The USC Trojans' defense, particularly the line, arrived angry Saturday and possibly save USC from another crushing defeat. Will the defense propel the team through the rest of the season? Check out the Good, Bad and Ugly components of this week's game and decide for yourself.
The Good: USC suddenly discovered the value of the run game. With 296 total rushing yards, 158 from Silas Redd and another 115 from Curtis McNeal, the Trojans' backs took charge of the offense. It's a good thing too, since the USC passing game has been essentially shut down since last week against Stanford.
However, the real hero of the contest for USC was the defense, denying the Bears (a team that nearly defeated number 16 Ohio State last week) a single touchdown, posting seven sacks, two interceptions and sealing a game that hung in the balance.
The Bad: In all fairness, the passing game looked fairly atrocious on both sides. Remember though, USC was ranked as high as number one at the start of the season based on the talents of returning senior quarterback Matt Barkley and star receivers Marquis Lee and Robert Woods.
Woods was virtually silent the entire game and the normally sure-handed Lee dropped two key passes which could have let the air out of the Bears early. Barkley's numbers looked questionable (22 of 34 for 192 yards) but the two interceptions Cal notched were clearly no miscue on his part. While he looked more composed than in last week's debacle, he really had nothing spectacular to wow the Heisman voters.
USC will need to step it up if they hope to claw their way back into the top five.
The Ugly: While the NFL is experiencing it's own issues with replacement referees, the USC-Cal match-up looked like a couple of high school impostors bound and gagged the real refs. Two key calls could have easily cost USC the game. One, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct on a devastating punt return block and the other a "late hit" out of bounds on a Cal receiver could easily have turned the tide against the Trojans, had the Bears been able to capitalize.
While the safety measures put in place to protect players deserve a salute, fans aren't coming out to watch touch football.
Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford will need to go back to the drawing board for the matchup against the Trojans next year, and meanwhile, USC will need to work out a lot of kinks if they intend to remain undefeated for the remainder of the season.