Cody Kessler and Nelson Agholor took advantage of California's porous pass defense to lead USC to a 38-30 victory on Thursday night in a Pac-12 Conference football game at the Coliseum.
The two connected for 16 completions, 216 yards and two touchdowns (plus another long touchdown that was called back because of a penalty). Agholor finished one catch short of tying USC's single-game receptions record.
Kessler completed 31 of 42 passes for 371 yards and four scores while he had one pass intercepted in helping the Trojans build a 31-2 lead in the first half. George Farmer had two receptions for 40 yards, including a 32-yard touchown, and Randall Telfer had a 16-yard scoring catch.
The victory keeps alive the slim hopes that the Trojans (7-3 overall, 6-2 in conference play) can win the Pac-12's South Division. The Golden Bears fall to 5-5 overall, 3-5 in the Pac-12.
USC gained 450 yards against Cal. Javorius Allen was held to less than 100 yards when he had 21 carries for 60 yards. Justin Davis gained 44 yards in 11 carries and scored on a three-yard run in the first quarter to give the Trojans a 21-2 lead.
The Golden Bears, who were averaging nearly 42 points a game and more than 346 yards passing, finished with 384 yards of offense. Jared Goff completed 29 of 47 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Daniel Lasco gained 86 yards in 19 carries and had one touchdown.
Here's a recap of the game:
Cal attempts an onside kick but USC wide receiver Darreus Rogers makes the catch at the Golden Bears' 43-yard line.
USC can run out the clock with a first down. After a five-yard run by Javorius Allen, Cal calls timeout with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Allen then loses two yards on the next carry and the Trojans let the clock run down to 45 seconds left before calling a timeout.
The Trojans will not need to pick up a first down as quarterback Cody Kessler scrambles around in the backfield before sliding to the turf for a 20-yard loss with less than 35 seconds left.
Game over. USC 38, Cal 30.
Cal will start its new drive at its 20-yard line after a 35-yard punt by Kris Albarado.
Jared Goff fires incomplete on short pattens on first down before launching a deep pass over the middle that is overthrown. He then connect with Daniel Lasco on third and 10 for 18 yards and a first down.
After another incompletion, Lasco runs nine yards on second down. Goff then throws deep down the sideline for Chris Harper but Adoree Jackson breaks up the pass to bring up fourth down. Lasco picks up the first down with a four-yard run to the USC 32.
Goff scrambles for three yards on first down. Goff then hits Stephen Anderson for a 29-yard scoring pass with 1:44 left to play.
USC will start at its own 27-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kessler hands off to Javorius Allen on consecutive plays then throws to Allen out of the backfield for 17 yards.
After Allen gains three yards, Kessler has an incompletion and then on third and seven is sacked for a loss of five yards at the USC 45-yard line.
Cal calls a timeout with 3:45 left to play and will get the ball back.
USC 38, Cal 23 (6:36 left in the fourth quarter)
The announced attendance at the Coliseum is 64,615.
Cal will start at its own 28-yard line.
Goff completes a 17-yard pass over the middle to Stephen Anderson.
Adoree' Jackson misses a tackle and Leon McQuay forces the Cal receiver out of bounds, and what do you know, the officials throw a flag.
The penalty is called against Cal for "illegal touching." The result is a loss of a down for the Bears.
USC's defense does a nice job forcing Cal into another fourth-down situation, but Goff converts with a 20-yard pass.
Goff keeps the ball on third down and is stopped short of the first down by Su'a Cravens.
Fourth and four -- Goff converts another fourth down.
The Bears now on USC's 11-yard line.
Goff throws a touchdown pass to Bryce Treggs.
The extra point is good.
USC 38, Cal 16 (11:19 left in the fourth quarter)
USC will start at its own 22-yard line.
Nelson Agholor takes a short pass from Cody Kessler 78 yards for a touchdown. But what do you know, USC is called for holding -- George Farmer -- and the ball comes back.
Kessler completes a 20-yard pass to Farmer, but flags come out. Farmer is called for offensive pass interference. Cal is called for taunting on the same play -- which is a personal foul -- and gives USC an automatic first down.
Pac-12 officials sure do like their flags. USC has 12 penalties for 130 yards, Cal has nine for 112.
Justin Davis is in at tailback and gets a couple of carries.
Kessler completes a nine-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.
Davis rushes for the first down.
That's the end of the third quarter.
Kessler hands off to Davis to start the fourth quarter.
The Kessler-Agholor show continues. Kessler completes an 11-yard pass to him.
