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2017 Cal vs USC Report Card

Cal hangs tight with the #5 team in the nation through 3 quarters. Come see what the Cal faithful think.

USC v California Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Berkelium97: Well that was sort of fun for the first 45 minutes. Competitive games against USC have been exceedingly rare over the past ten seasons, so a tie game in the fourth quarter felt pretty novel. Sadly, 6 turnovers against the Trojans was not so novel. I doubt I was the only one who had flashbacks to the 2011 USC game that featured 5 agonizing turnovers from Zach Maynard. It will be no surprise that passing grades will be poor this week. But what about the other categories?

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 34.0% 21.9
Rush Offense 62.2% 20.0
Pass Defense 71.9% 18.8
Rush Defense 68.7% 18.8
Special Teams 50.0% 21.2
Coaching 68.1% 21.4
Overall 59.2% 17.9
Win Probability vs. Oregon 56.9% (+17.2) 25.7

It's all pretty decent. The rushing offense, rushing defense, pass defense, and coaching all earn respectable scores; I have a feeling we will consistently see strong scores in those categories, with some fluctuation in the passing game throughout the year. Besides the passing game nothing is too terrible, although special teams gets another low score due to the worrying trend of missed field goals. Remember when Matt Anderson kicked a school record 17 consecutive field goals? Neither do I, after these first three games.

However, I do remember last year's unnecessarily thrilling win over Oregon and it looks like we're all considerably more optimistic about our trip to Eugene than we were during preseason. In fact, the report cards submitted on Sunday were even more positive about our chances thanks to Oregon's surprising loss at Arizona State. Report cards submitted on Saturday gave us a 53% chance of beating the Ducks, while those submitted after the Oregon game climbed up to 64%!

Now let's hand out some awards.


We lost, so we must first recognize the pessimists.


Name Grade
1. FiReWiLcOx 0.00 (0.0%)
1. Goldenbears02 0.00 (0.0%)
3. Canes 3.20 (45.7%)
4. j. lee 3.35 (47.9%)
5. 1988goldenbear 3.40 (48.6%)

Aside from the two jesters at the top of the list, these are pretty reasonable scores for our most pessimistic report cards following a loss. Have we entered an era in which you can still feel good after a loss?

Speaking of feeling good, we have our most positive report cards next.


Name Grade
1. David Shaw has bitch tits 7.00 (100.0%)
2. Bowlesman 5.98 (85.4%)
3. Uthaithani 5.65 (80.7%)
4. Old Bear 71 5.50 (78.6%)
4. AlohaBear 5.50 (78.6%)

More good scores!

Finally, we have those whose report cards are closest to the community average.

The Voice of Reason

Name Deviation
1. calpaladin .0534
2. VermontBear .0588
3. NinjaNed .0876
4. Yogi Bear .0899
5. Old Blue '87 .0907

You all the with .08s are lucky to qualify this week. Those are unusually high deviations for this award, which helps speak to the volatility of this week’s report cards.

In addition to the numbers you provided, you also gave us some words. So many words. Let us all look at those words.

GoldenBearsBandwagon: While I went into the weekend with noticeably tempered expectations, I couldn’t help but get my hopes up after 3 quarters. And though at the end of the game the result struck a bitter blow, I could not help but get encouraged for the rest of the season and the seasons to come. Let’s take a look at how the other Cal faithful feel.

Gameday Experience

Calpaladin: Wife vetoed the trip north, so I got drunk again on my couch when I was supposed to get some work done. Whatever.

Azulviejo: It was great. Beers in the fridge. Saved $50-60 on parking. No hwy 80 traffic! Did not have to see Condom fans, in person!

UnLucky: What was with ABC's commentary? Why were they praising Darnold for 3 hours? I didn't see anything that impressive, yet they kept talking about his Heisman potential, we kept seeing his parents in the stands, etc. UGH! They were THE WORST!

Bowlesman: Kept my AED unit nearby for any cardiac event. Was not needed until 4th quarter. That being said. This is the first USC game since 2003, when I felt we were in the game (at least for the first 3 quarters) and USC was actually worried.

