I Ate The Greatest Sandwich Ever While Watching USC Destroy Cal

This past week was a trying one for the USC football team. They only got to enjoy their victory over WSU for one day before Stafon Johnson had a freak weight lifting accident that was serious enough to be life-threatening and sent him into seven hours of emergency surgery. Thanks to a great medical team and Stafon’s excellent physical condition he is well on his way to recovery and is hopeful he’ll be able to return to the gridiron next year.

Stafon’s injury was a huge distraction but coach Pete Carroll and his staff did a great job of keeping the team focused and not letting the accident derail the team’s preparation for Cal.

The Cal game was supposed to be a big Pac 10 conference matchup between two top five ranked teams. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. USC already suffered an inexplicable loss to Washington and Cal was exposed as a pretender against Oregon. So the hype that existed for this game two weeks ago was all but gone.

The main reason we lost to unranked Washington was quarterback Matt Barkley’s shoulder injury. Because Barkley was injured backup quarterback Aaron Corp started for us. So even though we lost to Washington I knew we’re a much better team with Barkley running the offense. I think the poll voters know this too because we only dropped to number seven in the rankings; it could have been a lot worse.

I wasn’t too worried about losing to Cal but I know what every USC fan knows — there are no guarantees with USC’s football team. However, I took comfort in the small four point spread because USC doesn’t lose the games that are expected to be close. We only seem to lose when we’re heavily favored. So if the Las Vegas odds makers would do us a small favor and make sure USC is always favored by less than a touchdown we may never lose again.

The Bay Area games are some of my favorite road trips. Not because of the partying, which is why most people like them, but because it makes for a very short road trip. This is the second straight road game that I was able to get in and out of the destination city in less than 24 hours. All told I’ll be able to pull that feat off four times this season which is a personal record. I could have done it for the Ohio State game too but I wanted to have a complete OSU weekend experience. My friend Rumy was able to get in and out of Columbus in less than 24 hours so he’ll accomplish the feat five times this season!

Friday night before the game my Twitter feed was full of people talking about how much fun they were having in San Francisco which made me wish I was there having fun with them. But I’ve partied in the Bay Area so many times that if scheduling permits I prefer to have an extra night at home doing my own thing, sleeping in my bed and making a smaller contribution to the hospitality industry.

The game had a late start so we flew into Oakland Saturday morning, checked into our hotel to drop our stuff off then took BART to Berkeley. We walked up Center Dr. to get to campus and we stopped at La Cascada for our pregame meal. We never plan it that way but we always seem to end up eating at La Cascada. Center Dr. is the main road from the BART station to campus and it was packed with Cal and USC fans heading for the game. This game is the Weekender so there are more USC fans and students than at any other road game (excluding ucla) and I think the USC fans were even more boisterous than Cal fans.

As it turned out Cal didn’t put up much of a fight. And unfortunately, USC didn’t put up as much of a fight as the 30-3 score would suggest. USC scored 30 points, but just like the previous week they only scored one touchdown in the second half. In the last three games USC has only scored two second half touchdowns. This is a huge and alarming departure from previous years when USC was considered a second half team. While the offense continues to flutter the defense is playing amazing football. One of the most impressive stats is that through five games USC hasn’t allowed a single passing touchdown. That’s bad news for Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen who plays USC next.

There were other disturbing patterns that USC failed to break against Cal. USC was only 1-4 on red zone TD conversions. They were 6-15 on third down conversions. And they were 1-3 on fourth down conversions. Our fourth down prowess has earned Pete Carroll the nickname Big Balls Pete. But if we aren’t converting a high percentage of fourth downs the fourth down bravado hurts the team.

Regardless of our many shortcomings the final score of 30-3 looked decisive enough for poll voters to keep USC in rarefied air.

After the game we had dinner at Café Mattina (formerly Café Intermezzo) on Telegraph Rd. A friend of mine who went to Cal recommended the place and it was awesome. He advised the chef salad which was HUGE. But I was hungry so I also ordered vegetarian chili and a sandwich called the PBHB (peanut butter, honey and banana) – it’s quite possible one of the best things I’ve ever had. One of my friends called the sandwich a passage to heaven.

On the way home we ended up sharing a shuttle with some unhappy Cal grads. We were on our way back to our hotel but got lured into joining them in the city for drinks. When we got into the city we saw quite a few freaky people walking around in freaky outfits; turns out the San Francisco Love Fest was taking place that weekend. They can call it whatever they want but I sure as heck didn’t love it! Seeing all those weirdo’s made me appreciate USC and L.A. even more!

Fight On!

Follow me on Twitter! http://twitter.com/uscpsycho

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