3:13 PT: This is Jason in scenic Mill Valley, California. Ken Crawford is in the belly of the beast, at the Los Angeles Coliseum, for today’s game. We’ll both be reporting live here when the game begins. Feel free to chat in the comments. And Philip Michaels will join us from Alameda.
3:15 PT: Ken reports that “the field is nice and dry, as well as very shortly cut. I think that’s good for the Bears.”
4:21 PT: Ken reports that USC’s fans are cheering the scoreboard, namely Penn State’s loss and the Alabama-LSU game going into overtime. Ken: “This is why I’m not completely convinced that USC won’t overlook this game.”
4:36 PT: Uni watch: Ken reports that the Bears are wearing their white shirts and blue pants.
5:07 PT: And we’re on the air on ABC, in highly-defined splendor. “This isn’t gonna go well,” my wife says. The opening announcer talks about how few of these Cal-USC meetings have been as important as today’s. Which I guess is true, unless you consider three of the last five meetings… Ken: “The L.A. Coliseum is one LOUD stadium.”
5:14 PT: Ken: “The Bears didn’t waste any time having an important 3rd down.” And Best falls down. Maybe not the time for trickery. Ken: “And didn’t waste any time botching it… bad snap by Mack, odd.” Phil chimes in: “I consider it a moral victory that I turned on the TV and Cal is not yet behind. Just in time to see that hideous play call on third and short.” Ken: “And while we’re the topic, have I ever mentioned I HATE the direct snap?”
5:18 PT: Trojans offense making it look easy as they drive into the red zone. Ken: “Right now the Bears are getting outrun and outhustled.”
5:19 PT: Nice defense in the end zone by Hagan. On comes… Buehler? Buehler? Ben Stein says it’s good. USC 3, Cal 0. Phil: “Just defend, Darien, don’t talk.” Ken: “Bears dodged a bullet there forcing the FG attempt.” The defense definitely stiffened at the end there.
5:23 PT: Kickoff out of the back of the end zone. Ken: “Could we buy like 5 yards of USC’s kicker’s leg? He doesn’t need it.” Hey, Kenny Norton is on the sideline. Phil: “I am always sad when they cut to Ken Norton Jr. on the sideline, and he’s not wearing his cowboy hat.”
5:26 PT: Ken: “Looks like the Bears are going to have to, you know, actually throw the ball down the field.” Nice pass there to Boateng. Yeah, the run isn’t working so well so far.
5:27 PT: Longshore trips and falls. That’s the dexterity we’ve come to expect from Longshore. And then he calls a timeout. Phil: “Longshore is vying to be the first Cal QB to start in three USC games and look progressively worse in each one.”
5:29 PT: We’ve broken away for a Taco Bell score update. Phil: “Having eaten at a Taco Bell today, I’ve been having Taco Bell updates all afternoon. If you get my meaning.” Did I mention that I am fortunate that Phil is in Alameda and I am in Mill Valley?
5:30 PT: Oh, yes, USC Band, keep playing that song. I want them to cut over there and show a guy pushing a button on an iPod. There really is no USC band, is there? Phil: “Not true. I dated a girl in the USC band. Or more to the point, went out on one date with the girl in the USC band. (They do not like it when you make fun of their playlist.)” I would only be impressed if you dated a song girl, Phil.
5:32 PT: Cal has to punt after an incompletion on third down. Ken: “The receiver needs to keep coming back to that ball. Then it’s a first down.”
5:32 PT: I find I am strangely not nervous about this game. That’s probably because I feel like Cal’s playing with the house’s money here. I don’t expect them to win, so if they play well, that’s a bonus. Now if they keep it close I will get nervous later on.
5:35 PT: Big 27-yard run on 2nd and 16. Yeah, that’s not good, Cal defense. Phil: “Apparently, the game plan is to have USC exhaust itself.” Ken: “Those are the moments that the defense needs to convert. They had 2nd and 16 on a penalty and needed to force a punt.”
5:38 PT:It’s actually hard to believe that Cal once beat USC. Long ago. In 2003. In a game that was replayed on ESPN Classic last night. Visualize.
5:39 PT (1:31 1st Quarter): Hey! Squad hit! USC has to punt. Wouldja look at that. Ken: “Luckily the Trojans game the Bears a rain-check with that false start and the Bears were able to force the punt. Interesting to see the D-Line go ‘narrow’ and that seemed to confuse the USC O-Line.”