It's interesting that Kessler is handing off to Davis and Allen is not in to attempt another 100-yard game. Allen ran off the field a couple of plays ago, so it does not appear he is injured.
Davis catches a nine-yard pass out of the backfield.
Allen with consecutive carries - and makes and impressive move to pick up a couple of extra yards.
Steven Mitchell catches a touchdown pass, but JuJu Smith is called for offensive interference -- which moves USC back 15 yards.
Third and 16 -- Kessler goes through his checks and finds a wide-open Randall Telfer in the end zone. Kessler draws a flag for taunting the bench -- but the touchdown will stand. Kessler appeared to get an earful from Tim Drevno as he jogged off the field.
Andre Heidari's extra point is good.
USC 31, Cal 16 (3:40 left in the third quarter)
Cal will start at its own 21-yard line.
Quarterback Jared Goff hands off to David Lasco who is tackled by Anthony Sarao. Lasco gained five yards.
Goff and the Cal offense is doing a nice job establishing a rhythm on this series.
Lasco broke for his longest carry - 17 yards - before he was tackled by Sarao.
USC is called for another personal foul, this time a face mask penalty by Leonard Williams.
Goff hands off to Lasco, who rushes five yards for a Cal touchdown.
The extra point is good.
USC will start on its own eight-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kessler completes a 19-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.
Javorius Allen rushes three yards.
Wow, freshman JuJu Smith makes another impressive catch -- this might be better than the one-handed grab he made against Colorado. Kessler threw a 28-yard pass as Smith stretched out for the diving grab. Smith wears No. 9 -- and USC's former No. 9, Marqise Lee, is on the sideline watching. Undoubtedly, Lee must be impressed by who is wearing his former number.
Officials review the play and determined Smith did not maintain control of the ball. Nonetheless, it was an impressive effort.
Third and six -- Kessler completes a five-yard pass to Steven Mitchell.
Kris Albarado punts.
At this rate, it appears Javorius Allen's 100-yard rushing streak could come to an end. He's rushed 31 yards in 12 carries.
Cal will start at its own 30-yard line.
Quarterback Jared Goff starts the half with an 11-yard completion.
Claude Pelon tackles Daniel Lasco on the second play.
USC's tackling looks noticeable better this game than it has in previous weeks.
Scott Felix sacks Goff and forces a fumble, USC's Claude Pelon recovers it. Flags are on the field.
Pelon is called for a personal foul, hands to the face, so the play is nullified.
Cal is on USC's 43-yard line.
Goff hands off to Lasco, who is stuffed at the line by Su'a Cravens and Anthony Sarao.
Goff is sacked by Quinton Powell. Yes -- a Powell sighting on defense. That's a rarity!
Third and 12 -- Goff is tackled by Sarao.
Fourth and three -- Cal going for it -- and Goff completes a 15-yard pass to Kenny Lawler in front of Kevon Seymour. Flags on the play.
Cal is called for a personal foul, which moves the Bears back 15 yards - but the completion stands.
Cravens breaks up Goff's second down pass attempt.
Leonard Wiliams charges into the backfield and sacks Goff for a 10-yard loss. That's Williams' second sack.
USC will start at its own 40-yard line.
Cody Kessler kneels to send the game into halftime.
USC 31, Cal 9 (Nine seconds left in the second quarter)
Cal will starts on its own 40-yard line.
Jared Goff completes an 11-yard pass to Chris Harper.
Goff completes an eight-yard pass to Kenny Lawler.
Su'a Cravens is called for holding on the next play, which moves the ball to USC's 31-yard line.
Goff is starting to find some sort of rhythm on this series. He completes a two-yard pass to Harper, who is tackled by Hayes Pullard.
Third and eight -- Kevon Seymour makes a nice tackle on Maurice Harris to keep Cal from a first down.
Fourth and one -- Goff hands off to Lasco, who gains a yard for a first down.
Goff completes a six-yard pass to Chris Harper for a touchdown.
James Langford's extra point is good.
That was a nine-play 60-yard drive for Cal.
USC 31, Cal 2 (1:39 left in the second quarter)
USC will start on the Bears' 31-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kessler's 12-yard pass is ruled incomplete. Officials said that Nelson Agholor was out of bounds.
Officials reviewed the play and determined that it stands.
Kessler completes a six-yard pass to Agholor.
Third and five from Cal's 26, Javorius Allen rushes one yard.
Fourth and four -- Coach Steve Sarkisian elects to go for it -- Allen catches a 16-yard pass out of the backfield.
