USC sends California to 3rd straight loss, 27-21

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — For the second straight season, a promising start to the season for California has been derailed by a second-half collapse. Only this time, it's the high-powered offense that's as much to blame as the usually maligned defense.

Adoree Jackson returned one of Jared Goff's two interceptions 46 yards for a touchdown and the Golden Bears dropped their third straight game, losing 27-21 to Southern California on Saturday.

"Very frustrated," Goff said. "We've let some games slip away from us. We started off hot and haven't been able to finish a game in these last three games. But I don't think that's going to keep us down."

After turning the ball over six times in a loss at Utah and getting completely outplayed at UCLA, the Bears (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) came up short against the Trojans (5-3, 3-2) thanks to three turnovers and the inability to get a stop in the closing minutes.

USC converted a pair of third-down runs to run out the clock, including a 14-yarder by Tre Madden on a play that looked like Cal had a chance to stop in the backfield.

"We had great penetration by our D-line and made him bounce back," linebacker Hardy Nickerson said. "I tripped and was just trying to make a play and just dove and missed him. Those are the type of plays you have to make when the game's on the line."

Instead, those were the plays USC made to win its 12th straight in this series. Ronald Jones ran for 80 yards and a score, Madden also ran for a touchdown and Cody Kessler completed 18 of 22 passes for 186 yards in the win.

"We have a formula right now to run the ball, stop the run and don't turn the ball over," interim coach Clay Helton said. "It was a tremendous team effort."

Goff threw for 272 yards and two TDs, but was intercepted twice as the Bears are still searching for that elusive sixth win that will make them eligible for a bowl for the first time since 2011.

The Bears lost six of seven following a 4-1 start last season to finish one win shy of a bowl game and now are trying to avoid a similar collapse.

"I think we're all frustrated," coach Sonny Dykes said. "We should be playing better than we're playing on offense, no question about it. We've got to get it figured out and play better."

The Trojans took control of this game with two big plays in a span of 23 seconds in the third quarter. First, Madden capped a 67-yard drive to open the second half by scoring on a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1.

On the next play after the kickoff, Goff was pressured and threw up a floating pass that Jackson intercepted and returned for the score that made it 24-7. Jackson, who came into the game with 17 catches and two TDs on offense, added another score on his first interception of the season.

Cal answered with a TD drive of its own capped by a 6-yard run by Daniel Lasco but Kevon Seymour intercepted Goff early in the fourth quarter to preserve the 13-point lead.

Goff hit Stephen Anderson with a 9-yard touchdown pass that made it 27-21 with 3:52 to play but USC ran the clock out.

After losing a fumble by Khalfani Muhammad on the opening drive, the Bears drove down to score on their next possession when Goff hit Bryce Treggs with a 6-yard pass on fourth-and-1. That marked the first time since 2007 that Cal led USC at any point in a game in a sign of how one-sided this rivalry has been.

But the Bears still ended up on the short side.

"It's bad, it hurts," Lasco said. "I wanted this game and I know a lot of seniors wanted this game. This is a huge game for the community. It hurts to say the least. It really does hurt. Being here for five years and I can't find a way to ever beat SC. It's not a good feeling."