Oct. 28, 2000
LOS ANGELES - USC won the statistical battle, but Cal's big plays spelled the difference as Cal churned out a 28-16 victory over the Trojans. It was Cal's third straight win over USC in Los Angeles and moved Cal to 3-5 on the season.
After scoring its final points of the game on an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jemeel Powell, the Bears held onto the ball for 10:44 of the last 11:41 of the game to keep USC from any chance at a score.
Early in the game, it didn't take long for Cal create some excitement, driving 80 yards on its first drive, taking just four plays to get into the end zone. A 17-yard run by Joe Igber on a third down draw play moved the ball to the Trojan 44-yard-line. On the next play, Boller lofted a perfectly placed ball down the middle of the field and Phillip Pipersburg caught it in full stride for the touchdown. In less than two minutes, Cal had a 7-0 lead.
The Trojans responded on their first drive by moving equally easily down the field, as quarterback Carson Palmer hit four straight passes after missing his first attempt. After four consecutive first downs got the ball to the Cal 19-yard-line, Palmer rolled right and hit fullback Chad Pierson in the end zone. James Smith blocked the extra point and Cal maintained a 7-6 lead with 10:10 left in the first quarter.
Late in the quarter, Trojan tailback Sultan McCullough broke loose on runs of 29 and 19 yards to move the ball to the Cal 11-yard-line. After three unproductive plays and an offensive interference penalty, David Bell came on to try a 42-yard field goal. However, the kick was low and hit the back of USC's line.
The Bears got a huge break early in the second quarter when Andre Carter and Tully Banta-Cain combined to sack Carson Palmer and the ball popped loose and rolled back toward the USC goal line. Daniel Nwangwu picked the ball up at the 11 and returned it to the Trojan 7-yard-line. Two plays later, Joseph Echema went in from one yard out to make it 14-6 with 11:35 left in the half.
The Trojans climbed back into the game with a long scoring drive. A 34-yard pass to flanker Matt Nickels moved SC to the Cal 27. After a sack, McCullough took a draw play and broke loose down the left sideline for the touchdown and the extra point made it 14-13 with 2:11 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Joseph Echema fumbled the ball and SC recovered at the Cal 28-yard-line. The Trojans couldn't get into the end zone, but John Wall did capitalize on the mistake when he came on to hit a 25-yard field goal to give SC its first lead of the game at 16-14 with just 0:32 left in the half.
Thanks to a 44-yard punt return by Jemeel Powell, Cal had good field position near midfield late in the third quarter. However, Cal couldn't capitalize and had to punt the ball away.
However, on the next series, the Bears did take advantage of a short field. After pinning SC deep in its own territory and a short punt, Cal's offense took over at the Trojan 30-yard-line. A 19-yard pass to Pipersburg converted a 3rd-and-11, and then on the next play, the Bears caught SC in a blitz and an inside screen pass to Derek Swafford went for a 12-yard touchdown with 0:19 left in the quarter. Cal elected to go for two and Boller rolled right and hit Geoff McArthur in the back of the end zone to make it 22-16 at the end of the third period.
When USC failed to move on its next possession, Powell made them pay. Taking a Mike MacGillivray punt as his own 17-yard-line, Powell broke loose up the middle of the field, made a cut at the Trojan 40 and went all the way for an 83-yard punt return for a TD. It was the fourth longest punt return in Cal history. Cal went for two points again in an attempt to lengthen the lead to two touchdowns. Still, it was 28-16 with 12:05 left in the game.
USC tried to go deep on its next offensive play, but Chidi Iwuoma picked off the pass and returned it 31 yards to the Trojan 36-yard-line. Cal used eight straight running plays to move the ball to the Trojan 12-yard-line, using up 4:41 off the clock. However, Mark Jensen missed a 28-yard field goal to give SC some life with 7:00 left in the game.
This time, Cal didn't allow a second straight late comeback. The Trojans tested Powell on their first offensive play and he responded with another Cal interception, this one at the Cal 41-yard-line. The Bears then ran another 3:58 off the clock, essentially ending any chance for a USC comeback.
NOTES: While Palmer was accurate throughout the game, he was under constant pressure from the Cal defense which produced seven sacks...Cal's Nick Harris had 272 yards on 7 punts and now has 12,797 in his career which puts him just 150 yards away from the NCAA record, currently held by Cameron Young of TCU, who punted for 12,947 yards from 1976-79. Originally, it was reported that he needed only 63 yards to break the record, but a recalculation of his punting figures means he will likely break the record next week at home in Memorial Stadium...reserve tailback Joseph Echema was assessed a personal foul and thrown out of the game on the final kickoff of the first half after he became entangled with a Trojan defender...Cal reserve linebacker Chris Ball did not make the trip to L.A. as he missed a Friday morning meeting in Berkeley and was taken off the travel roster as a disciplinary matter.