The Enemy’s Enemy is back for another year, as we sit down with other blogs in Cal’s conference to get the inside scoop.
Today, we chat with Dina Colunga, Managing Editor of USC’s team site Conquest Chronicles. A big thanks to her for taking time to answer our questions!
Jamie: 2018 marked the first time USC lost to Cal in 14 matchups, in a 15-14 defensive struggle. What was the USC fan base’s reaction to losing this game?
Dina: It was deflating because we had just come off a two week losing streak the week before when we beat Oregon State and were really looking to keep the momentum going heading into the UCLA game. It was frustrating because it was a game where we could have won had the offense performed just a tad bit more efficiently. Iman Marshall’s penalty in the fourth quarter was just the icing on top of a burnt cake, fans were extremely upset about that as I know he was as well. As for the 14 win streak, I think the fan base at that point of the season was used to having things broken.
JP: In a down year for USC, was the loss to Cal the most disappointing of the season, or does another game stand out?
DC: To me it wasn’t, though I’m sure there are fans that would say it was. For me the most disappointing was Texas. It was the biggest game of the season on the biggest stage in Austin, Texas. Plus the history between the two teams made the air that much more charged. With USC’s blown lead and then Texas blowing USC out, that one hurt the most.
JP: Cal’s defense has been statistically one of the top defense in the country over the course of the season. What did you see from them defensively in your game that stood out to you?
DC: The way Cal was able to force fumbles was killer. I think the end result would have been different had Amon-Ra St. Brown held onto the ball in the second quarter. Surprisingly our run game did well with Aca’Cedric Ware rushing for 103 yards, we weren’t expecting that, especially with the up and down season our O-line has had.
JP: Patrick Laird is arguably Cal’s biggest offensive threat, with close to 1,000 yards rushing and 9 total touchdowns on the year. Against USC he had 19 carries for just 71 yards, but he also had a big 4th and 1 conversion late to help seal the win for the Bears. What did USC do well to slow Laird down?
DC: We had phenomenal performances from DE Jacob Lichtenstein, LB Cam Smith plugged holes and made sure to wrap up when he tackled so Laird wouldn’t break free. LB John Houston Jr. also had a solid game with six tackles and was the perfect support for Smith. Wrapping up when tackling has been an issue for USC in the past few seasons, so it was nice to see our defense tackle well. Laird could have easily rushed for 100 yards had Cal played USC a week later.
JP: What does USC’s fan base think of Cal, generally? What should TCU fans expect from Cal fans when they meet up in Phoenix?
DC: To be honest we don’t view Cal as a big game every year, to me it’s one of the least flashy matchups in conference. Though this year I know the fans are impressed with Cal’s defense, which will be interesting to see how TCU’s offense has prepared for it. Well they won’t be boasting about their conference that is for sure. I think they should expect solidarity in lamenting conference officiating.
JP: Give us a quick prediction for the Cheez-It Bowl between Cal and TCU.
I think it will be low scoring, Cal is No. 16 in the nation in total defense and TCU like USC has had trouble this season putting points on the board. Though I think TCU can pull off a win, Cal’s offense is suspect and the Pac-12 usually underperforms in bowl games.