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Cal Football Game Summary: Bears Beat USC in Final Game

Bears take advantage of turnovers to knock off USC

Cal defeated USC 24-14 Friday night in Berkeley in the final game of the season for both teams.

USC played its last game under interim head coach Donte Williams, and the Lincoln Riley era began when Saturday's game ended.

The Trojans played without a number of starters, including wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr., running back Keaontay Ingram, outside linebacker Drake Jackson and three starting defensive backs.

Then the Trojans starting quarterback, Jaxson Dart, was knocked out of the game in the third quarter, replaced by true freshman Miller Moss, who had taken just one snap in his college career before Saturday.

USC rolled up 409 yards of offense , while Cal had 265 yards. But the Bears forced two pivotal USC turnovers, and the Trojans were unable to convert their scoring chances.

The facts of the game:

CAL 24, USC 14

RECORDS: CAL (5-7, 4-5 Pac-12), USC (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12)

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cal quarterback Chase Garbers.  It was not Garbers' best game, but he did not make any major mistakes and his numbers were good: 18-for-21 for 177 yards and no interceptions.

TURNING POINT: Cal held a 10-7 lead, but USC had driven into Cal territory when Bears safety Elijah Hicks forced a fumble by USC's Darwin Barlow. The ball was picked up by Cal linebacker Trey Paster, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown that put the Golden Bears ahead 17-7 with 3:53 left in the second quarter.

KEY PLAY 1: USC's Parker Lewis missed a 51-yard field goal attempt with 10:06 left in the first quarter, keeping the game scoreless.

KEY PLAY 2: Cal's Dario Longhetto kicked a 22-yard field goal to give the Bears a 3-0 lead with 2:12 left in the first quarter. One play earlier, Longhetto had hit the upright on a failed 26-yard field goal attempt, but USC was offside on the play, giving Longhetto another try at a shorter distance.

KEY PLAY 3: USC's Jaxson Dart threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Ford, giving USC a 7-3 lead with 9:28 left in the second quarter. Cal defensive back Isaiah Young went for the interception on the play by cutting in front of Ford, who caught the ball near the sidelined at the 31-yard line and outraced the rest of the Cal secondary to the end zone.

KEY PLAY 4: On a second-and-7 play from the Cal 47-yard line, Bears quarterback Chase Garbers completed a 39-yard pass to tight end Jake Tonges, giving Cal a first down at the USC 14-yard line. Three plays later, Christopher Brooks scored on a 1-yard run, putting Cal ahead 10-7 with 4:51 remaining in the half.

KEY PLAY 5: Cal's Elijah Hicks forced a fumble by USC running back Darwin Barlow, and the ball was picked up at the Cal 45-yard line by Bears linebacker Trey Paster, who returned it 55 yards for a Cal touchdown. That gave Cal a 17-7 led with 3:53 left in the first half. 

KEY PLAY 6: USC's Parker Lewis missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 17 seconds left in the first half.

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KEY PLAY 7: With 2:20 left in the third quarter, Cal's Josh Drayden and Femi Oladejo put a hard hit on USC quarterback Jaxson Dart at the Cal 11-yard line. Dart was injured on the play and was replaced by true freshman Miller Moss, who had taken one snap in his college career before entering this game.

KEY PLAY 8: On fourth-and-2 from the Cal 3-yard line, an errant USC snap was gathered in by USC tight end Erik Krommenhoek, who was stopped after a 1-yard gain by Cal's Trey Paster and Ethan Saunders. That kept the score 17-7 with 1:13 left in the third quarter and gave the ball over to Cal.

KEY PLAY 9: On a third-and-6 play from the Cal's 8-yard line, USC's Miller Moss was hit by Cal safety Daniel Scott, forcing Miller to fumble. The ball was kicked around until Cal defensive back Lu-Magia Hearns III recovered the ball at the Cal 32-yard line.

KEY PLAY 10: Chase Garbers ran for 19 yards to the USC 16-yard line, and five plays later Christopher Brooks scored on a 2-yard run to give Cal a 24-7 lead with 5:37 left in the game.

STAT OF THE GAME: USC committed two turnovers, and Cal committed none. One USC turnover was a fumble Cal returned for a touchdown, and the other USC turnover ended a Trojans scoring threat.

QUARTERBACK STATS: Cal's Chase Garbers was 18-for-21 for 177 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, and he also ran for 12 yards. USC’s Jaxson Dart was 17-for-26 for 191 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. USC's Miller was 8-for-13 for 74 yards.

RUNNING BACK STATS: Cal's Christopher Brooks had 14 carries for 49 yards and two touchdowns. USC's Vavae Malepeai had 18 carries for 107 yards.

INJURIES: Cal: Outside linebacker Kuony Deng was not available because of injury. Starting inside linebacker Nate Rutchena was not available.

USC: Starting outside linebacker Drake Jackson, perhaps the Trojans' best defensive player, and starting cornerback Chris Steele both did not travel with the team to the Bay Area and were unavailable. Seven other USC backups who were listed on the depth chart did not travel with the Trojans team either. Quarterback Kedon Slovis, starting running back Keaontay Ingram, and starting wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr.were  not available either

WHAT IT MEANS: Cal finished with a losing conference record for the 12th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the conference. However, the Bears with a better conference record than USC for the first time since 1991.  Cal's 4-5 conference mark matched the Bears' 2011, 2015, 2018 and 2019 seasons as their best conference finishes since they went 5-4 in 2009.  USC finished with its first four-game losing streak since 2001, and its final 4-8 record was its worst since it finished 3-8 in 1991.

CAL'S BOWL BAROMETER: The Bears will not be going to a bowl for the second straight year.

NEXT GAME: Cal plays UC Davis in Berkeley, Saturday, September 3 in the Bears’ 2022 opener. Cal's third game of the 2022 season will be against Notre Dame in Berkeley on September 17.

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Cover photo of Cal running back Christopher Brooks is by John Hefti, USA TODAY Sports

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53Find Cal Sports Report on Facebook by searching: @si.calsportsreport or going to https://www.facebook.com/si.calsportsreport