Neither the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal nor the No. 14 USC Trojans played to the level of their national rankings Saturday in Palo Alto. The teams didn’t even look like contenders in the Pac-12 Conference.
The game was sloppy and mistake-filled. The two teams combined for 18 penalties for 155 lost yards. In the end, USC’s senior kicker, Andrei Heidari, was the star in the Trojans’ 13-10 victory. Heidari was 2-for-2 in field goal attempts, including a career-long kick of 53 yards with 2:30 remaining.
Despite USC’s win, this game was lost by the Cardinal.
Stanford held a decided advantage in total yards and time of possession. But the Cardinal’s offense couldn’t convert despite regularly moving the football into USC territory.
From our researcher Rob Nelson, Stanford has gotten inside USC 30 on every one of its 8 drives and still only 10 points. #USCvsSTAN
— robert smith (@ESPNRobertSmith) September 6, 2014
Stanford was able to get into USC territory a ninth time as the fourth quarter waned. The team was in field goal position when USC senior J.R. Tavai burst off the edge, sacked Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan and stripped the signal caller of the football. USC recovered to secure the victory.
The Cardinal wouldn’t even be in the position if their kicker, Jordan Williamson, hadn’t missed a pair of field goals earlier in the contest. The decision to try and throw the ball late in the game instead of playing for overtime indicated the Cardinal’s lack of confidence in the kicker.
Plus, the Cardinal had a touchdown called back due to a chop block. All of these mistakes could have been avoided to easily win the game, and Stanford simply came up short.
USC didn’t play much better. The Trojans committed 10 penalties. Their defensive leader, Hayes Pullard, was ejected from the game for an illegal hit. And multiple drives stalled as the team’s new up-tempo offense couldn’t get on track.
This victory is important for USC as it attempts to rebuild its reputation and status under new head coach Steve Sarkisian. But it shouldn’t be viewed as a season-defining win due to the nature of how they won. Stanford simply didn’t play good football.