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Cal Football

Bears Lose Heartbreaking Shootout to USC, 50-49

October 28, 2023

On a day when Cal’s offense repeatedly lit up the scoreboard with several big plays, it was a failed two-point conversion try in the final minute of the game that ruined the Bears afternoon in a 50-49 loss to Pac-12 rival USC.

Four turnovers certainly didn’t help either, as Cal dropped its third consecutive game and fell to 3-5 overall, 1-4 in the Pac-12.

It was the 17th time in 19 years that the Bears wound up on the wrong side of things against the Trojans despite scoring their second-most points in the rivalry.

Afterward, Cal was left to lament over what could have been when they piled up 527 yards of offense.

“It’s a very talented team we just competed with and had a number of chances to win and we didn’t do it,” Bears head coach Justin Wilcox said. “The locker room’s disappointed.”

It was a wacky afternoon all around. The two teams combined for 31 points in the first quarter and 34 in the fourth.

The start of the game was delayed 10 minutes after a group of 15 people – 13 of them Cal students – rushed the field and staged a sit-in to protest the suspension of Ivonne del Valle, a Spanish and Portuguese professor, who was admonished by the university for allegedly stalking and harassing a professor from another school.

As if that wasn’t enough, the start of the second half was also delayed when officials corrected an earlier decision that let the clock run out in the second quarter. The change put one second back on the clock, allowing USC to attempt a field goal before the third quarter began although Trojans’ kicker Denis Lynch missed the kick.

Then came the final play of the game when Wilcox opted to try to go for the win rather than kicking a PAT and heading to overtime. Quarterback Fernando Mendoza’s swing pass to Jaivian Thomas with 58 seconds remaining pulled the Bears within 50-49. A kick would have tied the score and likely forced overtime. Instead, Cal went for the gusto and Mendoza’s two-point conversion pass was knocked away by USC safety Jaylin Smith.

“Ball’s on the 3-yard line, it’s under a minute to go, they’ve already had 18 drives … there’s a lot to consider,” Wilcox said of his decision. “I took all that in and it took a matter of seconds at the beginning of the drive. (The choice) became pretty clear to me.”

The loss ended what had been a solid game for the Bears offense.

Things for tougher for Cal in the aftermath. Running back Jaydn Ott, who rushed for 153 yards and matched his career-high of three touchdowns, was injured early in the fourth quarter and didn’t return. His status is unknown, and Wilcox is hopeful of an update later in the week.

Ott provided big play after big play against USC, so any lengthy absence of him from the Cal offense could be crucial. The Bears’ sophomore scored on runs of 43, 61 and 4 yards. Ott was barely touched on his two long runs, sending the Memorial Stadium crowd of 43,716 into a frenzy.

Despite his two turnovers, Mendoza also seemed comfortable most of the afternoon.

Making his third consecutive start (all against ranked teams), Mendoza completed 25 of 39 attempts for 292 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt fresman was also intercepted once and lost a fumble.

“Just being quite honest, there’s praise but I (lost) the game with two turnovers,” Mendoza said. “My decision-making wasn’t up to par.”

Cal’s other turnovers came off fumbles, plays that prevented the Bears from extending the Trojans’ losing streak.

It’s the second time this season that Cal came up short against a superior team. The Bears lost 14-10 to Auburn earlier in the year.

“Coming in they had our ultimate respect,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “The Washington game for them was kind of fluky. There’s some separation early in that game then they battled the rest of the way. They’ve had a chance to win every other game. Justin’s done a good job. We knew it’d be a challenge coming in, and if we didn’t play clean we knew it would be a dogfight. It certainly was.”

The praise was of little condolence to the Bears, who travel to play No. 8 Oregon on Nov. 4.

“No matter what the point lead is, what happens, at the end of the day if you win you feel great, if you lose you don’t feel so great,” Mendoza said. “I would say we should have had them but it’s exhausting every week to say, `We could have had them, should have got them.’^”



Discussion from...

Bears Lose Heartbreaking Shootout to USC, 50-49

2,796 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by LarsBear74
Big C
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Because a win would've been so glorious, and because we came so close, this loss is devastating... heartbreaking.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Been following Bears for 49 years and we always seem to find new ways to lose. UFB
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Yes, heartbreaking like SO MANY others over my lifetime.
How long do you want to ignore this user?
I go back 55 years, to 1968. Yet another loss when we had a good shot. Yep, UDB this keeps happening.
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