Cal-USC grades: Bears' defense is no match for Trojans' offense
USC Trojans 45, California Golden Bears 24
Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the USC Trojans’ 45-24 victory over the California Golden Bears:
Quarterback grade: Sam Darnold, 69.8
Darnold picks apart Cal defense, as offensive line provides plenty of protection
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold showed his accuracy and provided USC fans with a sense of excitement as they watched the future of the program make some upperclassman type of throws against a depleted Cal defense. The Bears entered the game allowing 41 points per game and an average of 505 yards coming into the Pac-12 matchup tonight. The Trojans offensive line did a marvelous job protecting Darnold, as he was only pressured on four of his 30 dropbacks, and from a clean pocket he completed 23 of 26 passes for 195 yards and five touchdowns. His only blemish was an interception under pressure on an underthrow, as he tried forcing a deep ball to wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster with a safety playing over top. Darnold wasn’t shy about taking shots deep, as he was 4-of-8 for 98 yards on balls thrown 20 yards or more.
Top offensive players:
G Damien Mama, 85.1
RB Ronald Jones II, 80.9
C Nico Falah, 80.8
T Zach Banner, 78.4
WR Darreus Rogers, 78.1
Offensive line paves way on the ground
There is no doubt Ronald Jones II had some good bursts and showed his elusiveness, as he forced nine missed tackles on his way to 223 yards rushing, although the Trojans’ front can also be credited with opening some huge running lanes against a Cal defense that was last in the FBS in defending the run coming into the game. Cal’s defense will most likely retain that ranking, as the Trojans rushed for 422 yards on 46 attempts, forcing 13 missed tackles and gaining 272 yards after contact. Occasionally overshadowed by the imposing JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Darreus Rogers had his best game of the season, as he was targeted eight times, hauling in six passes for 97 yards and two scores, as Darnold had a passer rating of 154.7 targeting him.
Top defensive players:
CB Iman Marshall, 83.4
LB Michael Hutchings, 83
CB Leon McQuay III, 82.2
CB Ajene Harris, 82.2
CB Adoree’ Jackson, 82.5
Secondary occupy four of the five top defensive grades
It seems silly seeing four cornerbacks among the five top-graded defenders, but with Cal’s uptempo spread offense, USC ran mostly nickel and dime packages in order match up evenly. Since the Trojans were only able to generate three QB hurries, mostly due to how fast Cal QB Davis Webb gets the ball out, the secondary was going to have to limit opposing wide receivers’ yards after catch while hoping to keep Webb’s yards per attempt to a minimum. The Trojans did allow 190 yards after the catch, which is bound to happen with the amount of quick screens and short passes Cal throws at you. However, they only allowed 6.4 yards per attempt, which is very reasonable against an explosive Cal offense. The trio of Iman Marshall, Ajene Harris and Adoree’ Jackson allowed only a 50 percent completion rate when thrown at 22 times, with the longest being a 32 yard gain.
California Golden Bears
Quarterback grade: Davis Webb, 58.4
Webb struggles without his top WR
Without his top WR Chad Hansen, QB Davis Webb was unable to get into much of a rhythm, as he was woefully inaccurate on some passes. When he attempted passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, he was 1-of-8 for 23 yards and an interception. Cal’s offense revolves around its short passing game, as the Bears hope to get a few shots set up throughout the game on double moves stemming from the short passing attack. The offensive line kept Webb clean throughout the night, as he was only pressured on six of his 53 dropbacks. But he struggled on those six pressured dropbacks, completing two passes for 16 yards with an interception.
Top offensive players:
G Dwayne Wallace, 76.6
WR Bug Rivera, 70.5
WR Jordan Veasy, 65.2
RB Khalfani Muhammad, 64.5
G Chris Borrayo, 63.4
Offense unable to generate points
Cal did finish with 132 yards on the ground, but had to abandon that much sooner than anticipated as the team trailed throughout much of the game. Wide receivers Melquise Stovall and Demetris Robertson combined for 16 catches on 24 targets, but only had a long of 32, as most of their receptions came on routes of less than 10 yards. RB Khalfani Muhammad cooled off a bit after two straight games with more than 145 rushing yards, as he ended with 89 yards yet still averaged a respectable 5.9 yards per attempt.
Top defensive players:
LB Jordan Kunaszyk, 83.5
LB Raymond Davison, 75.9
DI Marcus Manley, 70.2
ED DeVante Wilson, 68.7
S Luke Rubnzer, 67.1
Defense gets gashed on the ground
Yet again the Cal defense gave up big numbers on the ground, as the Bears surrendered more than 400 yards rushing and missed 15 tackles on the evening. Injury-depleted or not, those are numbers that will not fare well in the outcome of a game. Apart from DeVante Wilson’s strip sack, the defensive front was only able to generate three hurries and didn’t record a single QB hit. A bright spot has been LB Jordan Kunaszyk, who has graded well two consecutive weeks, after recording a game-ending interception last week against Oregon, and he continues to be a sure tackler for a defense that needs one, as he’s only missed two tackles all year. Kunasyzk recorded a run-defense grade of 79.9 to go along with his five stops.