BERKELEY, Calif., Nov. 12 - The University of Southern California does not like to be referred to as Southern Cal, in part to prevent confusion with the University of California, which is commonly known as Cal. The U.S.C. football team drew the distinction Saturday afternoon. The Trojans, who for the past three years have dominated just about every opponent except Cal, finally separated themselves from their northern neighbors with a 35-10 victory. The score became so lopsided that bored fans at Memorial Stadium walked to the top row, turned away from the field, and enjoyed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The fog lifted early Saturday on the Bay Area and on U.S.C.'s road to an unprecedented third consecutive national championship. When the Trojans left Berkeley, they were confronted with the realization that they may not be making another road trip this season.
U.S.C. will play Fresno State at the Coliseum next week, followed by U.C.L.A. on Dec. 5, followed by a bowl game. Unless the Trojans trip unexpectedly at home, they will go to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., just a few miles from their campus.
To get there, U.S.C. first had to avenge ghosts here. It is difficult for a team that almost never loses to talk about redemption, but that is exactly how the Trojans spent the week before this game. If not for their triple-overtime loss at Memorial Stadium in 2003, U.S.C. would be riding a 44-game winning streak right now. Instead, the Trojans' ride stands at 32 games, no great shame. When U.S.C.'s schedule was released before the season, Saturday seemed the most plausible date for the Trojans' streak to end. Not only did the Bears beat U.S.C. here two years ago, they also came 9 yards from upsetting the Trojans at the Coliseum last season.
But that was when Cal had Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback. Joe Ayoob, far removed from Rodgers, threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. The Trojans did not need an 18-point comeback to beat Cal, the way they did in 2002. They did not need a goal-line stand, the way they did in 2004. A modest effort was more than enough. "A lot was made of what happened before," U.S.C. Coach Pete Carroll said. "It's behind us now." The time to upset U.S.C. apparently came and went about a month ago, when the Trojans stalled at Oregon, staggered at Arizona State and somehow slipped out of Notre Dame. In the past four games, they have regained their footing and notched nothing but blowouts. U.S.C. does not seem to have much appreciation for Memorial Stadium, among the most picturesque venues in college football. The low bowl, built like Notre Dame Stadium, sits at the base of Strawberry Canyon. To get there, fans have to walk a trail through campus. Those who do not want to pay admission sit above the stadium and watch from aptly named Tightwad Hill. If only the Cal defense were so miserly. Quarterback Matt Leinart scored two rushing touchdowns Saturday, and tailback LenDale White added three. The Bears, who made the U.S.C. secondary look vulnerable in recent years, could not adopt their own blueprint. Intent on shortening the game and playing keep-away from U.S.C., Cal ran the ball on 10 of its first 11 plays. Ayoob's only pass was intercepted by U.S.C. safety Darnell Bing. To scratch out a field goal in the first half, the Bears needed assistance from two personal foul penalties. Eventually, the Trojans keyed on the Cal running game and built such a large lead that Cal had no choice but to pass. Ayoob responded by throwing three more interceptions, one to linebacker Rey Maualuga. Before the game, Maualuga was best known for being arrested 10 days ago on suspicion of battery after allegedly punching a man at a party. Maualuga was allowed to play in the second half last week against Stanford and was given an expanded role against Cal. The Trojans were not going to bench any contributors or give the Bears any breaks. When it comes to Cal, U.S.C. does not like to leave any doubt.