I came away proud, but disappointed with a possible victory lost through repeated mistakes.

Canes: A lot of red

Nor-Cal Scott: The Joe Roth era uniforms where AMAZING. UA did a great job.

Iwasthere4theplay: Too many damned toejams in the stadium! I was surrounded! Also I've noticed in the "special" alumni section they are kicking people out of the stadium if they cross over the bar and the people sitting there are calling security if they see someone cross over. I also saw a woman shouting at someone starting to cross over.

Nedbear: Hanging with the OC Alumni Club was very cool. Just happened to be in the OC and looked up where the Bears were meeting and ended with them. Great bunch!

1988goldenbear: CMS was beautiful and the throwback unis look great! So glad they will be worn every year.

2004-present: After the game Shattuck was overrun with red-and-yellow-clad blowhards. I went outside to get food and they were EVERYwhere... nauseating site.

Pass Offense

Hardtobecalfan: with our current QB level of play, we aren't going to win many pac12 games. ross bowers needs to be better. QB, WRs, kicker are all inconsistent. and is stovall back??

M4ld: It was below average at best before the 4th quarter, and then literally just imploded on itself (mostly due to Bowers). Not sure what he was thinking, but the coaches need to figure it out. So it doesn't happen again.

AlohaBear: Yes, Bowers lost his cool and threw a pile of INTs, but there receivers has several drops as well, so he wasn't getting a lot of help.

Sacman701: Nightmare day. Bowers was mostly off, and when he was on his receivers were often off. The stat line (22/50 with 4 picks and a fumble that was basically a pick) is not misleading in this case.

UnLucky: Not great, but I thought the guys played fairly well had Bowers simply not melted down completely. I thought the O Line actually did OK - not great, but OK. The receivers dropped too many easy balls that they should never has missed. Even Laird's drop could have been caught. Ouch.

SuperEQ: We finally missed DRob.

Vic and Noa are studs, but we had no one to stretch the field. It's a game of inches, and we were a couple short.

Couple key drops too.

Bowlesman: Uh, the tipped interception was understandable, but the later Hail Mary-like gimmies were too much to bear. Some good and improved receivership, but hope there's more improvement to come.

Oh, and apparently, according to ESPN, Stovall made a reception, so good job on the "blueshirt" feint business. LOL

Oh, and good jobs refs overlooking a handsy USC defensive secondary, but I guess you made up on the Veasy non-call. #missedPI

Yogi Bear: Pass protection needed to be better, though offensive line injuries did us no favors

Nor-Cal Scott: (Jennifer Aniston/Rachel voice) ROSS!!!!! Four interceptions, two lost fumbles, and lots of over-thrown balls. But did you see Jared Goff on TNF?

Iwasthere4theplay: Bowers didn't have the time to sit back and let routes develop. We needed to bring the defense up by making quick throws and running the ball. Bowers had what, 4 balls tipped? Get the defense running with screens. Also, our x was single covered a lot but couldn't get separation. Baldwin's 5 receiver formation didn't get the ball out quick enough which allowed the D to get to Bowers. Not good.

NinjaNed: USC is ranked #5 this year, mainly because their defense is pretty damn good. Even if their schemes are pretty basic, their athletes are top notch. They run fast, the push hard, and cause mistakes and capitalize on them. There were many mistakes we made, but I think the biggest issue was personnel honestly. If we had bigger linemen that could wouldn't get punished by the pass rush, if we had fast WR that could burn the secondary, and if we had big bodied receivers that could beat one on ones with size, then it would have made executing the game plan (which was pretty good) against USC much better. And we all knew that coming into the season that we didn't have the top talent in the conference, but it is promising that even with what we have we can compete with the best. We'll get there, just be patient.

Run Offense

highly improbable: Cal's TD in the 1st quarter was beautiful- most of the yards off runs. Would have like to have seen more of that.

SuperEQ: WTF? Why is Bowers not running?! Several easy 1st downs and TDs were forsaken. Kid has legs. This was $C. RUN THE GD QB!