5:42 PT: Ross drops a pass from Longshore for an easy first down. This is how good USC is: every drop feels like you’re letting the game slip away. But Best gets a first down on an 11-yard completion to Best while Longshore is running to his right. Best fights for the first – well done.
5:44 PT: And the first quarter ends with a 21-yard completion to Morrah to get Cal into USC territory! Ken: “The Bears need to throw the ball A LOT. USC is geared towards stuffing the run. They need to force them to be more balanced.” Phil: “1st qtr summary: kept it close, mantained dignity.” And that’s… one to grow on. USC 3, Cal 0.
5:47 PT: And we’re back for the second quarter. Impressive Boateng reception, hit so hard that his helmet came off (though he wears it loose, I believe) but holding on to the ball. Phil: “Cal players must lead the league in lost helmets. Use the straps. I invented them for a reason.”
5:49 PT: Longshore chased, should just throw it away, tries to complete a meaningless pass, and has it picked off. He is saved only by a stupid roughing the passer penalty against USC. Phil: “hooray negated turnovers! Ticky-tack, but I’ll take it.” Terrible judgment by Longshore, though. A clear force, as are many of his interceptions.
5:51 PT (2nd Q, 12:59): Ken: “USC fans are irate. But that was definitely roughing the passer. That was the right call. It’s one thing to continue with your momentum after the throw. It’s another thing to shove after the ball is released. That’s going to get called every time. Now, the interception… ugly.”
5:54 PT (2nd Q, 12:15): Phil: “not sure I agree with the idea that you call a timeout to yell at a guy.” Yeah, I think Pete Carroll’s anger got the best of him there. And the push on Longshore was while the ball was in the air. Then again, maybe he’s just trying to set up the officials for some sympathy later.
5:55 PT: Illegal snap. Ken: “OK, that’s twice I’ve heard that penalty. What does that mean, he moved the ball but didn’t snap it.”
5:56 PT: Longshore makes a terrible, terrible pass — just a Three Flies Up jump ball. Intercepted by USC. What in the world is he doing? And yet again, USC blows a turnover via a pass interference penalty. And a dumb one — the pick would have happened anyway. Ken: “THAT’S TWICE!” Phil: “hooray negated turn… you know the rest.”
5:57 PT (2nd, 10:53): Ken: “Refs are calling a very tight game.” No kidding. Five USC penalties and Cal’s still trailing here. Gotta take advantage, Bears. Vereen goes inside the 10, but that’ll be another flag — holding on Cal. Back we go. Ken: “VERY tight.”
5:59 PT: Great play on 1st and 25: an inside hand-off to gain a yard. Nice! 24 more of those…
6:00 PT: Screen to Best, and it’s sniffed out immediately. Great play on USC’s part. Ken: “Screens don’t work against experienced and fast line-backers.”
6:01 PT: Sean McDonough has just declared that Cal is excellently running down the clock. That’s just what we’re doing. Running out the clock in the second quarter. Later we’ll hide the ball and replace it with a squeaky toy. Score with that, USC!
6:03 PT (2nd, 8:53): On third and forever, they run short. Ken: “Ah, the classic setup a field-goal attempt play.” Tavecchio kicks it through! Our endless drive is over. Cal 3, USC 3. Phil: “well, it’s three points. even if it looked like a Tim Wakefield pitch.”
6:05 PT (2nd, 8:14): Ken: “An upside to that drive: took 8 minutes off the clock. A short game is good for the underdog.”
6:08 PT: Big gain for USC. Apparently the strategy is, let a guy be totally open and then don’t tackle him.
6:11 PT (2nd, 5:01): Ken: “Very unusual for the Bears. Gerenally their zone defense is pretty good about not having hugely missed assignments.” Beautiful pass from Sanchez to Turner, Touchdown Trojans! USC 10, Cal 3. Ken: “Williams need to turn around and look for that ball.” Phil: “I, for one, welcome our USC overlords.”
6:15 PT: So that USC touchdown? Maybe not a touchdown. But it’s too late now. Also, Longshore’s accuracy has evaporated. One pass way low, one a bit too high but still caught. What’s up, Nate?
6:19 PT: Washington and Arizona State are tied 16-16 in the 3rd quarter. Before the game Ken predicted this might be the win for Washington, given how terrible ASU had been this year. Ken: “Excellent. My evil prediction may just come true!” Don’t count Washington out, Ken. They still might blow it.
