “Hats off to the defenders and the coaches for putting them in position to do that.”

Finishing with a 5-7 record (4-5 Pac-12), the Bears can only look back at the Arizona game which they lost with a makeshift roster made necessary by COVID restrictions. A win in that game, which would have been a likely outcome with a complete roster, and Cal is bowl eligible.

Now the Bears have a whole winter to mull what might have been, especially given the fact that most of the losses were by less than a touchdown.

“The one thing that was apparent was that the guys in the locker room, the guys on the practice field, the guys in the meeting room, they didn’t flinch,” Wilcox said. “They drove on, tried to do what we were asking them to do. That’s why we love these guys so much. It was is for their effort and their intent.

“And it showed up. We came out of the bye week and started playing much better. Put together a couple of good games back to back. Then unfortunately had the interruption with COVID. Nobody saw that coming. Those things are out of our control. Then we gathered everybody back up and finished the season. I am proud of who these guys are as people.”

The Bears led for virtually the entire game, but USC was continually poised to get back into it. But the Bears had answers virtually every time until a meaningless Trojan touchdown late in the game with the outcome decided.

© John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
McKyle So’oto recovers a fumble

The Bears had a 17-7 lead at halftime and spent virtually the entire third quarter watching SC move the ball and not score. 

Cal had just one first down in the period.

The Bears' offense finally woke up again and put together a scoring drive in the fourth quarter that put the game away.

The Trojans had a huge statistical edge, outgaining the Bears 409 yards to 265 and picking up 25 first downs to the Bears’ 13. 

In what could have been his final game as Bear, Cal quarterback Chase Garbers attempted just 21 passes, completing 18 for a modest 177 yards.

“It definitely means a lot to end the season with a victory, especially against a team like USC, a rival to Cal. A rival for a lot of guys on this team coming from SoCal,” Garbers said. “I think the way this whole season has gone, it just shows how big of a family we are. We put that on display tonight. We had some ups and downs but in the end, we came out on top......I am blessed and honored to be a part of it.”

USC lost its starting quarterback, Jaxson Dart, who was knocked out late in the third quarter. He was replaced by Miller Moss, another freshman.

Following the game, Cal players lingered on the field to relish the victory and mingled with some of the fans who were willing to come out for an 8 p.m kickoff.  

“When we came out to the practice field on Monday, and watched how the guys responded from the difficult week last week, I knew, we all knew they were going to come out and play hard,” Wilcox said. “I said it all week, they care about their team, they care about their teammates, they care about their performance. That was evident in how they competed tonight. Nobody flinched the entire week. 

“SC is a very talented team. We knew that and they showed it tonight, Our guys came out and played extremely hard. I couldn’t be more proud of the entire team, especially the veteran guys who played their last game here at Memorial,”

USC’s only score of the first half was a 45-yard pass from Dart to Kyle Ford. The USC receiver was covered but Marqez Bimage whiffed on his interception attempt and Ford raced to the goal line.

USC missed two first-half field goal attempts and lost a fumble that became a Cal touchdown.

The pattern for the game was set early. USC took the opening kickoff and drove the Cal 34, but could get no farther and Parker Lewis missed the 51-yard field goal attempt.

Cal also looked sharp on its first drive. The Bears moved down the field from their 34 to the SC 8. Garbers kept that drive alive with a 9-yard pass to Trevon Clark on 4th-and-2.

Garbers also had a 17-yard completion to Nikko Remigio and a 9-yard run himself.

But ultimately were forced to settle for a Dario Longhetto field goal try. He missed the first one, but USC was offside and given the reprieve and a 5-yard advance, he hit from 22 yards out.

SC would take a 7-3 lead on the Ford touchdown reception, but on the next drive, the Bears went all the way from their 21.

© John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Trey Paster (27) returns a fumble for a touchdown

Marcel Dancy had a crucial run, seemingly trapped in his backfield on 3rd-and-1 from the Cal 30, he spun away from a would-be tackler and sprinted for a 14-yard gain. The biggest play of the drive was an improvised 39-yard pass from Garbers to Tonges. Brooks scored the TD from the 1.

USC was five plays into its next drive, when Hicks knocked the ball loose from Darwin Barlow. Cal’s Trey Paster scooped up the ball and ran untouched 45 yards for the Bears’ second touchdown.


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