BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Adoree Jackson returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown and Ronald Jones ran for 80 yards and a score to lead Southern California to its 12th straight win against California, 27-21 on Saturday.
Tre Madden also had a touchdown run and Cody Kessler threw for 186 yards to lead the Trojans (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12), who won for the second straight week under interim coach Clay Helton.
Jared Goff threw the interception that put the Golden Bears (5-3, 2-3) in a 17-point hole in the third quarter and sent Cal to a third straight loss following a promising start to the season. 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.
While Cal’s hopes to contend in the Pac-12 are dwindling, USC’s are rising with the two big wins under Helton. The Trojans beat then-No. 3 Utah 42-24 at home last week followed by another win against Cal. USC had lost three of its previous four games and fired coach Steve Sarkisian during that stretch after beginning the season with hopes to contend for a championship.
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, came up with 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 Madden converted a third-and-1 when he popped outside for a 14-yard gain after being hit in the backfield. Justin Davis then converted a third-and-6, allowing the Trojans to run out the clock.
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.
The Bears didn’t enjoy the lead for long as the Trojans tied the game on a 13-yard run by Ronald Jones and took the lead in the closing seconds of the half on a 22-yard field goal by Alex Wood.