6:23 PT (2nd, 1:43): Carroll challenges a call, but it’s not overturned. First down Bears. Phil: “I’m sure Pete Carroll is a lovely man. And yet. Highly punchable. His punchability rating is off the charts.” Ken: “I think you could make a better argument for fumble than incomplete. But a Bear picked it up.” Nah, it was totally incomplete.
6:25 PT (2nd, 1:12): Another mistargeted pass from Longshore, incomplete, to the umpire. Screen to Ross, and again, USC is way too fast for that. Ross did a great job to gain 2 yards. Ken: “The Bears are not doing anything to stretch the field vertically like they were in the 1st quarter.”
6:26 PT: Oh, Nate. You fell down. Again. While chased. Ken: “Dexterity at its best, eh Jason?” Feet are complicated, Ken. Very complicated. Phil: “Oh, Lord. Someone revive Riley. Get Dr. Spaceman to give him medical clearance.”
6:29 PT: Cal punts and USC gets a couple shots at it. On the screen, ABC decides to keep the camera on Sanchez. We’re watching him watch the play! See how experimental it is! Phil: “stellar camera work.” It’s like this film was directed by Jean-Pierre Gorin.
6:31 PT (Halftime): And the half ends on a sack. Revenge!! Halftime. USC 10, Cal 3. Phil: “Well, it could be worse.” And it’s time for me to put my kids to bed. See you after the break.
6:39 PT: Ken’s Halftime Thoughts: “Bears are ‘kinda’ in this game. They need to make some substantial halftime adjustments. They need to stretch the field. They need to clean up the missed assignments. They need to find just a little bit more heart on defense and tackle a bit more consistently. But a couple of additional lucky breaks in the 2nd half coupled with those adjustments could result in a Bear win. I wouldn’t quite be headed to the mid-game betting sites with that, though.”
6:40 PT: There are lots of Cal home games where I feel that Cal was never really in jeopardy for the entire game. That’s sort of how I feel here — Cal’s hanging around, yet they don’t really seem to be threatening USC.
6:41 PT: So while I was driving my parents to Sonora today so they could empty their storage shed and complete their move to their new house, my father pointed out that he went to dental school with two members of Cal’s last Rose Bowl team. Pretty cool.
6:53 PT: And we’re back. And Tavecchio starts with a kick out of bounds. Auspicious!
6:54 PT: I love how the announcers are in awe of USC. I mean, yeah, they’re great. But listening to the announcers you’d think that USC could score on any play if they wanted, but they only score sometimes so that they don’t confuse the fans and embarrass the NCAA.
6:55 PT: USC for a nice gain. Ken: “OK, it’s a soften the blow piece of good news, but the good news is that the Bears are having good backside and secondary pursuit to prevent the big play. That run would have been a TD against less determined teams.”
6:56 PT: Sean McDonough says that blogs have been critical about the USC offense. Blogs? Critical? Well in that case, the USC offense sucks. There, what he said is provably true. And on cue, USC punts!
6:57 PT: And Kevin Riley is in. Let’s hope he’s still not goofy.
6:58 PT (3rd, 12:12): And just like that, Riley throws a pass complete for a first down. That’s the way, Riley.
6:59 PT: I like the switch to Riley, assuming he’s not seeing double out there — or invisible aliens. He gives the offense that scrambling dimension, and Nate has not been very accurate so far. Ken: “I was pestering the guys here in the booth that Tedford might make the switch. Nobody believed me.” Ken knows his stuff, folks.
7:00 PT: Ken: “Well, it’s a big guessing game. I was the one on the other side at the Arizona game who wouldn’t believe that Tedford was going to switch.” Riley scrambles, coming just short of a first down. Phil: “Not to pick on Nate, but he would have thrown about three different interceptions on that play.” Now here we go again — another time out due to running out of time on the play clock. Oh well.
7:02 PT: Just got accused on the Twitter of being partisan in my liveblogging. Big Cal logo up top, folks. Truth in advertising.
7:03 PT (3rd, 11:16): Deep throw on third and short, and a fantastic one-armed catch by Tucker. Wow. Have we finally found a WR?
7:04 PT (3rd, 11:01): Cal throws a beautiful touchdown pass, but they’re going to bring it back on the — you guessed it — penalty. Ineligible downfield. That’s just… terrible. Phil: “It was fun while it lasted.” Ken: “What goes around comes around.” Ken: “While a blow, the fact that the Bears marched so easily just put the Trojans on notice.”
