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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

USC Edges Out Cal, 38-30

The Trojans held on to beat the Cal Bears behind a career day by junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor. 

The USC football team (7-3, 6-2) continued its season-long streak of letting early leads slip away in the final quarter, but held on to outlast California (5-5) 38-30 behind a career day by junior wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

From the early-going, the duo of redshirt quarterback Cody Kessler and Agholor became a common fixture for the Trojans. Kickstarting the game's opening drive with an 11-yd hook-up, the tandem led the way for the Cardinal and Gold, as they put together a 14 play, 85-yd drive that was capped off by a 10-yd touchdown catch by Agholor.

A quick three-and-out by the Golden Bears brought Kessler back onto the field to pick right back up where he finished the previous drive. The Bakersfield, California native found his favorite target Agholor on the first three plays to move the ball deep into Cal territory before unleashing a spectacular throw down the middle that was corralled by a diving redshirt junior wide receiver George Farmer for the 32-yd touchdown.

Another brief offensive series by Cal concluded with a 50-yd punt by quarterback Jared Goff that was downed inside the USC one yard line. Searching for a way to claw back into the game, the Golden Bear defense displayed life and swarmed sophomore running back Justin Davis in the endzone for a safety to pull the score to 14-2.

Late in the first quarter with the Trojans' offense set up with good field position after a Cal penalty, the arial attack remained the driving force of USC's attack. Once again, Agholor came down with a 32-yd reception that pushed the ball into the Golden Bear's redzone after a roughing the passer penalty. A few plays later, Davis took the handoff and plowed through the line for the score with a 3-yd run to bring the score to 21-2. 

In the middle of the 2nd quarter, the USC defense forced a fumble on the Cal 17 that Kevon Seymour recovered. Two plays later Kessler hit Agholor for a 9-yd score to bring the game to 28-2. 

The Trojans forced a Cal punt, and made their way down the field getting to the Cal 2-yd line on 4th and goal. A 5-yd penalty forced the Trojans to go for the field goal. Heidari made the 25-yarder increasing the lead to 31-2. 

Cal put offensive points on the board at the end of the half as they made their way down the field. Jared Goff threw the 6-yd touchdown pass to Chris Harper with a score of 31 to 9 to end the half. 

Cal put points on the board first in the second half with Daniel Lasco scoring the 5-yd running touchdown to make it a two-score game of 31 to 16.

The Trojans failed to score in the 3rd quarter, but scored on the opening drive of the 4th. Kessler had a 16-yd toss to senior tight end Randall Telfer to expand the lead to 38 to 16.

The Cal Bears struck back, marching down the field from their own 28. Goff hit Treggs with the 5-yd touchdown pass bringing the score to 38 to 23. The Bears continued on their momentum and made things more interesting as Goff threw the 29-yd touchdown pass to Stephen Anderson narrowing the Trojan lead to 38 to 30. 

Darreus Rogers recovered an on-side kick by the Bears as the Trojans ran out the clock to hold on and get their 7th win of the season. 

The Trojans look ahead to the battle of Los Angeles as they take on crosstown rival UCLA on Saturday, November 22nd at the Rose Bowl. 

Final Stats: 


Cody Kessler 31/42, 371 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT

Nelson Agholor 16 receptions, 216 yards, 2 TD 


Jared Goff 29/47, 279 yards, 3 TD 

Daniel Lasco 93 yards, 1 TD

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