USC defense improving every week Print
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Sunday, 09 November 2008 09:04
 LOS ANGELES (AP) -Southern California can't score like Big 12 powerhouses Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma.
On defense, though, no team in the country measures up to the hard-hitting Trojans.
California came to the Los Angeles Coliseum ranked 21st in the country and averaging 36.4 points per game, but managed only a field goal Saturday night in a 17-3 loss to No. 6 USC, keeping the Trojans' national championship hopes alive.
``We have a swagger and a confidence. It's not cockiness, it's confidence,'' defensive end Clay Matthews said. ``Our mind-set is to shut down the run and the pass and to shut out each team each game.''
The Trojans came close to their fourth shutout in five games against the Golden Bears, who got a 35-yard field goal from Giorgio Tavecchio midway through the second quarter.
Cal wouldn't score again.
en tackles and assisted on three others. ``We came together tonight. We have a veteran group of guys, and everybody knows their jobs. We don't try to be superstars, we play within our system.''
Mark Sanchez passed for 238 yards and two touchdowns in USC's sixth straight victory. The Trojans (8-1, 6-1 Pac-10) have outscored the opposition 231-23 since losing 27-21 as 25-point favorites at Oregon State.
USC has allowed an NCAA-low 6.7 points per game, the Trojans' best defensive performance since 1952, when they gave up 4.3 points per game. They've given up just seven touchdowns - four by Oregon State and three by their other eight opponents combined. And they also lead the country in total defense, allowing 206.4 yards per game.
``The defense was playing like crazy - lights out again,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. ``The game was more in control than it looked because the score was so close. The guys just keep playing, quarters after quarters after quarters. They just don't give up anything.''
The Trojans have gone more than 2 1/2 games since giving up a touchdown - Arizona got one in the second quarter of a 17-10 loss to USC on Oct. 25. Cal (6-3, 4-2) had only 165 yards of total offense, the fourth straight opponent USC has held under 200.
ajor accomplishment,'' Carroll said. ``We have a good opportunity to finish this thing and are looking forward to the next challenge. We have a chance to be a really good team with this defense. They definitely give us a good chance to win out.''
Even that might not be enough to get the Trojans into the Rose Bowl, much less the BCS title game.
Oregon State topped UCLA 34-6 on Saturday, leaving the 23rd-ranked Beavers (6-3, 5-1) in position to play in their first Rose Bowl in 44 years if they beat Cal, Arizona and Oregon to finish the regular season. USC, which finishes against Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA, has won or shared the conference title and played in a BCS bowl in each of the past six years.
USC is 25-0 in November games since Carroll became coach in 2001, and has won 43 of its last 44 games at the Coliseum, where a crowd of 88,523 watched the latest triumph.
``We're playing really well right now,'' said linebacker Brian Cushing, who had six tackles and three assists. ``We have a lot of seniors out there who know their roles. We are playing aggressive. We just know how to play.''
Trailing 10-3, Cal moved into USC territory three times in the third quarter, but came up empty. The Bears wouldn't threaten again.
``Everyone understands what a special group they have on defense,'' Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. ``You can't beat yourself in situations, have penalties, get a touchdown called back, especially when you play a defense like that.''
 

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