Great to see Vic getting yards. Echoles (sp?) has wheels. That bobble at end of 1st half was brutal.

Gen4Bear: We need an identity. Echols got some good carries today but I think we're still looking for a leader for the stable of RBs

Mrjpark: We never have problems here, RBU.

WhiskeyTangoFurd: Excluding the sacks, the guys had 133 yds on 30 carries -> 4.4 yards/carry. The holes were there and the guys hit them and you can't ask more than that.

Nedbear: Why did the coaches go away from it?! It was working great. It took a little while to get established, but we were moving the ball. Am I wrong or were we consistently gashing 6-12 yard runs? We could have easily wore them down and walked away with the win. What the hell were we passing so much for the second half?

Goldenlikethebears: Why didn't we run more?

ABVidale: I was pleasantly surprised by the run game.

Mistergarth: The backs did well; they had many yards after contact. We knew all along the O-line was not going to our greatest strength, and sure enough...

2004-present: Did great in short yardage etc. but those shotgun sweeps take years to develop. Our guys are just too slow to be running that so much.

J.lee: should've ran it more after the 1st 2 interceptions in the 4th. we were still in it...and well, we were moving the ball.

NinjaNed: The run game was polar af. Either we were playing power football and couldn't be stopped and blowing defensive linemen off, or we would get stuffed and bottled up in the backfield. I like how Enwere is maturing as a runner though. A few times instead of just blowing through the lanes as he normally does, he looked and waited to see what hole to hit ala Laird, which is promising.

Pass Defense

Calpaladin: We did a good job containing Darnold, getting 2 picks and putting pressure on him until our offense fell apart in the 4th. Defense played exceptionally well today.

Sacman701: We didn't shut Darnold down, but to hold him to less than 6 yards a pop and get a pick is a very good day. No meltdowns today--SC's longest completion was just 19 yards.

FrmrG8r : Outstanding. Holding Darnold to 200 or so yards passing and few big plays? As good as it will get this year in a monster effort.

Canes: Impressive, Sam Darnold looked mortal.

Nor-Cal Scott: Such an improvement over the Dykes era. Sam only had 223yds, the WRs only had 4 catches that went between 14-19yds, and Drayden had a INT. Darnold's QBR a weak 60.5.

Mrjpark: We did fine, considering it was a USC passing offense. You'll give up some points.

WhiskeyTangoFurd: The announcers kept talking about Darnold and the Heisman, Darnold in the NFL and our defense made him look like a slightly above average college quarterback. That's impressive.

Iwasthere4theplay: If you don't get pressure on the qb, he's going to hit someone eventually. Usually the TE who probably had a pretty good day. They were on the field too long and in the second half, it looked like they were too tired to properly tackle.

Texashaterforlife: It was good early, however it started to slide late. More an indication of depth and talent needed for future improvement. That last USC touchdown I could see coming as soon as the USC offense lined up. It was a good play call by USC. Cal will learn another tough lesson there. The Cal interception near the goal line was just a great individual play.

1988goldenbear: First half pressure on Darnold was awesome, and he looked very ordinary. Coverage was good too, for the most part. Then the mid-range passes to the TE came up to bite us in the second half.

Old Bear 71: Somebody already said they "made Darnold look pedestrian." they did. If he is NFL quality it didn't look like it on Saturday in Berkeley.

2004-present: Gave up a few soul-crushing 3rd down conversions but held up alright.

Run Defense

Calpaladin: Rushing defense did fine for the most part until the 4th quarter, when they were clearly gassed and USC was just draining the clock. We've probably done the best so far to contain Carr.

AlohaBear: Did quite well at limiting SC production on the ground.

Sacman701: Very solid. SC was unable to generate anything consistently, and we wrecked them on a critical 4th and 1. SC's longest designed run went for just 13 yards. The improvement in tackling from last year is like night and day.

UnLucky: Carr has a solid day against us, but I still thought we did a good job staying disciplined and keeping them contained. Defense did NOT lose this game today.

