USC’s his­tory and tra­di­tion pro­vide mo­ti­va­tion for Cal

San Francisco Chronicle - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Rusty Sim­mons Rusty Sim­mons is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: rsim­mons@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Rusty_SFChron

Just un­der the Tro­jans’ foot­ball mast­head on its game notes, USC of­fers a brief his­tory of its pro­gram.

Eleven na­tional cham­pi­onships. Twenty-four bowl vic­to­ries. One hun­dred six­tyeight All-Amer­i­cans. Six Heis­man Tro­phy win­ners.

Five hun­dred four NFL play­ers. Eighty-one first-round picks. Five No. 1 over­all picks. Twenty-two Aca­demic Al­lAmer­i­cans.

“It’s a his­toric pro­gram,” Cal re­ceiver Moe Ways said. “USC is Rose Bowls and cham­pi­onships. It’s lights, cam­era, ac­tion.”

Ways grew up in Detroit and is a grad­u­ate trans­fer from Michi­gan, so you can imag­ine how much deeper the ex­cite­ment flows for the dozens of his team­mates who grew up in the shadow of the Coli­seum head­ing into Sat­ur­day night’s kick­off in Los An­ge­les.

Sopho­more corner­back Cam­ryn Bynum played for Cen­ten­nial-Corona (River­side County) and grew up be­liev­ing USC’s play­ers were celebri­ties.

“Ev­ery kid that grew up in SoCal was a fan of USC at one point,” said Bynum, who was red­shirt­ing the last time the Bears played at USC (2016). “It’s go­ing to be fun to be play­ing in the Coli­seum. It’ll bring me back to when I was in the sixth grade and go­ing to their games. I was pay­ing money to go to it, and now, I’m play­ing in the game.

“It’s re­ally big for me.”

All his­tory aside, Sat­ur­day’s game has plenty of sig­nif­i­cance in the here and now.

Cal (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) is one win from bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity for just the sec­ond time in seven sea­sons. USC (5-4, 4-3) is in a three-way tie for first place with Utah and Ari­zona in the Pac-12 South. Utah — which has lost start­ing quar­ter­back Tyler Hunt­ley and run­ning back Zack Moss for the sea­son — hosts Ore­gon on Sat­ur­day. The Wild­cats have a bye be­fore play­ing at No. 8 Wash­ing­ton State.

The Bears have lost 14 in a row to USC, last beat­ing the Tro­jans 34-31 in triple over­time in 2003. The last time they won at the Coli­seum was in 2000 (28-16), when Bynum was 2.

“When you have guys from South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, they know about that pro­gram and

its his­tory and tra­di­tion, but that’s not what we’re play­ing against,” Cal de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tim DeRuyter said. “We’re play­ing against the 2018 Tro­jans. That’s our ap­proach.”

The 2018 Tro­jans ended a two-game funk last Sat­ur­day with a 38-21 vic­tory at Ore­gon State, with head coach Clay Hel­ton re-as­sum­ing play-call­ing du­ties and tak­ing pres­sure off fresh­man quar­ter­back JT Daniels by re­turn­ing to a power run­ning game that pro­duced more than 300 yards on 7.8 yards per carry.

Cal’s de­fense is tied for 13th in the na­tion in third-down de­fense, stop­ping op­po­nents 68.2 per­cent of the time. The Bears are 19th in to­tal de­fense (323.2 yards) and 21st in both pass­ing de­fense (184.2) and de­fen­sive pass ef­fi­ciency (110.99).

While al­low­ing only 12 points per game in the past three, Cal’s de­fense has kept three con­sec­u­tive op­po­nents to fewer than 100 rush­ing yards. Ore­gon State, Wash­ing­ton and Wash­ing­ton State com­bined to aver­age 88.3 rush­ing yards per game on 3.0 yards per carry.

“SC al­ways has ta­lent,” said Cal red­shirt fresh­man quar­ter­back Chase Gar­bers, who played at Corona Del Mar Newport Beach (Or­ange County). “… Go­ing down to SC and get­ting that ‘W’ would mean a lot to us SoCal guys.”

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