Freshman offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao is called for a false start. That's five USC penalties for 55 yards.
Third and goal, Kessler completes a three-yard pass to JuJu Smith, who is tackled two yards short of the goal line.
Fourth and two -- USC going for it again -- and flags fly before the ball is snapped. The official says the team was not set for at least one second before snapping the ball.
Andre Heidari kicks a 25-yard field goal - a line drive barely clearing the crossbar. But it did clear.
Cal will start at its own 20-yard line.
Quarterback Jared Goff rushes nine yards.
Daniel Lasco rushes four yards for a first down.
Leonard Williams sacks Goff.
Goff completes a short pass to Chris Harper.
Third and 12 - Goff's pass is incomplete.
Cal fakes a punt, Cole Leininger's pass falls incomplete.
USC will starts on itwn own 45-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kesslers completes a three-yard pass to Adoree' Jackson.
Kessler completes a 42-yard pass to Jackson for a touchdown, but it is called back -- center Max Tuerk was called for holding.
The penalty backs USC up to the Bears' 48.
Second and 17, Kessler completes and eight-yard pass to George Farmer.
Third down, Kessler hands off to Justin Davis.
Fourth and six, Coach Steve Sarkisian is going for it. Kessler completes a 10-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.
Kessler completes a 14-yard pass to Agholor.
Agholor has 11 receptions - that's a new career high - and it's only the second quarter.
Next play - Kessler is intercepted. That is just Kessler's third interception of the season.
Cal will takeover from its own 17-yard line.
Leon McQuay forces Cal's Daniel Lasco to fumble on the next play, Kevon Seymour recovers the ball and Cal picks up a personal foul after the play.
USC takes over on Cal's 15-yard line.
Kessler completes an eight-yard pass to JuJu Smith.
Kessler completes a 10-yard pass to Agholor for a touchdown.
Andre Heidari's extra point is good.
Agholor has caught 12 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Kessler has completed 21 of 28 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception.
Cal starts from its own 13-yard line.
Goff throws it away on first down.
Second down, Su'a Cravens sacks Goff for an eight-yard loss.
Goff's third-down pass is complete, but short of the first down.
USC will start from its own nine-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kessler's pass falls incomplete in front of Nelson Agholor.
Kessler hands off to Javorius Allen, who rushes two yards. Allen is going for his seventh-consecutive 100-yard game. He might need to break off a couple big carries to get to the mark tonight.
That's the end of the first quarter.
Kessler completes a 19-yard pass to Agholor.
Kessler completes a nine-yard pass to JuJu Smith, who nearly fights his way to the first-down marker.
Allen rushes eight yards.
Kessler's looks for Agholor on a slant, but the pass falls incomplete.
USC's drive stalls and the Trojans punt for the first time.
Cal will start on its own 20-yard line after a big tackle on special teams by USC's Quinton Powell.
Quarterback Jared Goff's pass intended for Stephen Anderson falls incomplete -- Su'a Cravens with the break up.
Goff completes an eight-yard pass to Bryce Treggs.
Third and three - Cal gains a first down for the first time tonight.
Delvon Simmons is called for a personal foul - hands to the face. Cal moves up 15-yards to its own 49-yard line.
Goff completes an 18-yard pass in front of Su'a Cravens. Hayes Pullard is called for holding, but the penalty is declined.
Goff hands off to Daniel Lasco. USC Coach Steve Sarkisian said this week that Lasco is a big part of Cal's offense and he has been overlooked at times this season.
Third and eight - Goff completes a pass to Khalfani Muhamad, who breaks a tackle by Kevon Seymour. The play is called back after a personal foul is called against Cal.
Third and 23 - Goff's pass falls incomplete.
USC 21, Cal 2 (3:05 left in the first quarter)
Nelson Agholor signaled for a fair catch on the punt, Cal is called for interference.
USC will start on its own 39-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kessler looks deep and completes a 36-yard pass to Nelson Agholor. Kessler stood in the pocket to take a hit and Cal is called for roughing the passer.
First down on the Bears' 12-yard line.
Kessler completes a pass to Randall Telfer, for a loss of a yard.
Freshman JuJu Smith catches his first pass of the game.
Justin Davis rushes four yards for a touchdown.
Andre Heidari's extra point is good.
The Trojans are pouring it on.
Cal will start on its own 39-yard line.
Quarterback Jared Goff completes a one-yard pass to Daniel Lasco, who is tackled by Hayes Pullard.
Goff's pass to Bryce Treggs falls incomplete.
