BERKLEY, Calif. — One of USC’s long-standing traditions came to an end over the weekend when the Trojans traveled up to Cal for the last ever Weekender.
For decades, the Trojans’ annual trip to the Bay Area to take on either Stanford (in even years) or Cal (in odd years) has become a cherished tradition amongst the fan base. One weekend each fall, thousands of USC fans make the relatively short trip up the coast of California to watch the football team play on the road. Throughout the weekend—popularly dubbed the “Weekender” by fans—you can spot people in USC gear all over the region, especially at the traditional Friday night pep rally in San Francisco.
But after many years and countless trips, the tradition has come to an end. With the Trojans headed to the Big Ten next year and Stanford and Cal set to join the ACC, this past weekend’s trip up to Cal was the final USC Weekender for the foreseeable future.
On the field at least, the trip delivered big time. With a large contingent of USC fans in attendance, the Trojans pulled off an exciting fourth-quarter comeback, scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the game’s final frame. USC’s defense then stopped the Bears’ potential-go-ahead two-point conversion attempt with under two minutes remaining and recovered the subsequent onside kick to seal the 50-49 victory.
While the Trojans left Berkeley with an exciting triumph, however, it was far from a satisfying result for USC fans. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and his oft-criticized unit struggled once again, allowing 49 points to a Cal team starting its third different quarterback this season. Prior to Saturday, the Bears had not scored more than 32 points against a Power 5 opponent this year.
Meanwhile, while star quarterback Caleb Williams and the offense did put up 50 points the unit still felt a bit disjointed and out of sync, just as it had in previous weeks. The Trojans also needed to win the turnover battle 4-1 and force two additional turnovers on downs just to beat a Cal team that is currently 3-5, with only one win over a Power 5 opponent all year.
Saturday was just the latest in a string of unsatisfying results for the Trojans. After barely squeaking by the likes of Arizona State, Colorado, and Arizona, USC suffered embarrassing losses at the hands of Notre Dame and Utah, before bouncing back with the narrow victory over Cal.
Technically, USC is still very much alive in the Pac-12 title race. But after six consecutive poor performances, it feels like Lincoln Riley’s squad is simply not that good of a team this year. And with the Trojans’ final three games against No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Oregon, and No. 20 UCLA, USC’s upcoming schedule does not get any easier. At the moment, a 7-5 finish and a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl appears a far more likely outcome than a conference title and a second consecutive New Year’s Six appearance.
So while the final Weekender delivered a classic football game, it once again left USC fans with much to be desired on the field. And given the extremely difficult home stretch of the schedule that the Trojans are about to enter, it appears more and more like this is going to go down as a lost season in Troy.