John Robinson brings his 4-0 football team into Strawberry Canyon this afternoon, an appropriate place for his Trojans to begin the most arduous portion of their schedule.
Three of the next four games are on the road, but should Memorial Stadium really be considered a USC road game? There's no other way to put it: If the Trojans have had a patsy the last two years, it has been the Golden Bears of California.
Robinson brought his 1993 team here and his players acted as if they owned the place. On a day when even reserves had career days, USC routed Cal, 42-14.
Last season, in the Coliseum, it was 61-0.
Cal has defeated USC only twice since 1977, in a series uninterrupted since 1926 and dating to 1915.
Today, the Trojans will find something new in 72-year-old, 75,662-seat Memorial Stadium--real grass. After 15 years of what might have been the ugliest artificial turf in America, Cal has returned to grass-roots football.
The Bears are 1-1 on their new lawn, 1-3 overall. There are two common opponents. Cal and USC defeated San Jose State, 40-7 and 45-7, respectively. Cal lost to Arizona last week, 20-15, a team USC defeated, 31-10.
This week, Cal Coach Keith Gilbertson called USC "the most dominant team in the conference since the '91 Washington team."
Despite the loss of three starters because of suspensions a week ago, USC shut out Arizona State, 31-0.
Two of the suspended three are defensive players, end Israel Ifeanyi and linebacker Errick Herrin. Tailback Shawn Walters was also red-tagged. All three are charged with improper contact with an agent and all three stayed home this weekend. Ifeanyi and Herrin will sit out a minimum of three games, Walters more than that.
--Fifth-ranked USC is giving up a national-best 6.8 points per game.
--Keyshawn Johnson ranks first in the nation in receptions per game (9.5) and receiving yardage per game (145.8).
--USC's two quarterbacks, starter Brad Otton and second- and fourth-quarter man Kyle Wachholtz, rank one-two in Pacific 10 Conference pass-efficiency statistics. Wachholtz is completing 69.4% of his passes, Otton 65.5%. Neither has thrown an interception in a combined 133 attempts.
Cal's quarterback, 6-4 junior Pat Barnes, is the Pac-10's fifth-ranked quarterback but would rank higher with better receivers. Last weekend at Arizona, Cal had eight passes dropped.
"They were drops where the ball was right in the receivers' hands too," Gilbertson said.
Cal catches the Trojans at a time when backup tailback Delon Washington is showing he can play a full game. Washington, a sophomore, started for Walters against Arizona State and carried 25 times for 118 yards.
"I was nervous; I didn't know I was in that kind of shape yet, to carry for most of a game," he said. "But I think I showed the coaches I can do it."
Indeed, Robinson said Washington's performance reminded him a bit of Charles White, the 1979 Heisman Trophy winner and now USC's running back coach.
Two Trojans will seek to maintain ongoing Pac-10 records today:
--Otton has not had a pass intercepted in the 176 passes he has thrown in his career.
--Johnson has 12 consecutive 100-yard receiving games, a conference and NCAA record.
Gilbertson, on what he plans for Johnson today: "One thing you can do is have him kidnaped or arrested at the hotel."
After today, USC has three of five on the road. Washington State visits the Coliseum next Saturday, but then USC must play at Notre Dame and Washington, return to play Stanford at the Coliseum, then travel to Oregon State.
USC Coach John Robinson was a good deal tougher on his three suspended players in a teleconference with Bay Area writers than he was at his Tuesday media luncheon at USC. "Those three guys screwed up and let our team down," Robinson said in the phone conference. "When something like this happens, you begin to understand what a commitment to a team is. It's more than just showing up and using their talents. They make a commitment to everyone else too. I think our team, frankly, felt these three guys--popular guys and good guys--did let us down."
Cal leads the Pac-10 in one category: sacks. The Golden Bears have 18. USC is fourth with 12. . . . USC has converted 59% of its third downs, tops in the league. Cal is last at 27%. . . . The return of grass to Memorial Stadium means all major California stadiums now have grass.
USC TROJANS vs. CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
* Site: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley.
* Time: 3:30 p.m.
* Records: USC 4-0, 2-0 in Pacific 10; Cal 1-3, 0-1.
* TV: Prime Sports.
* Radio: KMPC (710).