Bowl eligibility for the Cal football team will have to wait for another day.
The Golden Bears were no match for USC when it mattered Thursday night, losing 38-30 in front of 64,615 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a nationwide ESPN audience.
Cal was hoping for a sixth win and the chance to play in the postseason for the first time in three years. Instead, the Trojans prevailed for the 11th straight time – matching their longest win streak in the century-old series.
The Bears trailed 31-2 late in the first half before making things briefly interesting late. Jared Goff’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 29-yarder to Stephen Anderson with 1:36 left, got Cal within eight points.
USC averted further drama by recovering Cal’s onside kick try. The Trojans then ran out the clock.
“It’s discouraging because we lost,” Goff said. “We played well at times and probably worse at more times.
“If you’re going to beat a team like USC, or any good team in this conference, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot,” he said of the Bears’ poor start. ”It put us too far behind.”
Nothing worked for Cal early in this one. Not only was the Bears’ beleaguered defense once more taken apart, but their high-scoring offense was stifled by the Trojans.
Goff was hounded much of the night and running back Daniel Lasco often found nowhere to run. Goff finished with 279 passing yards, but had just 96 at halftime. Lasco ran for 53 of his 86 yards after halftime when the Trojans were content to protect a lead.
“It shows that we’re still not there,” Lasco said.
The Bears (5-5, 3-5 Pac-12) have two more chances to secure bowl eligibility, beginning a week from Saturday against a Stanford team that beat them 63-13 a year ago. Cal closes its season a week after that with a home game against BYU.