This One Gets Away - Trojans A Different Team Late

November 19th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: This One Gets Away - Trojans A Different Team Late

By Jay Heater


LOS ANGELES - As the fourth quarter began and fog sifted into the aging Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday evening, Cal looked across the line of scrimmage and found itself facing an entirely different opponent.
There stood USC, but not the team that had been stymied for the first 45 minutes by a terrific Bears defensive effort and was locked in a 9-9 battle of wills.
These were the No. 4-ranked Trojans with a 31-game home win streak on the line, the guys who were shooting for at least a share of their fifth consecutive Pacific-10 championship, the dynasty that still had national-championship hopes.
In those final 15 minutes, Cal was no match.
USC outscored the Bears 14-0 in the final quarter to win 23-9 and lock up a Rose Bowl berth -- at least, and possibly more -- in front of a rocking house filled with 91,672 fans.
``We're Trojans,'' said USC Coach Pete Carroll. ``We do what we do. That was just an awesome finish. And we had an extraordinary crowd, maybe the best ever. You could feel the earth moving under you.''
Cal was left with a different sort of feeling. The No. 17 Bears seemed unable to do anything as their hopes of a first Rose Bowl appearance since Jan. 1, 1959, slipped away.
``Every year, we come so close but we just don't finish,'' said Cal senior cornerback Daymeion Hughes. ``They made it happen when they needed to get it done. It's hard. The last couple of years, we've almost been there.''
Cal (8-3, 6-2) is looking at the Holiday Bowl if it finishes the regular season with a victory over Stanford on Dec. 2.
``That's a great football team on the other side,'' Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said. ``You have to play your best. There is no room for mistakes.''
The Bears, who had three turnovers to none for the Trojans, made too many mistakes, and USC made them pay in the fourth quarter. Trojans receiver Steve Smith, held pretty much in check for much of the game, put his team over the top on a fourth-and-two play from the Bears' 37-yard line.
Trailing 16-7, Cal defenders came flying to the line of scrimmage to stop an expected run. Instead, USC quarterback John David Booty faked a handoff, dropped back and hit Smith, who had broken away from Hughes. Smith took the pass in stride, then turned and looked back at Hughes as he ran the final 10 yards to the end zone. The touchdown at the 8:23 mark gave USC a 23-9 lead.
``It was a gutsy call by their offensive coordinator,'' Hughes said. ``We were thinking run.''
Cal could not answer USC's fourth-quarter touchdowns.
``You've got to be able to keep up,'' said Tedford, whose offense was limited to 275 yards and one touchdown. ``We had such high hopes . . .''
Although both teams moved the ball in the opening half, neither could punch it in.
USC (9-1, 7-1) on its first series marched from its 10-yard line to the Bears' 2 before stalling. Mario Danelo's short field goal made it 3-0.
Cal was unlucky on that drive as Thomas DeCoud's strip of the ball from Dwayne Jarrett and 93-yard return to the end zone was called off because Jarrett had not caught the ball; and then the Bears saw their next drive end when a Nate Longshore pass was intercepted at the USC 3.
But on the play after the turnover, Bears defensive tackle Brandon Mebane tackled tailback Chauncey Washington in the end zone for a safety and a 3-2 score.
The Trojans added a field goal, and then Cal got its touchdown. Longshore completed passes of 36 yards to DeSean Jackson and 29 yards to Robert Jordan before finding Lavelle Hawkins in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 6.
But in the second half, everything seemed to go right for the defending champs. Carroll made all the right moves.
Midway through the third quarter, he called on backup kicker David Buehler -- his leg is stronger than Danelo's -- and Buehler responded by nailing a 49-yard field goal.
So the teams entered the fourth quarter tied. The Trojans, though, quickly edged ahead when Jarrett pulled away from DeCoud and caught a perfect Booty pass for a 35-yard touchdown. It was 16-7 USC with 13:01 remaining.
``That was a perfect call for our defense,'' said DeCoud, who switched from his usual safety position to cornerback in order to cover Jarrett for much of the game. ``But hey, when push comes to shove, you have to hunker down and stop them. The game was an inch out of our reach, but we have to get that extra inch.''
Cal simply didn't respond offensively in the second half. The closest the Bears came to scoring was when Tom Schneider came up short on a 55-yard field-goal try in the third quarter.
``I don't think they shut us down,'' Hawkins said. ``We stopped ourselves. We missed on a lot of opportunities.''

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