Southern Cal annihilated the Cal Golden Bears 62-28 Saturday, racking up 500 yards of total offense, returning three punts for scores, and reasserting their position in the Pac-12 South Division race. USC (7-3, 4-2 Pac-12) maintains its position in a four-way race for the division title. Cal (1-9, 0-7 Pac-12) will need to win against Colorado next week or division-leading Stanford in the finale if they hope to avoid a winless Pac-12 season.
The Trojans jumped on Cal from the start, with Nelson Agholor returning the day's first punt for a touchdown. Southern Cal built a 21-0 lead by adding two more first-quarter touchdowns. When a pair of Cal scores briefly brought the Bears within seven points, USC responded with more big plays: Cody Kessler connected with backup halfback Javorius "Buck" Allen on a 57-yard touchdown, fullback Soma Vainuku blocked a punt that was returned for a score, and Agholor returned yet another punt for a score.
The three punt return scores tied an NCAA record, and Agholor became the first Trojan to return two punts for touchdowns in one game since 1965. USC held a 41-14 lead at the half.
After Allen broke another run for a touchdown early in the third quarter, this one from 79 yards away, Ty Isaac tacked on another rushing touchdown. USC was up 55-14, the Trojans removed the starters, and the result was elementary.
It was not a completely positive day for the Trojans, however: Running back Silas Redd left the game in the first half with an apparent right knee injury. He came back after the halftime break in street clothes, and his status for next week has not been updated.
Box Score Hero: While Kessler had arguably his best game since becoming USC's starting quarterback, the honors have to go to Buck Allen. The sophomore halfback stepped in after Redd's injury and posted a career-high 135 yards on just six attempts. Allen scored twice on the ground, and added a third touchdown on a 57-yard pass from Kessler. Allen posted career highs in rushing yards and receiving yards, and his three touchdowns matched his total from last week against Oregon State.
Rankings Ramifications: Southern Cal has barely registered in the polls since early September; the Trojans got a single vote in last week's USA Today Coaches Poll, and were left out of the AP Top 25 completely. Saturday's victory should garner them some consideration, but it would likely take a win over Stanford next week to get the Trojans back into the polls.
But Did They Cover? USC entered as a 17-point favorite and covered the spread before halftime.
For More On This Game: For more on the Trojans, visit USC community Conquest Chronicles. For more on Golden Bears football, visit Cal community California Golden communitys. Both teams are also topics of discussion at Pac-12 community Pacific Takes.
Next Week's Schedule: Southern Cal has a critical home game against Stanford next Saturday. Cal travels to Folsom Field to face the Colorado Buffaloes.
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