Stud: Andre Heidari
Stud: Cody Kessler
USC needed Cody Kessler to have a big night against the Cardinal and the first year quarterback delivered. In the first half Kessler found his receivers with ease. In the face of relentless pressure by Stanford’s defensive line he never backed down, calmly shifting away from defenders, keeping his eyes downfield and making the right throws. He was a game manager and more. His play in the second half may not have been as sharp, but he still engineered the final drive with key completions to Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor.
It might not be a Heisman moment for Kessler, but the big game performance proved once and for all that #6 has everything it takes to be a Trojan quarterback.
Stud: Marqise Lee
Agholor deserves a shout out as well, with a team-high eight catches for 104 yards. However, Marqise Lee was Marqise Lee and there’s no competing with that.
Lee came up with the big catches in the big moments. He reeled in a tip-toe-falling-out-of-the-endzone catch on the two-point conversion which made up for Heidari’s missed PAT. Two of his six catches came on third and long. His final catch on the night was almost as important as Heidari’s game-winning kick. Despite suffering a bruised shin two plays before, Lee hobbled his way back onto the field and secured a 13-yard catch on 4th and two, keeping the Trojan drive alive.
Stud: Su’a Cravens and Dion Bailey
Just when it looked like the USC defense might be dead in the water, the secondary provided the kiss of life. A fourth quarter drive to the goal line that almost certainly would have ended in points on the scoreboard for Stanford was wiped out by a great read by Dion Bailey, who reached up to snatch Kevin Hogan’s third down pass out of the air.
Su’a Cravens, not to be overshadowed by the upperclassman, delivered the jab that set up USC’s knock out punch. After pressure forced Hogan into a poor throw, Josh Shaw tipped the ball to Cravens who tipped the ball back up in the air then twisted his body to make the interception that would keep Stanford’s offense off the field for the rest of the game.
Stud: Ed Orgeron
It’s always easier to judge decisions after they’re successful, but it still took a lot of guts for Ed Orgeron to give the go ahead on two key plays against Stanford. The first, going for the two-point conversion after Heidari’s wide PAT on the first touchdown. As it turned out, one point might have been all the difference in the game if Heidari’s final kick wasn’t true.
The second set up said field goal. With a 4th and two near midfield, the Trojans could have tried to pin Stanford deep in their own territory, hoping for another big defensive stop. Instead, Orgeron went for the jugular and put the game on the line right there and then. Kessler and Lee rewarded him for his faith with the first down.
Stud: The Coliseum Crowd
Stanford’s chaotic opening drive was all about the Coliseum, which was as loud as it’s ever been. It got started when Matt Leinart egged on the fans as he led the team out of the tunnel and continued through the first half.
Clearly, the Cardinal weren’t prepared for the atmosphere. David Shaw had to burn two time outs within the first two plays and a false start resulted in a long third down attempt, which Stanford failed to convert.
Unfortunately, the third quarter was the near opposite. For whatever reason, the crowd had trouble waking up after halftime and the atmosphere fell into dud territory.
It all worked out in the end, however, with an electric fourth quarter that culminated in the fans rushing the field as the clock wound to zero.