7:06 PT: ABC has now certified that the penalty on the touchdown pass was complete B.S. Oh well — I guess it all evens out, right? Right??
7:08 PT (3rd, 10:12): And now a PI call on USC on 3rd and long. Phil: “flags work in our benefit! What a horribly played football game.” And so now it’s first down Cal. What a weird, messy game.
7:09 PT: Wow, Ross leaps over guys and gains 5. Phil: “Most dramatic four-yard gain ever.”
7:10 PT (3rd, 9:15): Pass tipped up and intercepted by USC in the end zone. Oh well. Not really Riley’s fault. It was fun while it lasted. Ken: “That was the right play just needed to float it a bit more so it wouldn’t be tipped. Otherwise it was a TD.” And to add insult to injury, the USC band plays “All Right Now.”
7:12 PT: So looking at these crowd shots… Am I right to think that you can send in an 8 x 10 glossy as a USC application?
7:13 PT: Ken: “Important 3rd down here.” Flag down, incomplete pass under pressure by Sanchez. And… penalty is against USC. Penalty declined. USC will have to punt.
7:15 PT: This liveblog is brought to you by Sierra Nevada Porter and the last of my wife’s chili. My wife’s chili: It’s What Was For Dinner.
7:17 PT: Riley sacked! Ken: “That’s one area where Longshore is a better QB. He gets rid of that ball.” Yeah, that’s Riley’s inexperience there.
7:18 PT: Phil’s portion of this liveblog is brought to you by Pacifico Beer and, uh, the Oyster. The kind you eat.
7:19 PT (3rd, 6:20): Third and 12. Riley throws it and it’s caught but dropped because he got smashed by the defender. Hard to ask the WRs to catch all of those. Anger must punt. Don’t Punt Back In Anger.
7:21 PT: Ken: “Riley needs to get better on these deep out patterns and get the ball there a 1/2 second earlier and to the outside. He’s going to get his receivers killed when in reality they’re doing a great job of getting open.”
7:22 PT: This looks like most of the other recent Cal-USC games. Cal hangs in there for a while and then it all goes wrong at the end.
7:24 PT (3rd, 4:22): Terrible tackling on a gain by USC. Phil: “Cal defended there like they thought we switched over to two-hand touch during the break.” Sack on Sanchez by Alulu with Follett. 3rd and long for USC. Completed, but short of the first down.
7:28 PT: Roughing the passer, and boy, was it. USC player nailed Riley in the neck with his helmet after the ball was away. Dirty play. Phil: “Hooray, roughing the passer! That’s our best play!” And then Best runs for 8 on first down.
7:29 PT: Nice Taufo’ou run. Ken: “It’s been a LONG time since the Bears have run the Fullback chrash. You could tell USC wasn’t expecting it.”
7:31 PT (3rd, :44): Now Cal gets very conservative with the play calling. Ken: “Um Tedford, we don’t just need a field-goal here.” Third and long. Aaand… flag. Of course. Phil: “I see we’ve reached the drive-stalling portion of the drive.”
7:33 PT: Cal punts. Phil: “don’t like the punt here. You’re down seven. in their territory. I know it’s fourth-and-long. But you gotta start going for it.” Ken: “Riley’s gone downhill in these last two drives. Can’t help but wonder if knocks are getting to his recently concussioned head. Particularly the cheap ones.”
7:35 PT: End of Third Quarter.Phil: “This is actually much how I envisioned this game playing out. Cal’s offense being largely inept. The defense keeping us in it. And then, in the fourth quarter, the sadness.” They show the Cal players holding up four fingers. What does that stand for, “The Fourth Quarter Is When It All Falls Apart For Us?” “Oh God, It’s The Fourth Quarter?” Ken’s analysis: “That was a pretty balanced 3rd quarter. The Bears could win this if they stop shooting themselves in the foot.”
7:38 PT: Some pretty weak tackling there, defense. First down USC. Ken: “Bears are starting to get worn down. They need to find an extra burst of heart REAL quick.” Yup. It’s strange, since the offense has actually been on the field a lot. But still, it’s hard to keep USC down. And that’s an understatement.
7:39 PT: Terrible tackling on a 16-yard McNight run, and then– he ran too far, so they stripped the ball. Fumble! Cal ball. Phil: “I was about to complain bitterly about the lack of tackling. But I’m quite happy he was not tackled. Someone hit the spin button too much.” Huzzah! Ken: “That’s the kind of break the Bears needed.” Now to do something with it.
