USC Beats Stanford 13-10 in a Wildly Improbable Victory


The 13th ranked Stanford Cardinal, with major-college football’s longest home winning streak, had their hearts broken by a USC defense that bent over backwards, but refused to break.

More from LA Sports

Following all the pregame hype, Stanford won the toss and chose to receive the ball. After several miscues, they gave the ball to USC, who marched methodically down field to score the first seven points. The rest of the quarter had both teams moving the ball but failing to score. At the end of the first quarter, the Trojans totaled 68 yards (45 rushing, 23 passing0 in 4 minutes and 30 second of possession. The Cardinal had 82 yards split evenly between the rush and pass on two drivers covering a whopping 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

In the 2nd quarter, following another empty USC possession, Stanford finally scored with 7:45 left on the clock. The scoring drive took 11 plays and 77 yards over five-and-a-half mintes. Through this point of the 2nd quarter, the Trojan defense had been on the field more than twice as long as its offensive counterpart, which had only run 11 plays in 2 possessions. Still, the game was tied 7-7.

On its 2nd possession of the quarter, USC started at the 24 yard line, moved methodically downfield to the Stanford 45, and promptly punted with three minutes remaining in the half.

With only three minutes to go, from their 20 yard line, Stanford began executing their hurry-up offense. Seemingly overly concerned about the big play, the USC defense allowed a rush for 9 yards and pass plays of six, 10, eight, 30 and 12 yards, leaving the ball at the Trojan 16-yard line. Stanford ran twice more to the USC six-yard line. Then, ready to punch in a statement touchdown, they instead got an illegal formation penalty pushing them back to the 11. The next play resulted in a delay-of-game penalty for another five yards. Both calls proved to be pivotal since Stanford was forced to pass on 3rd and 11, and it was nearly intercepted. In spite of the early fireworks from the hurry-up offense, Stanford settled for a field goal and went on to lead at the half by a score of 10-7.

All in all, the first half was fairly exciting for fans of both teams. The home side held the ball for over 19 minutes and more than doubled up on the Trojans in yards.  But for USC, his was an acceptable position to be in considering they were only down by three in a stadium where the Stanford Cardinal had won its last 17 games.

Sep 6, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; USC Trojans running back

Javorius Allen

(37) runs the ball against the Stanford Cardinal in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Cardinal 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The pivotal third quarter had USC starting with the ball at their 22-yard line. Sark predictably called three ran three plays and the Trojans punted. Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery promptly returned the ball to the Trojan 30-yard line. On its first snap of the second half, Stanford gained 15 yards down to the Trojan 16 . Four plays later, Jordan Williamson missed a 26-yard field goal.

As was the case in USC’s first possession of the half, USC again went three-and-out. This time, after getting the ball on his 36-yard line, Stanford QB Kevin Hogan completed a 26-yard pass to tight-end Austin Hooper. Next, he threw an 11-yard screen pass to Montgomery. Two plays later, on third and three, Hogan ran for five more yards down to the 12. Following two more plays that went nowhere, USC forced a fourth down. Feeling confident, Stanford brought in their jumbo package for a power running play. USC held stout, giving the Trojans the ball on their own three. With 4:25 left in the 3rd, in spite of USC being outclassed in every measurable offensive category, the score remained 10-7.

With his back to the end zone, Kessler the ball three straight times to give USC some breathing room at the 34-yard line. Then, running back Javorius Allen busted a surprising 50-yard gallop to the Cardinal 16. Unlike his counterpart David Shaw, coach Steve Sarkisian went for three points from inside the 10. Kicker Andre Heidari sent the 25-yard kick through the uprights with 53 seconds left in the quarter to knot the score at 10.

On the ensuing kickoff return, the USC cheers for the previous score turned to jeers by a 15-yard penalty against USC defensive captain Hayes Pollard, who was also kicked out of the game for leading with his helmet. Just as suddenly, from the Trojan 32, Stanford flubbed the handoff on a running play and turned the ball back over to USC. After the Trojans ran two offensive plays for a total of 15 yards, the wacky 3rd quarter finally ended. For Stanford, the missed field-goal and the critical turnover on downs were the tipping points of the quarter.

Up to this point, Stanford had 202 passing yards and 114 rushing yards in 27 minutes of possesion while USC had 87 passing and 120 in 17:42.

Sep 6, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan (8) reacts after a touchdown was called back because of a penalty during action against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Cardinal 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

USC drove to the Stanford 45 to open the fourth quarter, but turned the ball over on downs. Hogan moved the ball to the Trojan 30. With 8:30 left to play, Montgomery ran six yards, setting up what would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass to Hooper. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, Remound Wright was flagged for a chop block, immediately silencing the roaring crowd. Instead of getting a go ahead touchdown, or at the very least getting the ball in field goal range, the vaunted Stanford offense found itself with third and 19 on the Trojan 38-yard line.

With their next possession being perhaps the most crucial of the day, the Trojans, started on their seven. After two plays, an 18-yard run by Buck Allen moved the ball to the 25. Another eight-yard run by Allen moved the ball to the 33. Two plays later a 29 yard pass play moved the ball to the Stanford 40. Two more plays left the Stanford defense huffing and puffing with hands on hips. However, they were able to stop USC at the 38 yard line, on 4th and 5, with 2:35 left in regulation. Time-out USC!

Sep 6, 2014; Stanford, CA, USA; USC Trojans place kicker Andre Heidari (48) follows through on a 53-yard field goal against the Stanford Cardinal in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Cardinal 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsFollowing the timeout, Sarkisian decided to go for it. After lining up and observing the Stanford defense, he called another time out. In went Heidari, the hero from the last time the two teams played. In last year’s game, Heidari gave USC a 20-17 victory over the Cardinal, with a


50-yard field goal. This time, almost as if in slow motion replay, the go-ahead kick from 53 yards was GOOD! USC led 13-10.  Two 50-yard go-ahead field goals against their main conference rival, How Do You Do!

Meanwhile, on Stanford’s next possession, with the ball at the 25-yard line and 2:30 left to go, the Stanford Cardinal moved to the other 25 in six plays. With 19 seconds left, Hogan dropped back to pass. Trojan linebacker J.R. Tavai entered the backfield completely untouched and jarred the ball from Hogan’s hand. Scott Felix recovered to seal the win.

A few notes:

  • Stanford failed to score in eight possessions in the USC red-zone.
  • Trojan Buck Allen had a career best 154 rushing yards.
  • Trojan field-goal kicker Andre Heidari kicked his career best 53-yarder.
  • Total yards: Stanford 413, USC 291