Cal out to snap 14-year drought vs. USC, become bowl eligible

Cal cornerback Cam Bynum, who grew up attending USC games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, is excited to play in the 95-year-old structure for the first time Saturday night.

“This place has history, serious history,” Bynum said, alluding to the Coliseum’s resume that includes hosting to two Summer Olympics and the first Super Bowl. “Walking through that big ol’ tunnel — that’s my favorite part. Everything echoing. I love it.”

Fellow cornerback Elijah Hicks has his own history at the Coliseum. As a 10-year-old, he played there in Snoop Dogg’s youth football league.

“At that time it was pretty cool,” said Hicks, whose parents live five minutes away. “That was exciting.”

On Saturday night, when the Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) take on the Trojans (5-4, 4-3), their focus won’t be on the venue.

“When we go out on the field, we have to execute,” coach Justin Wilcox said.

Cal is seeking a sixth victory and bowl eligibility, which also would allow the Bears to snap a 14-game losing streak to the Trojans.

Here are a few things to watch:

Embracing defense: Two years removed from their days as a free-wheeling team that was only barely concerned with stopping the opponent, Cal now is able to survive in a grind-it-out defensive battle.

The Bears scored only one offensive touchdown combined against Washington and Washington State the past two weeks, and could have won both games (they split). Meanwhile, the defense has allowed only 36 points in the past three games — the stingiest Cal has been in three consecutive Pac-12 games since 2004.

“When we got here, unfortunately they didn’t play great defense,” said Cal defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who this week was named a candidate for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach.

“A lot of guys felt `woe is me’ with their little slumped shoulders. But …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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