Southern Cal 23,
-- Southern California seemed helpless as Aaron Rodgers picked away at its defense, hitting pass after pass.
But with California just nine yards from a potential winning score, the Trojans finally found a way to stop the Golden Bears' near-perfect quarterback.
The top-ranked Trojans held the seventh-ranked Bears out of the end zone after a first and goal with less than two minutes left and held on for a 23-17 victory Saturday.
"I was running on empty, our defense was running on empty, but I knew they weren't going to score," Trojans defensive end Shaun Cody said.
Southern California (5-0, 2-0 Pacific-10) extended its winning streak to 14 and avenged its only loss in its past 26 games. The Bears' 34-31 triple-overtime victory last season kept the Trojans from claiming an undisputed national title. Before Cal's final four plays, Rodgers was 29 for 31 for 267 yards and a touchdown.
"It's frustrating as a defense when a guy is on fire like that," Cody said. "You've just got to hold on and try to do something to stop them from the end zone."
That just what the Trojans did after Rodgers got Cal (3-1, 1-1) to first and goal at the 9 with just less than two minutes left. Southern Cal got a sack and forced three incomplete passes.
Rodgers's final throw came with pressure coming and zipped by a diving Geoff McArthur in the end zone, sending most of the more than 90,000 at Los Angeles Coliseum into a frenzy and the Bears home with a hard-fought loss.
Matt Leinart threw two touchdown passes for the Trojans, who failed to get a first down in the fourth quarter.
"Anybody watching this game knows we really dominated the game. We just came up a little short in the score," said Rodgers, who tied an NCAA record by completing his first 23 passes for the Bears (3-1, 1-1).
It was the first time in 52 years that the Golden Bears and Trojans met with both teams ranked in the top 10, and the much-awaited matchup lived up to the hype.
The teams traded touchdowns to start the third quarter with Leinart hooking up with Dwayne Jarrett on a 16-yard score and Marshawn Lynch plunging in from two yards for Cal to make it 23-17.
Reggie Bush appeared to get the momentum back for Southern Cal with an electrifying 84-yard kickoff return. Bush bobbled the ball twice trying to field the kick, then split the coverage and raced clear across the field before being taken down at the 16.
But Cal thwarted the Trojans when Harrison Smith intercepted Leinart's tipped pass in the end zone. Cal dominated the fourth quarter, putting together two long drives. The only thing the Bears failed to do was score.
"Bend but don't break, that's what this game became," Trojans Coach Pete Carroll said.
Tom Schneider missed a 36-yard field goal wide right with 6 minutes 53 seconds left that would have pulled Cal within three. Rodgers and Co. got the ball back with 4:30 left.
"We expected to win when we took the field," Rodgers said. "I said, 'We're going to go 65 yards right here and get the win.' It's just frustrating that we couldn't get the job done."