SuperEQ: It was a war, and i'm so proud of our guys. SC wants rot pound the ball. Effort like this will get us the Axe in Nov.

Bowlesman: There were some GREAT stops, then there were some unwelcome USC successes. Overall, both "D's" kept us in the game more so than any other part of the team.

Canes: Tackling was an issue

Yogi Bear: They tried, USC's team speed was sometimes too much for us

Iwasthere4theplay: If I'm not mistaken, SUC kept running pin and pull which resulted in a lot of yards. They were also wearing down the D. At one point I think they ran it 3 straight times IIRC.

Goldenlikethebears: Tackling continues to be an issue. Glad to see the effort in forcing turnovers.

Texashaterforlife: Started out good and just wore down late in the game. Some of that was depth along with strength and conditioning. And some of the problem was the offense's short time-of-possesion in the fourth Q due to the turnovers.

Oski Disciple: Another strength. teams are not able to establish a running game or break long runs against us.

Special Teams

Hardtobecalfan: anderson needs to change something. he's not reliable anymore.

Bowlesman: Love Anderson. But I love, too, Matt Cain and I am afraid he has had his day his day with the Giants. I am so sorry, but Anderson needs to be on the bench as soon as we can find a replacement. And out, until he shows DRAMATIC improvement. Was he kind of questionable two years ago? I know Sonny kept him once he showed great improvement, but, hey, an entire drive went wasted and the offense ended up with a three-score deficit, instead of a two. Our players are not usually emo, but that seemed to change the momentum and psychology of our offense. Very deflating.

The other special teams were okay. One kick into the endzone probably did not need a runback, but what do I know? A dramatically short punt could only be explained if he was kicking into a headwind, so I found that frustrating.

WhiskeyTangoFurd: Matt? Matt Anderson? There's some other guy wearing your jersey and we'd like you to take it back now.

Iwasthere4theplay: Nice deep KO. Returns need some work.

Goldenlikethebears: Matt, we need to talk about this slump you are having. Try some meditation or something.

Fire Starkey: Someone find Matt Anderson and not this impostor who misses 29 yard field goals. Just brutal

1988goldenbear: Jeez, Anderson is killing the buzz. These misses have been so disheartening. Kick coverage was decent, as were the punts.

Mistergarth: Other than the missed field goal, I barely remember any of the special teams plays. After some of the debacles of recent years, that's probably a good thing.

Oski Disciple: WTF is with the FG kicking? Is it Anderson? The snaps? The holds? This is gotta be fixed as we're likely to have a game or two that comes down to a FG before the season is over.

2004-present: To me the game was over when Matt Anderson missed that 2 foot putt. Sucked the air out of the place. Is anyone even coaching him? I know many programs don't even hire kicking coaches and just leave guys to figure it out (which is beyond idiotic seeing as they have the power to DECIDE GAMES). Clearly we are one of those programs. We already can't recruit the same kinds of athletes USC etc. can. We can't be making things worse by blowing chip shots. That's one of the few areas we can completely control!

NinjaNed: Is the holder messing up Anderson or something? I have a hard time believing the kicker has regressed this much. He was a solid to good kicker last year and now I don't know if he can make 30 chip shots.


Calpaladin: We didn't make the adjustments we normally do for the 2nd half of the game and the loss of composure by Bowers needs to be address. We will see how good this coaching staff is when we see how the team bounces back in the next game against Oregon. It's easy to look like a genius when you win, but how we improve after a loss will define us more.

M4ld: I have no idea what they said (or didn't say) to Bowers, but it changed nothing about how he played through the 4th. That said, I thought I would've liked to see Forrest play there at the end of the 4th quarter but giving Bowers a chance to rebuild some confidence was the right move.

AlohaBear: I liked most of the play calls. I thought a bit more emphasis on the run game would have been good, but overall I'm happy. Guys came ready to play. Not too may penalties. Ticked all the good coaching boxes other than perhaps mentioning to the QB not to heave passes up in desperation.

