The USC Trojans had plenty of time to manufacture a drive when they took the field with 2:44 left in the fourth quarter. With the score 21-14 in favor of the Cardinal, there probably wasn’t a comfortable Stanford fan in the house; with weapons like Robert Woods and Marquis Lee, one broken coverage could have been enough to tie the game.
Stanford’s defense, however, didn’t seem worried. USC made it all the way to their 31-yard-line after two nice passes from Matt Barkley converted downs. But Stanford’s pass rush got more aggressive as the clock wound closer to zero, and Barkley couldn’t manage to convert a 4th-and-40 with nine seconds left. Victory formation for Stanford, one downed knee, and the Cardinal fans rushed the field to celebrate.
The upset had massive implications on the college football world. The latest AP rankings have USC dropping from No. 2 to No. 13. As for Stanford? They leap-frogged the Trojans, moving up 12 spots to become the 9th-ranked team in the nation. Stanford (3-0) has definitely reinserted themselves into the national championship conversation.
Quarterback Josh Nunes had an adequate night under center, going 15-for-32 for 215 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But the real star of this game was Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor, who accounted for over half of Stanford’s offense. Not to be upstaged by Cal’s Brendan Bigelow, Taylor’s first touchdown was a 59-yard beauty featuring two cuts that surely impressed even the great Barry Sanders (and his son on the sidelines). Taylor’s second score came on a 23-yard screen pass late in the third quarter to tie the game at 14.
It was tight end Zach Ertz that would deliver the go ahead score (a 28-yarder with just over 10 minutes to play) but almost every Stanford player took part in knocking off the Trojans. Stanford gained 423 yards of total offense, 213 of which belonged to Taylor. Ertz and Levine Toilolo combined for 118 yards on 6 catches, and Nunes even contributed running the ball — moving the chains twice with rushes and ending up with three carries for 33 yards.
Defensively, the Cardinal held USC in check all night. Running back Silas Redd accounted for both of Southern California’s touchdowns but was otherwise ineffective moving the ball, collective 17 yards on 13 carries before leaving the game with an injury. Barkley’s Heisman hopes took a major hit as well, going 20-for-41 for 254 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked twice on USC’s final stand and looked to be no match for Stanford’s defense.
The Heisman trophy was probably the last thing Barkley was worried about, though. His career record against Stanford is now 0-4, and last night’s loss on the Farm put a major dent in USC’s National Championship hopes.
— Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson (who missed three field goals in the Fiesta Bowl, as you may recall) refused to let Cal’s Vincenzo D’Amato be alone in his kicking woes this weekend. Williamson missed three field goals against USC, as did D’Amato against Ohio St. Williamson’s night wasn’t all bad, though. Marqise Lee was set to break a kick return for a touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Stanford kicker made the tackle to keep the score tied and USC in their own territory.
— Stanford outgained USC 417-280. The Cardinal defense held the Trojans to only one third down on 18 attempts.
— Lee was the highlight of USC’s offense, catching eight passes for 100 yards, but Stanford kept him out of the end zone and staved off the big play from both of USC’s star wideouts.
— This is the first time in Stanford’s history that they have beaten USC four times in a row.
— How confident was head coach David Shaw that Stanford could pull off the upset? “Wish (fans) wouldn’t be surprised when we win,” Shaw said. “This is what we planned to do.”