LOS ANGELES — Nelson Agholor caught a career-high 16 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, and Cody Kessler passed for 371 yards and four scores in Southern Cal’s 38-30 victory over Cal on Thursday.
George Farmer and Randall Telfer also caught TD passes for the Trojans (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12 Conference), who beat their upstate rivals for the 11th straight time.
Agholor and Kessler shredded Cal’s porous pass defense while USC jumped to an early 31-2 lead before holding on to its fourth win in five games.
Jared Goff passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns for the Golden Bears (5-5, 3-5), whose fourth loss in five games prevented them from clinching bowl eligibility. Cal hasn’t won at the Coliseum since 2000, and the Bears couldn’t overcome their huge early deficit.
Stephen Anderson caught a 29-yard TD pass from Goff with 1:36 to play, but Darreus Rogers easily recovered the onside kick. Agholor had another spectacular night under the Coliseum lights, becoming the first receiver in USC’s storied history to post back-to-back 200-yard games.
“It just means I have a great offensive coordinator, head coach and quarterback to put me in that position,” Agholor said. “[Kessler] did an amazing job controlling the game, picking and choosing where to go with the ball.”
The Trojans’ lower-key successor to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee had nine catches for 139 yards after the first snap of the second quarter. Agholor had just three catches after halftime, falling one catch short of Woods’ school-record 17 receptions.
Justin Davis rushed for an early score as USC tuned up for its season-ending showdowns with UCLA and Notre Dame. Javorius Allen rushed for 60 yards, missing his seventh straight 100-yard game on the ground, but getting more than 100 total yards from scrimmage for the 13th straight game.
USC also had three touchdowns and a fumble recovery wiped out by penalties on another busy night for Pac-12 officials. This crew threw 25 flags for a combined 276 yards in penalties against both teams, but the Trojans persevered.
Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs caught TD passes for the Bears, and Daniel Lasco rushed for a score. Cal still hasn’t beaten a team that currently has a winning record this season.
The Coliseum was about half-full at kickoff for a rare weekday game in downtown Los Angeles. The tradition-bound portion of USC’s alumni base isn’t overly fond of television-friendly weekday games, but the venerable arena filled in while the Trojans dismantled Cal in the first half.
Kessler capped USC’s opening drive with a pinpoint 10-yard TD throw to Agholor. Farmer dived to catch a 32-yard play-action TD pass moments later.
Cal then tackled Davis for a safety after Goff quick-punted down to the USC 1, but Agholor made another big catch setting up Davis’ TD run.
A holding penalty wiped out Kessler’s 42-yard TD pass to Adoree Jackson early in the second quarter, but Agholor made his second TD catch anyway. Cal finally got Harper’s TD catch 9 seconds before halftime, reducing USC’s lead to 31-9.
Agholor had a brilliant 78-yard catch-and-run TD wiped out by a holding penalty in the third quarter. USC lost another TD catch to a penalty before Kessler rolled out and hit Telfer for a 15-yard score early in the fourth.