Sept. 27, 1997
Cal Comes Up Short in 27-17 Loss to USC
BERKELEY, Calif. -- The California Golden Bears suffered their first loss of the season, falling to the USC Trojans, 27-17 Saturday afternoon in front of 54,000 fans at Memorial Stadium. Despite a furious comeback that saw Cal close a 27-3 halftime deficit to 27-17 late in the fourth quarter, USC's first half lead proved lead proved to be insurmountable and the Bears came short in their comeback bid despite holding the Trojans scoreless in the second half.
Offensively, Cal struggled most of the game to get untracked, rushing for a total of only 41 yards on 33 carries. However, the Bears did move the ball through the air with Justin Vedder completing 18-of-34 passing attempts for 265 yards. Vedder's favorite target, Bobby Shaw, just missed breaking Wesley Walker's career record for 100-yard receiving games with 5 catches for 98 yards.
Things went bad right from the start as Vedder was intercepted at Bears 26 yard line on Cal's second offensive play from scrimmage. USC immediately capitalized on the turnover, taking a 7-0 lead on a one-yard plunge by tailback LaVale Woods two plays later.
With 2:55 remaining in the first quarter, a 33-yard pass from USC quarterback John Fox to R. Jay Soward gave the Trojans a 14-0 lead.
Disaster struck again on Cal's ensuing possession. Tarik Smith took a Vedder screen pass and appeared to be headed for a big gain when he was stripped from behind. USC recovered the fumble at the Cal 27 yard line and had an early chance to take complete control of the game. But the Cal defense held it's ground, turning the Trojans away on a fourth and two from the Cal 19.
Taking over at its own 20, Cal drove 75 yards in 6 plays and cut the deficit to 14-3 on an Ignacio Brache 26-yard field goal. Vedder and Shaw hooked-up for a 44-yard catch an run that got Cal to the SC 11 and a fake field goal pass from Shaw to Marc Vera put the ball on the Trojan one. But Cal couldn't push the ball in with three attempts and hadd to settle for a field goal from Ignacio Brache.
On USC's next possession, the Trojans went 65 yards in just 0:57 seconds with Fox and Soward connecting for their second touchdown of the afternoon on a 65-yard pass. The point after was missed but SC had built its lead to 20-3 with 7:30 remaining in the first half.
After SC stuffed Cal's offense on the next three plays, the Trojans put together their most impressive drive of the half. They went 78 yards on 10 plays and Woods capped the march with a three yard touch down run. That extended the Trojans lead to 27-3 with 1:06 remaining in the second quarter .
The Cal defense would play the starring role in the second half, shutting down the USC offense and setting up a score.
On USC's first possession of the second half, John McLaughlin blocked a Jim Wren punt and set the Bears up with a 1st-and-10 at the SC 25. Two plays later Cal trimmed the Trojan lead to 27-9 when Vedder connected with Shaw for a 27 yard touchdown pass. Vedder and Shaw got together again on the ensuing two point conversion and the USC lead stood at 27-11 with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Neither team mount a threat offensively until late in the fourth quarter. Starting at their own 3 yard line, the Bears drove 97 yards in 1:03 and closed the USC margin to 27-17 when Vedder found Dameane Douglas in the left corner of the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 3:53 left in the game. The Bears looked like they had closed to within a touchdown and a conversion when Vedder hit Shaw for a 2-point conversion, but the score was nullified by an illegal formation and the longer conversion attempt failed.
But it wouldn't be enough. USC recovered Cal's on side kick attempt and though Cal got one last possession, the Bears were unable to move into position to put any more points on the board and the game ended with the Bears suffering their first defeat of the season, 27-17.
Neither offense had impressive numbers as both failed to hit the 400-yard mark of total offense. USC did get its rushing attack back on track as new starting tailback LaVale Woods managed 129 yards on 32 carries. However, the Trojans only netted 123 yards as a team.
Cal now travels to Louisiana Tech for its final non-conference game of the season next Saturday night while USC hosts Nevada-Las Vegas in the L.A. Coliseum.