Stan­ford, Cal each need wins to reach magic num­ber

So­Cal na­tive is ex­cited to play so close to his home at the Coli­seum

The Mercury News - - Sports - By Jeff Fa­raudo Cor­re­spon­dent

Cal cor­ner­back Cam Bynum, who grew up at­tend­ing USC games at the Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum, is ex­cited to play in the 95-year-old struc­ture for the first time tonight.

“This place has his­tory, se­ri­ous his­tory,” Bynum said, al­lud­ing to the Coli­seum’s re­sume that in­cludes host­ing to two Sum­mer Olympics and the first Su­per Bowl. “Walk­ing through that big ol’ tun­nel — that’s my fa­vorite part. Ev­ery­thing echo­ing. I love it.”

Fel­low cor­ner­back Eli­jah Hicks has his own his­tory at the Coli­seum. As a 10-year-old, he played there in Snoop Dogg’s youth foot­ball league.

“At that time it was pretty cool,” said Hicks, whose par­ents live five min­utes away. “That was ex­cit­ing.”

Tonight, when the Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) take on the Tro­jans (5-4, 4-3), their fo­cus won’t be on the venue.

“When we go out on the field, we have to ex­e­cute,” coach Justin Wil­cox said.

Cal is seek­ing a sixth

vic­tory and bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity, which also would al­low the Bears to snap a 14-game los­ing streak to the Tro­jans.

Here are a few things to watch:

EM­BRAC­ING DE­FENSE >> Two years re­moved from their days as a free-wheel­ing team that was only barely con­cerned with stop­ping the op­po­nent, Cal now is able to sur­vive in a grindit-out de­fen­sive bat­tle.

The Bears scored only one of­fen­sive touch­down com­bined against Wash­ing­ton and Wash­ing­ton State the past two weeks, and could have won both games (they split). Mean­while, the de­fense has al­lowed only 36 points in the past three games — the stingi­est Cal has been in three con­sec­u­tive Pac-12 games since 2004.

“When we got here, un­for­tu­nately they didn’t play great de­fense,” said Cal de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tim DeRuyter, who this week was named a can­di­date for the Broyles Award, given to the na­tion’s top as­sis­tant coach.

“A lot of guys felt ‘woe is me’ with their lit­tle slumped shoul­ders. But now we have pride that we can win a game on de­fense. It’s re­ally fun to see that tran­si­tion in their at­ti­tude.” TURNOVERS RE­MAIN THE KEY >> The Bears threw two more in­ter­cep­tions in their 19-13 loss at Wash­ing­ton State — one each by Chase Gar­bers and Bran­don McIl­wain — and now rank thirdto-worst na­tion­ally in most turnovers sur­ren­dered with 22.

What the Bears’ record might be with­out the glut of give­aways is dif­fi­cult to project.

But con­sider how dra­mat­i­cally Cal’s de­fen­sive rat­ing has been im­pacted. The Bears rank 31st na­tion­ally in scor­ing de­fense. But if you deduct the six touch­downs given up by the of­fense, the Bears would climb to No. 13.

WHO WILL WIN THE RUN GAME? >> Cal wants to run the ball, but the Bears have strug­gled the past two weeks, gain­ing 203 yards on only 2.8 yards per try against the Wash­ing­ton schools.

USC redis­cov­ered its tra­di­tional power run­ning game last week after coach Clay Hel­ton took over play-call­ing du­ties. The Tro­jans ran over Ore­gon State for 332 rush­ing yards on 7.5 yards per at­tempt, led by Aca’Cedric Ware, who had a ca­reer­high 205 yards and three touch­downs.

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