“In our tight-knit family, there was a belief that we were going to find a way to win the game…I’m proud of our young men. This is something that they’ve wanted for a long time now.”
- USC Interim Head Coach Ed Orgeron
At the end of the day – or the evening, actually – this football program at the University of Southern California would not be denied.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Trojan community, or “Family”, from President C. Max Nikias all the way down to the lowliest fan in the upper nosebleed seats, as pumped for a game as they were for then 4th-ranked Stanford on Saturday night.
Everyone will remember Andre Heidari‘s 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to give the Trojans an epic 20-17 victory over the now-#9 Cardinal, and everyone will definitely remember what seemed like the majority of the 93,607 – a sell-out, by the way – at the Coliseum rushing onto the field when the clock hit zero, turning the turf into a sea of cardinal and gold.
Not to mention rocking to the marching band’s “Conquest” and throwing up two fingers in their “victory” sign all over the place as USC broke a four-game losing streak over their NorCal private school counterparts.
And were rewarded with a #23 ranking in the AP and BCS polls, remaining very much alive in the Pac-12 South race at 5-2 (8-3 overall) with games at Colorado and with #14 UCLA left.
Cody Kessler may have had his best day as a Trojan, throwing for 288 yards on 25-for-37 passing with a touchdown to fullback Sofa Vainuku and beautifully directing the offense for most of the night, particularly after Su’a Cravens‘ interception with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter.
The ‘SC defense may have stood toe-to-toe with Stanford’s vaunted smash-mouth offense all game long, overcoming Tyler Gaffney’s 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns to force two other turnovers and a blocked field goal try besides the Cravens pick.
Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor may have had outstanding nights, Agholor catching eight passes for 104 yards while Lee had 83 yards on six receptions, 13 of those yards coming on a crucial 4th and two play on the Trojans’ last drive, which eventually set up Heidari’s game-winning kick.
While nursing an injured leg, as every Trojan in the Coliseum knew if that 4th down play failed, Stanford would have likely won the game with a field goal of their own.
To be brutally honest, the Stanford team wasn’t merely going up against the Trojan football players.
That Cardinal squad, who are now 8-2, 6-2 in the conference, and no longer have the inside track in the Pac-12 North, was up against the entire Trojan Family on Saturday;
The alumni, both the affluent and privileged donors and those not-as-wealthy ones.
The working class fans who have never seen the inside of a USC classroom and see those Trojans as the next best thing to a pro team in Los Angeles.
The white-sweatered Song Girls.
The sunglasses-wearing Trojan Marching Band with their feather-helmeted and skirt-wearing drum major, who each got a rousing pep talk letter from Orgeron during the week.
Add to that the extremely loud noise that they all made throughout the game, the fact that it was Homecoming and ESPN’s “College Game Day” show was on the USC campus early in the morning, and the way that the Trojans desperately wanted revenge for all of those Stanford beatings and heartbreaks over the past four years, and, well, let’s face it folks:
Even though the game was a evenly-played, hard fought affair as far as the stats, and even though that winning kick was the only points that ‘SC scored in the second half…
The factors previously mentioned were too much for the Cardinal to overcome.
Football is an 11-on-11 game, but as far as this USC-Stanford contest was concerned, it was more like 11-on-90,000.
That’s pretty much impossible for any team to overcome.
Putting it another way: I’m not even sure if the Jacksonville Jaguars could have overcome an atmosphere like USC’s that Saturday night.
Colorado Buffaloes (4-6, 1-6 in the Pac-12)
PLACE: Folsom Field, Boulder, CO
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 6:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
LAST MEETING: USC won, 50-6
ALL-TIME SERIES: USC leads, 7-0
Now that this epic upset over Stanford is in the rearview mirror, the hardest thing for these Trojans is upon them:
Avoiding a hangover and a letdown over a team that I predict will be about a three-touchdown underdog.
Not that I think that this Colorado team will beat ‘SC, as hot as they are, but it’s now safe to say this:
At 4-6 – double the wins they had last year – these Buffaloes are no longer the worst team in the Pac-12 Conference, giving their lease to the cellar to now 1-10 Cal after beating them on Saturday.
And ending a 14-game conference losing streak in the process.
Sefo Liufau has emerged as a legitimate quarterback that coach Mike MacIntyre can build the program around, throwing for 364 yards and three touchdowns against the Golden Bears in Boulder with Paul Richardson accounting for 140 of those yards on 11 catches.
Still, the game plan for Orgeron and his staff should be this:
Make sure the starters are out of the game by the fourth quarter.
Even though there will probably be some looking ahead to what’s rapidly turning out to be a huge crosstown clash with UCLA on the 30th – it’s only human nature – that won’t be enough for the Buffaloes to take advantage and catch the Trojans napping.