UnLucky: Frankly, I thought we looked really well-coached, as a team. We were able to hold USC well, we moved the ball, etc. Overall, I thought the coaching was pretty good - we showed up prepared and poised. I liked the decisions to go for it on 4th, I liked the aggressiveness, etc.

SuperEQ: Felt for the first time our play calling went flat. Very uninspired in the 2nd half. Stovall seemed wasted. Why isn't Bowers running?

Hope they can rally the boys for the trip to eugene or this season could tank quickly.

FrmrG8r : Can't blame the coaches for this one. Good strategy, timely fourth down gambles. Just can't overcome a lack of execution.

Bowlesman: Did Wilcox have their number?

Or did they have his?

Overall, it was not coaching that lost this game, but the execution. Bowers is shaky on long bombs, but throws them anyway. Did the coach call for those? Not sure. But given everything we have seen from Wilcox, so far, I think he made all good calls. I think he's the "one," with whom we can, if the Cal leadership will allow us to become a "football factory," build an epic program. I can only hope he stays with us.

Gen4Bear: Going for it on 4th and 4 at midfield was ballsy, but I'm not sure it was the right call. Glad to see stovall getting some field time.

Bearsupporter: I thought they continued to do good game planning for the team, giving them a chance to compete.

Mrjpark: They continue to put us in positions to win, this time our offense completely fell apart at all levels and let them down. I think this was a VERY winnable game, and enough people made enough mistakes to throw it away.

Nedbear: If Baldwin was calling the plays he really blew it in the second half. The run was working just fine. Why did he go away from it? Why were we passing so much? Jesus! What a contrast from the 2nd and 3rd quarters where we were moving the ball, then suddenly we start throwing it all over the yard to every SC defender in the stadium. I'm puzzled.

Goldenlikethebears: I think a time out should've been burned after the first massive screw up just to get the team refocused. Bowers looked stressed and feeling like he had to put the team on his back, which was forcing him into poor decisions. Gotta play within yourself.

Generally, calls on conversions were correct. Use of timing, play action, all seemed to be good calls.

Defensively, I think we got a little over aggressive in QB pressure situations, which they saw coming and exploited those fairly well. The defense continues to improve, so I think we take this as a learning game.

1988goldenbear: We were certainly prepared and unafraid in the first half. Missed opportunities is the theme of this one, because we certainly should've been ahead after the first drive of the 2nd half (but that didn't work out) with a boat load of momentum. They need to coach up Bowers, because mistakes like those arm punts were killers.

Old Bear 71: Downright stellar. They have taken guys who looked star-stuck last year and coached them up to be competitive with the best that money can buy. Cannot heap enough accolades on the drew Wilcox assembled.

Oski Disciple: I -- and everyone around me -- was stunned at the decision to go on fourth and four. It was a game changer. A punt might have pinned $C inside their ten, it would have at least made a difference of 20 or so yards in field position. As it was we gave them a short field and they promptly kicked the go ahead FG. Also the empty back field on the ensuing offensive play inside the ten signaled a pass, brought a big rush and led to the fumble that spelled the end.

NinjaNed: Through 4 games, we outcoached the other team 3 times, and I'll just chalk up the Weber State game to hubris. From what I can see with the talent from last year and how they were utilized to this year, I feel like this staff is one of the best in the conference at understanding what needs to be done to win the game and develop players. The game plan on both sides were pretty good and we should have been more competitive and even won if the wheels didn't fall off once we got behind and players started panicing, but that's not on the coaches. I have faith, they'll know how to get the most into our players from this loss.

Overall Performance

Calpaladin: Football is a 60 minute game and we fought great for 45 minutes. Defense played as hard as they could for all 60. Team played inspired and were hitting above their weight class, but 6 turnovers - you can't win with 6 turnovers.

M4ld: This was probably a learning experience that needed to happen. Seriously f*** this USC win streak though. Makes me sick. Hopefully Wilcox and co steer us back in the right direction for Oregon. Comparing our performance vs. U$C to that of Stanfurd's is a good gauge that we're right around the middle of the Pac-12.