Third and nine, Goff's pass is broken up by Pullard.
Cal goes three and out for the third series.
The Bears punt.
USC 14, Cal 2 (5:31 left in the first quarter)
USC will start from its own one-yard line.
Cody Kessler hands off to Justin Davis, who doesn't make it out of the end zone.
Score that a Cal safety.
Cal will start from its own 24-yard line.
USC's Antwaun Woods is called for a personal foul, facemask. The Bears now on their own 42-yard line.
Jared Goff completes a three-yard pass to Chris Harper.
Goff hands off to Daniel Lasco, who rushes three yards before being tackled y Leonard Williams.
Third and three, Goff's pass falls incomplete.
Cal punts -- and it's played perfectly by the Bears -- down on the one-yard line.
USC 14, Cal 0 (7:27 to play in the first quarter)
USC will start on its own 40-yard line.
Quarterback Cody Kessler completes a 13-yard pass to Nelson Agholor.
Kessler's go-to receiver tonight is Agholor, as he completes three consecutive passes to him to start the series.
Those three passes to Agholor just setup a 33-yard touchdown pass play to George Farmer, who was left one-on-one in the end zone. Farmer celebrates the score with receivers coach Tee Martin on the sideline.
Andre Heidari's extra point is good.
Do you think USC wants to make a statement tonight with a national television audience focused on the game?
Cal will start from its own 25-yard line.
Kevon Seymour makes a huge tackle on Daniel Lasco in the Bears' backfield. It's a loss of five yards.
Gerald Bowman breaks up a pass intended for Maurice Harris.
Third and 15 -- the Bears are far short of the first down.
USC has still not allowed an opponent to score on an opening drive this season.
Cal will punt.
USC 7, Cal 0 (9:55 left in the first quarter)
USC will start from its own 15 yard line.
Receivers Steven Mitchell and George Farmer started for USC.
Quarterback Cody Kessler completes an 11-yard pass to Nelson Agholor for the first play of the game.
Kessler completes his second pass to Javorius Allen for another first down.
Cornerback Adoree' Jackson is also playing offense for the Trojans. He gaines14 yards on a short pass from Kessler, but Agholor was called for a holding penalty on the play so it will come back.
Kessler completes a pass to Randall Telfer, who fumbles the ball. Telfer struggled catching the ball in the Trojans' last game at Washington State. Coach Steve Sarkisian said this week he was not worried about Telfer's struggles against the Cougars because "Randall is a pro playing college football."
The play is under review by officials.
Officials overturned the call and ruled the pass incomplete. It is third and four for the Trojans from their own 42-yard line.
Kessler completes a seven-yard pass to Agholor.
The Bears tackled Allen in thebackfield on consecutive plays.
On third down, Kessler completes a 28-yard pass to Agholor. Kessler did a nice job dodging a near sack.
Giovanni Di Paolo just checked in at right tackle for Zach Banner.
This is a long and steady drive for USC. Kessler hands off to Allen who rushes 13 yards to Cal's 12-yard line.
California defensive tackle David Davis went down on the play and was helped to the sideline by trainers.
Kessler throws a 10-yard pass to Agholor for a touchdown.
Andre Heidari kicks the extra point.
USC won the toss and elected to receive.
Game time temperature, 63 degrees with a slight wind.
Former USC receiver Marqise Lee -- now with the Jacksonville Jaguars -- was on the field during pregame shaking hands with the Trojans as they warmed up.
The Jaguars have an open date this week.
USC announced its starting lineups.
The offense: Quarterback Cody Kessler, tailback Javorius Allen, fullback Jahleel Pinner, tight end Randall Telfer, receivers Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith, linemen Toa Lobendahn, Khaliel Rodgers, Max Tuerk, Viane Talamaivao and Zach Banner.
The defense: Linemen Leonard Williams, Antwaun Woods and Delvon Simmons, outside linebackers Su'a Cravens and Scott Felix, inside linebackers Hayes Pullard and Anthony Sarao, cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Kevon Seymour and safeties Gerald Bowman and Leon McQuay III.
The Trojans are wearing their shiny helmets with a black sock combination.
They are 1-1 in the new helmets.
We are just over an hour away from Thursday night football -- USC vs. Cal -- at the Coliseum.
The Trojans have defeated the Bears for 10 consecutive seasons and the last time Cal won at the Coliseum was in 2000.
In case you missed it, Josh Shaw spoke for the first time since he fabricated his heroic story in August. Here is Bill Plaschke's story with Shaw.
USC's official game day program features who else on the cover? Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw.