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Bears Lose Down to the Wire Battle, Fall to USC 41-35

November 5, 2022
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LOS ANGELES, CA - 64,916 Los Angeles Coliseum chilly fans saw a far more competitive game than many were undoubtedly expecting but in the end, the results in the win-loss column were as expected with a 41-35 USC win on Saturday night that went right down to the final seconds. 9th-ranked USC ran their record to 8-1/6-1 after the victory.

A game that started competitively in the first half had all the hallmarks of a floodgates-opening blowout in the making when the Bears’ stumbled late in the first half again, going down 20-6 at the break with just 36 yards on the ground (3 ypc) and 143 yards through the air but there was no quit in the 3-6 (1-5) Bears.

The game got off to a solid start for the Bears after forcing USC into a rare first of two first-quarter punts on their opening drive. Coming into the game, the Trojans had punted just slightly over 2 punts per game. Overall, the Bears would force 5 punts from the Trojans. 

On the following possession, they put together an impressive quick-hitting TD drive, going 76 yards in just four plays on the strength of a 22-yard Jadyn Ott run and a 30-yard Jack Plummer completion to receiver Jeremiah Hunter, with the drive capped off by a bobbing and weaving 8-yard TD run by Ott to draw first blood with a 7-0 lead after the Dario Longhetto conversion with 10:36 left in the quarter.

USC answered on the next possession, putting together a 10-play, 72-yard drive punctuated a 1-yard Caleb Williams QB sneak to narrow the Bears’ lead to 7-6 after the PAT attempt was blocked with 5:58 remaining in the quarter.

After the teams traded possessions ending in punts, the Bears carried their lead into the second quarter before the Trojans struck again, going 58 yards in 7 plays in 2:26. On the drive, the Bears had USC at 4th-and-5 at the Trojans’ 32 but Williams eluded the rush as he did effectively all night, hitting receiver Terrell Bynum for 20 yards and a first down. On the next play, running back Travis Dye took it in on a 12-yard scamper to push the USC lead to 13-7 with 11:44 left in the half.

The Bears had a chance to take the lead late in the half, driving to the USC 23. Facing 4th-and-1, Plummer rolled left and misfired under pressure, throwing it behind Hunter for the turnover on downs.

After stopping USC in their next possession and forcing another punt, it looked like the Bears would avoid their late first-half struggles they’ve experienced much of the season but disaster struck once again. After starting their possession on the USC 30 following the punt, Plummer promptly turned the ball over on the first play of the drive, trying to force an ill-advised pass to Hunter that was intercepted by DB Calen Bullock at the USC 38 with 1:12 left in the half.

It was more than enough time to make the Bears pay as the Trojans hit paydirt in just three plays on a 4-yard Dye run followed by a 39-yard Williams pass corralled by receiver Tajh Washington down the sideline. The Trojans wasted no time from there with Williams hitting receiver Michael Jackson III with an easy 8-yard TD pass in the flat to take a commanding 20-7 lead into the locker room. 

Instead of kicking a relatively easy field goal their prior possession and going into the locker room down a manageable 13-10 deficit, or better yet a lead if they converted on their 4th-and-short play and score, the Bears dug themselves a hole they never recovered from with poor clock management and execution before the half.

When the Trojans took their next possession to the house, the game looked to be all but over for the Bears. The Trojans struck quickly, when several defenders whiffed on their tackle attempts and Jackson broke free for the 59-yard TD to push the score to 27-7 just four minutes into the second half. After the Bears’ opening touchdown, they gave up 27 straight points to the Trojans - an all but insurmountable hill to climb.

But the Bears weren’t ready to roll over and hibernate quite yet, stringing together a quick TD drive of their own. Most of the damage was done on a 58-yard strike from Plummer to Hunter. Four plays later, Plummer hit receiver Monroe Young with a 2-yard TD pass with 7:27 left in the third quarter, Young’s second TD of the season. The score brought the deficit to 13, 27-14. 

“If you’re a competitor, and I think we’ve got a team full of competitors, you’re never looking at a situation and saying, ‘Oh, shoot, the game’s over,’” said Plummer of the Bears comeback efforts. “We were moving the ball pretty well at times, we just weren’t putting points on the board. So I think we knew that we could do it. And then once we started (coming back), I think we just got into a rhythm and then we kept flowing and were feeling good, and hoping to get the ball back one more time.”

The Bears’ QB put together probably the best game of his Cal career, going 35-for-49 (71%) for 406 yards and 3 TDs with 1 interception in the loss.

After forcing a USC punt the next possession, the Bears had a chance to further narrow the lead but couldn’t get past midfield before punting. The Trojans took advantage with another quick-strike TD, going 86 yards in under four minutes as Washington scored his second TD on an 8-yard toss from Williams to again extend the lead to 20 points with 1:44 left in the third quarter, 34-14.

That’s where the game got interesting.

Pinned back at their 8 after a muffed Ashton Hayes kick return and recovery, the Bears went on a 92-yard drive. After advancing the ball to midfield on the drive, Plummer hit a wide-open Mavin Anderson in broken coverage for a 47-yard TD pass to narrow the lead to 13 again after the PAT, 34-21 with 12:53 remaining.

The Bears next executed a perfectly-played onside kick, with kicker Michael Luckhurst’s kick eluding the grasp of USC and recovered by safety Hunter Barth at the Cal 48 and the Bears were in business again.

