USC defensive end Wes Horton (96) and defensive tackle George Uko team up… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
USC got the bounce-back victory it was seeking Saturday, though it wasn’t exactly resounding.
The Trojans’ 27-9 triumph over California at the Coliseum featured a pair of 100-yard rushing performances but had some warts, most notably three turnovers and another lackluster performance by quarterback Matt Barkley.
Silas Redd finished with 158 yards and a touchdown in 21 carries and Curtis McNeal added 115 yards in only 10 carries for the Trojans, who moved the ball with more efficiency than they had during last week’s loss to Stanford.
But Barkley had two passes intercepted for a second consecutive week and McNeal had a fumble that might have proved costly had USC safety T.J. McDonald not thwarted a Golden Bears drive late in the third quarter with an interception inside the Trojans’ 10-yard line.
McDonald’s takeaway preserved USC’s 17-9 lead, which kicker Andre Heidari extended early in the fourth quarter when he kicked a 41-yard field goal.
Barkley completed 22 of 34 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and the two interceptions.
Marqise Lee was the Trojans’ leading receiver, snagging 11 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, including a three-yard scoring reception with 5 minutes 56 seconds left that gave USC its margin of victory.
USC (3-1, 1-1 in Pac-12 Conference) will have nearly two weeks to enjoy its first conference victory because it doesn’t play again until traveling to face Utah on Oct. 4 in Salt Lake City.
The Trojans got center Khaled Holmes back temporarily after he had sat out the team’s loss against Stanford last week because of a right leg injury, but he limped off the field early in the fourth quarter after appearing to sustain another leg injury.
Heidari was effective in his return after sitting out the previous two games with a knee injury, making field goals from 40 and 41 yards and both of his extra-point attempts.
Quarterback Zach Maynard completed 18 of 33 passes for California (1-3, 0-1), which repeatedly drove deep into USC territory only to settle for field goals. Kicker Vicenzo D’Amato, who had missed three field goals last week against Ohio State, converted three of four attempts against the Trojans.
It wasn’t nearly enough.