SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After starting the Pac-12 season with back-to-back losses, California has a lot more to worry about than a blowout loss a year ago to Southern California.
When that loss was as thorough and humiliating as that 48-14 game at the Los Angeles Coliseum was for the Golden Bears, it’s hard to forget it completely.
“It’s always a new season, a new game,” safety Sean Cattouse said. “It’s all about us this year, just doing things right this year. But it’s definitely something that we’re amped to get the taste out of our mouth from last year. It’s a motivation. Probably not the biggest, but it’s nothing that we’ve forgotten.”
It would be hard to forget that day when the Trojans rolled out to a 42-0 halftime lead and coasted to the victory. USC gained 373 yards in the opening half and held Cal scoreless until the closing minutes of the third quarter after it was already 45-0.
“Everybody has those games every year or two where even if you call a play that’s not supposed to work, somebody makes a great play or they get a ball tipped,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “It was just one of those games where everything went our way and nothing went their way. That’s why it was 42-0 at half.”
Cal (3-2, 0-2) looks to put together a much stronger performance in this year’s rematch against the Trojans (4-1, 2-1) at their temporary home of AT&T Park on Thursday night.
Cal’s offense looks much different this year than it did under stationary quarterback Kevin Riley in 2010. Zach Maynard provides a scrambling threat at quarterback
“It’s been different than what we’ve faced the past couple of weeks,” Kiffin said. “We’ve had some extra time and have really focused on stopping him running. We don’t want to let him beat us with his feet. We want to take away his run game and make him beat us throwing the ball.”
Maynard has struggled to do that so far this season, completing just 51.4 percent of his passes. He does have a knack for the big play, averaging 13.7 yards per completion.
He struggled last week with his mechanics in a 43-15 loss at Oregon, completing just 20 of 41 passes and failing to lead Cal on a single scoring drive in the second half.
“His feet were a little live,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “He was a little jittery and it caused him to miss a couple throws where we had some guys open. I think he rushed himself a little bit. Early there were a couple that the ball was really wet, you could see it come out of his hand funny, but he threw some great balls, too. There were a couple he missed because was rushing himself a little bit.”
Maynard will have to be much better this week because unfortunately for Cal, USC’s offense looks quite similar to last year’s model.
Woods was just starting to break out as a freshman in his big game against Cal a year ago, but now he has become one of the nation’s top receivers.
He leads the nation with 149.4 yards receiving per game and is averaging 11 catches a contest.
“He’s very fast, catches the ball exceptionally well, runs very good routes,” Tedford said. “And after he catches the ball he’s very hard to bring down. He’s elusive, he can make you miss and he can make big plays. They can throw him a 5-yard hitch and it can turn into a very long play.”
Making the task of dealing with Woods even more difficult is the fact that freshman Marqise Lee is also a dangerous threat with 21 catches for 323 yards and three scores.
“I’m not going to shoot them down,” Lee said. “I do believe they’ve got a great receiver corps over there. It’s going to be a competition with the best of the best receivers. I always feel we’re one of the top receiver corps in the nation. I don’t want to say we’re the top, but I feel like we’re up there with the other ones. We’ve got to keep competing, showing what we can do.”
Cal will likely have to deal with that duo without injured cornerback Marc Anthony, who is expected to be replaced in the lineup by freshman Stefan McClure.
“We’re going to try to keep an eye on him and communicate with him,” Cattouse said. “Just try to be there for him, make sure he’s where he’s supposed to be and just look out for him when I can. He’s going to handle himself. He’s in a good place right now.”
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.