Lincoln Riley era can’t start soon enough for USC after season-ending loss to Cal

USC wide receiver Tahj Washington stiff-arms California defensive lineman Luc Bequette during the Trojans’ 24-14 loss Saturday night. (Michael Urakami / Getty Images)

The Lincoln Riley era officially can start at USC. And after a 24-14 loss to California in Berkeley, the new coach’s tenure can’t come soon enough.

If Riley stayed up late for Saturday’s nightcap after his recruiting trips and video calling into “College GameDay” from the backseat of a car, USC’s next coach saw a team in shambles.

The Trojans (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) tied a season low in scoring and finished the game with third-string quarterback Miller Moss on the field after starter Jaxson Dart was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. The miserable ending seemed painfully fitting for a team that found new ways to confound nearly every week.

The loss doomed USC to its worst season since going 3-8 in 1991.

On a day dominated by College Football Playoff discussion and conference championship games, USC’s inconsequential 8 p.m. start signaled just how far the program had fallen. Neither USC nor Cal (5-7, 4-5 Pac-12) held bowl hopes and the game, which was postponed in November because of a COVID-19 outbreak among Cal’s program, was rescheduled for after the Pac-12 championship game because both teams already were out of title contention by October.

Because of Saturday’s low stakes, there were questions about whether the players would want the game to go on. The Trojans delayed practice on Wednesday last week because they wanted to ensure everyone was “on the same page,” interim coach Donte Williams said.

USC’s lackluster performance did little to dispel rumors of locker room strife.

USC wide receiver Kyle Ford stiff-arms California safety Elijah Hicks on his way to scoring a touchdown in the second quarter Saturday. (D. Ross Cameron /…


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