The latest in a series that continually zigs when when many think it will zag, Stanford upset No. 6 USC 41-31 in the Los Angeles Coliseum, upending the Pac-12 race in the process.
The Cardinal, who could not have been more lethargic offensively in a 16-6 loss at Northwestern two weeks ago, sliced USC’s defense from stem to stern, accounting for 474 yards and 26 first downs on the night. Quarterback Kevin Hogan led the charge, completing 18-of-23 passes for 279 yards with two touchdowns and rushing seven times for 28 yards.
A second quarter rally proved crucial, as Stanford fought back from a 21-10 deficit by marching a combined 162 yards in drives that ended with a one-yard Redmound Wright run with 3:53 to go before the half and a 17-yard strike from Hogan to Devon Cajuste with just three seconds to go before the half.
USC reclaimed the lead with a one-yard toss from Cody Kessler to Steven Mitchell, Jr., but Stanford retook and then added to its lead with a pair of one-yard Wright plunges. Alex Wood pulled USC back within 38-31 with 9:19 to go, but Stanford methodically moved 52 yards over the next 6:52, setting Conrad Ukropina up for a 46-yard field goal with 2:27 remaining.
USC’s last gasp ended with an incomplete Kessler pass on 4th-and-13 at the Stanford 23-yard line with four seconds to play.
Kessler completed 25-of-32 throws for 272 yards with three touchdowns and no picks, and a host of Trojans combined to rush 28 times for 155 yards, but timeliness was an issue for the USC attack. After scoring touchdowns on three of its first four touches, USC managed only one more touchdown on its six remaining possessions.
In the end, it’s another loss as a favorite for USC, and the sixth Stanford win in the clubs’ last nine meetings, dating back to the Cardinal’s landmark 24-23 upset of the then-No. 1 Trojans in 2007.
In the end, it leaves one to wonder: who is the real Stanford team, the one that beat USC or the one that lost to Northwestern? Will USC ever be “back” under Steve Sarkisian? What does this mean for the Pac-12 race? If one thing is certain in the Pac-12, it’s that nothing at all is certain.