7:42 PT: Ken: “Now, uh-hem, I give you, the up until now missing…. drum roll please… California Golden Bear OFFENSE!” To be fair, USC’s defense has been spectacular this year. Ken: “Yeah, but the plays have been there and the Bears aren’t converting.” Fair enough.
7:43 PT: And… false start. Again. Phil: “The next person that jumps loses their scholarship.” Ken: “Was there like a sale on yellow flags at K-Mart today or something?”
7:45 PT (4th, 12:15): And yet another penalty, this against USC negating a sack on Riley. Apparently Cal’s playcalling here is, chuck it down field. Not a terrible idea at this point, I suppose. Phil: “USC will see our stupid play and raise us another stupid play.”
7:47 PT: Riley to Morrah deep, but he readjusted and couldn’t get it. Hit off his hands. Painful. Punty punty.
7:50 PT: Phil: “The guy in this Holiday Inn Express commercial — not the one eating eggs — plays the evil managing editor in the final season of ‘The Wire.'” Watching these commercials makes me long for the home games where we just stare at the guy with the red vest who’s stopping the game and boo him.
7:50 PT (4th, 10:34): This is the point in the game where USC scores two TDs and puts it away. Just saying. Ken: “11 minutes left. Hold out hope my friend. I’m not ready to face reality yet.”
7:53 PT: Ken: “88523 is today’s attendance. Crowd is not happy to be back at commercial.” Blame Pete Carroll for calling a timeout here. Now who’s running out the clock, eh?
7:55 PT (4th, 9:23): USC fails on the third-down conversation, an incompletion, which means Cal will get the ball back. Syd fair-catches at the 12 yard line.
7:57 PT: Best for no gain up the middle. Ken: “Good call with 9:20 remaining, a run up the gut.” Yeah. And Best is at his best without space. Sure.
7:57 PT: And they follow that up with a sweep to the left. Yeah, that’s it, Cal, establish the running game. Now it’s 3rd and 9 with eight minutes to go. Perfect. How about some 10-yard pass routes instead of bombs and sweeps? And Riley on the overthrow. Fourth down. Phil: “Is there a 3rd QB we can try?”
7:59 PT: Nice punt by Anger. A shame Cal can’t punt itself into the lead. But it can’t. Otherwise Cal would have been undefeated in the Nick Harris In Punt Formation years.
8:00 PT: Pass knocked down by Worrell Williams and almost picked off. So close. And yet, this is USC. At the Coliseum. And so here comes the sadness. And USC gains 17 to midfield on the third-down pass. It’s slipping out of reach…
8:02 PT: Here’s the thing. USC’s defense is remarkable. And yet, Cal has had a bunch of chances. And they just haven’t converted. They have had the chances to beat USC, but they’ve just not been good enough. If the other team is good and you’re not, that’s a recipe for a loss if ever I’ve heard one.
8:04 PT (4th, 5:00): Another first down, to the 25. USC keeps moving the ball, hoping to go up two scores and put it away. Cal is definitely wearing down now. It’ll take a major mistake by USC or a huge play by the Cal defense to make a difference here.
8:05 PT: And another first down, and the clock keeps rolling. Phil: “Essentially any score here ends the game. As Cal’s not going to score twice.” I think they aren’t going to score again, period.
8:09 PT: Touchdown Trojans. USC 17, Cal 3. And it’ll be 24-3 once Cal throws an interception that’s run back for a touchdown on the next drive.
8:11 PT: So these days we get eliminated from the Rose Bowl in November instead of September. Is that progress?
8:13 PT: Painful stat. Riley is 3 for 12. Make it 13. It’s a shame that this year’s great defense has such a weak offense backing it up.
8:16 PT: Riley chucks the ball ineptly on fourth down. Phil: “well, that pretty much sums up the game.” Yeah. So it ends. There’s that sadness Phil was talking about.
8:19 PT: Tedford is frustrated. Phil: “Well, he should be. His team just played 60 minutes of undisciplined football. Who does that reflect upon?”
8:20 PT: So, what’s USC going to do here? Kick the FG? Take a knee? No, they go for it, don’t get it. And Cal will get one exciting play with 8 seconds left.
8:22 PT: What do you do, Taylor Mays? Knock it down. Game Over. USC 17, Cal 3. USC has won seven of the last eight against the Bears. And don’t we know it. Good night, everyone.