Capitalizing on the gutsy play, the Bears went on the move again. Following two plays that netted no yards, Anderson made a beautiful snag of a Plummer pass in traffic for 24 yards, moving the ball to the USC 28. After continuing to move the ball, Plummer hit Hunter (6 catches for 102 yards) in the back of the end zone for the score. After the blocked PAT, the Bears trailed by just 7, 34-27 with 9 minutes remaining.

With the game within reach and plenty of time on the clock, the Bears’ defense needed a stop in a big way. They didn’t get one, giving up several big yardage plays, including Williams’ completions for 29 and 19 yards to Jackson on the first two plays of the drive and a 16-yarder to Bynum, setting up the 2-yard TD pass to tight end Lake McCree to push the USC lead to 41-27 with 5:41 left. 

But the Bear would not quit and the Bear would not die as the Bears went back on the move. Taking over at their 15 with 5:25 left, Plummer drove the Bears the length of the field again, hitting Ott with a short pass that the shifty back took for a 21-yard gain with the run-after-catch to start things off. Plummer then completed passes of 14 to J.Michael Sturdivant and 18 and 16 yards to Young, who had the best game of his career with 5 catches for 66 yards and a TD plus a conversion.

After a completion to Ott, who had his most productive receiving day of his career with 7 catches for 70 yards along with 50 yards on the ground, the frosh running back took a handoff up the middle for his second score of the game, bringing the Bears within 8. The Bears opted to go for two and the bet paid off as Plummer hit Young in the end zone for the two-point conversion to narrow the lead to 41-35 with 2:31 remaining.

The Bears would need either some more onside kick magic on the ensuing play or some stellar defense to get one last chance to get the ball back but the Trojans recovered the kick and salted the game away with a Wiliams keeper for 15 when faced with 3rd-and-5. With no timeouts remaining, the Trojans took a knee as the Bears’ hopes were dashed as the clock ticked down to :00.

Again, the Bears struggled to get opponents to the ground efficiently and it haunted them in the end, particularly the elusive Williams.

“When you play very talented players, they are harder to get on the ground at times, and we have to do a better job,” said Wilcox. “We had some opportunities. They have some very elusive guys at running back and receiver, and the quarterback is a unique, unique talent. He is a strong, athletic guy, who can throw the ball. I mean he is a very unique talent. We had a hard time getting him on the ground.”

The Bears were led on defense by safety Craig Woodson with 11 tackles, including an impressive 10 solo tackles and some big shots to the Trojans’ offense.

The Bears’ beleaguered offensive line was down an unworldly 4 of 5 starters for much of the game but they acquitted themselves well, giving Plummer time to throw for over 400 yards and giving up 3 just sacks on the day.

“I actually thought they played really well, especially for some guys that had little to no college football experience,” noted Plummer. “We had a decent game plan going in and we just have to get the ball out a little quicker and help those guys out in a couple different ways. I thought they stepped up and the moment wasn’t too big for them and they played pretty well.”

The Bears will have to shake off the disappointing loss and run the table in their last three games to make the postseason - not an easy task with #23 Oregon State and #12 UCLA  among two of the final three games. 

“I mean, you definitely like to focus on the positives,” said Scott when asked about their takeaways from the game. “We had a lot of positives out there. At the end of the day, when we come in on Monday, we have to look at all the things we need to correct and come back. At the end of the day we just need to win the game.

“We competed hard today. We battled towards the end, but we just didn’t find a way to win and that’s what needs to be done going into the next week.”

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Discussion from...

Bears Lose Down to the Wire Battle, Fall to USC 41-35

2,249 Views | 8 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by dmh65
KoreAmBear
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Here are some highlights:

Rushinbear
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Notice the passes over the middle. Growls can take full credit for those .
touchdownbears43
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Did anyone ask why Ott isn't playing more? It's stubborn coaches thinking their system is better than any one player.
oski003
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touchdownbears43 said:

Did anyone ask why Ott isn't playing more? It's stubborn coaches thinking their system is better than any one player.


Other running backs are better at picking up tough yards when the holes aren't there. Ott is incredible when he has space.
Bobodeluxe
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oski003 said:

touchdownbears43 said:

Did anyone ask why Ott isn't playing more? It's stubborn coaches thinking their system is better than any one player.


Other running backs are better at picking up tough yards when the holes aren't there. Ott is incredible when he has space.
You might also recognize that all scholarship running backs may transfer if they wish.
RoseBowlBear
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I am proud of this team after last night. Being short heanded in the secondary likely was the difference but we figured some things out on offense. I feel like we can take this momentum and make it interesting. An upset of the beavs is not impossible at all if we move the ball like that. One game at a time but I can see us being 5-6 heading into a virtual bowl game against UCLA
72CalBear
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RoseBowlBear said:

I am proud of this team after last night. Being short heanded in the secondary likely was the difference but we figured some things out on offense. I feel like we can take this momentum and make it interesting. An upset of the beavs is not impossible at all if we move the ball like that. One game at a time but I can see us being 5-6 heading into a virtual bowl game against UCLA
I'm with you. These Bears battled. Aren't going to forget.
dmh65
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Hopefully better days are ahead..
Things could be worse:
https://www.idahostatejournal.com/sports/were-not-a-very-good-football-program-isu-drops-43-3-decision-to-uc-davis/article_b472f174-5d85-11ed-8d88-37cbc99b3399.html
(You may recognize the coach… who is trying the tough honesty route..)
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