BERKELEY, Calif.-- Ah, another Saturday and another storming of the field. You gotta love college football, especially Pac-10 style. This weekend's heroics were turned in by the Cal Bears, who ambushed No. 3 USC, 34-31 in triple OT.
Best explanation for how the three-loss Bears could take down a program that virtually everyone had projected as a national title contender? The game-planning wizardry of Cal coach Jeff Tedford. Apparently, the QB groomer knows a thing or two about the running game also. "It's just so great to see the look in our kids' eyes that they never have a doubt,"said Tedford.
Although you couldn't blame them if they did after the Trojans blocked two kicks late in the game, especially when you consider that USC rallied from an even bigger deficit last season to overtake the Bears.
"They're a great team," said Cal DT Lorenzo Alexander, amid the Bear fans swarming him. "But they do have flaws, just like everybody else."
Truth is, the Trojans got what they expected from Cal. . .almost.
Cal QB Aaron Rodgers hit on 17-of-21 passes in the first half for 203 yards, while RB Adimchinobe Echemandu gashed the vaunted Trojan front for 79 yards en route to a 21-7 halftime lead, that probably should've been even bigger.
Trojan coach Pete Carroll was at a loss, other than to say "it just didn't feel like us." Again, credit Tedford who veered from the norm, running different plays from the formations USC had expected to see. "We might've overperfected it," said Trojan DT Shaun Cody. "They really threw some kinks and wrinkles at us and we were like 'Wow, wow, what's going on?'"
Carroll wondered after the game if USC spent too much time preparing for the Cal passing game. It's not out of the norm given Tedford's rep as a aerial guru. Instead though, the 220-pound Echemandu brought his downhill style right at the Trojans and a unit that had been giving up only 1.9 yards per rush surrendered its first 100-yard rushing performance in 17 games. Echemandu finished with 147 yards on 34 carries. Meanwhile, the USC ground game, the Trojans' biggest question mark, was again shaky, managing just 99 yards.The Bears also picked off three of Matt Leinart's passes. But the best barometer for how on the Bears were Saturday night is reflected in third downs: the Trojans hit on just 3-of-12. The Bears hit on 11-of-18.
"Anytime you can have success against a team like USC, it's a great accomplishment," said Tedford. "They're a tremendous football team and it means a lot to this football program to have that kind of victory in our home stadium on national television. It's a tremendous feather in our kids' cap."