AlohaBear: Really fairly happy with this performance other than the INTs. I always assume we'll lose to SC, so being competitive for 3 quarters was nice. That 4th Q was not fun to watch though. :(

Sacman701: Overall, this wasn't too bad. The defense held its own against a legitimately good offense that torched Furd for 600+ yards, and the passing game's woes are largely a function of an inexperienced QB throwing to inexperienced receivers behind an inexperienced line. The passing game will improve. I think every game except maybe Washington looks more winnable today than it did yesterday.

UnLucky: Overall, I thought the team played really well - well enough to win - and I'm still very hopeful on the season. We've got a great team and great coaches.

That said, I don't think I've ever seen the play of one individual do as much damage as I saw Bowers do today (not even with Ayoob or Maynard) it was hard to watch and my heart goes out the entire team. We saw every chink in Bowers's armor today - he didn't look off DBs, he threw weak lofty passes into coverage, poor ball handling, and just struggled all day. I really wish we could have seen Forrest come in for a set of downs or two late in the 4th simply to see what he could do.

Bowers is going to be a work-in-progress this year, I just hope he pulls through. Plus, we could use some speed at receiver!

Go Bears.

FrmrG8r : This is where the coaches earn their pay. Do we reopen the QB competition? Bring in soccer players to audition for PK? Or do we breathe deeply and try to regroup before we hit the road for a brutal road stretch? So close, we are - and yet so far...

Bowlesman: Entered Cal in 1976 and have been a fan ever since. I was there for the first, ever, Joe Roth Memorial game. Not since a few of the Tedford years have I felt so confident and excited about Cal football. This team and this coaching staff have renewed my enthusiasm and HOPE. #ANewCalHope I feel there's no team we cannot give a fight. I just gotta' wonder if the crappy expectations of years of loss to SC got into our heads, because I profoundly believe we could have won today. I am heartbroken, love this team, and am excited about the rest of this season. This was unlooked-for success! Yes, this was a success today, despite the outcome.

Bearsupporter: We're 3 -1 and could have been 4 - 0 except for the turnovers and missed points (sun blinded and shank right). Take away the turnover points they got and we win.

WhiskeyTangoFurd: Coach Tuiasosopo has his work cut out for the next week - I expect Bowers to either be tentative after 4 picks or over aggressive trying to show he can make those throws.

Goldenlikethebears: Unfortunately, my expectations for the outcome of the game were met. Thanks for giving me hope going into the 4th quarter. Haven't had that in a while. You can't coach size and some people just have talent.

ABVidale: Against teams with superior talent you cannot afford mistakes. Cal made plenty. U$C is very beatable this year, but their second string players have more raw talent than Cal's starters. The final was about what I expected.

Fire Starkey: Phenomenal. Despite being disgusted in the 4th quarter, overall, I am delighted with how the season has progressed and am hopeful for the future. Credit to the coaches and team for leaving their guts out on the field

1988goldenbear: This was a very winnable game that spiraled out of control in a very short span of time in the 4th quarter. So many "what if's" and squandered opportunities. Toss in those poor decisions by Bowers and the dominance/size of the USC defensive line late in the game, and we couldn't overcome the beast. But after swallowing the bile that rose up after the loss, I'm still encouraged that this team can give anyone a fight this year.

Old Bear 71: The Bears' performance was great. They were unlucky (no, not excuses) in several instances. If the same thing happened to suc the tv commentators would have had an unending supply of excuses talking about how "lucky" our Bears were to get the breaks such as an interception inside the 5, etc.

Our Bears are in good shape for the remainder of the season and in excellent hands to continue massive progress.

2004-present: As my namesake implies I have yet to see Cal beat USC live, so being teased like this was tough to swallow. USC is NOT the 5th best team in the country, but staying with them that long has to be encouraging.

I worry a bit about Ross. I know he's still raw but even for a rookie those were some really reckless decisions. Long-term I think he'll be ok but that might cost us later this year.