USC vs. Stanford: Trojans land knockout punch in the 20-17 upset


Nov 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans fans storm the field after the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Stanford 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The losing streak has been snapped.

Behind a 47-yard Andre Heidari field goal with 19 seconds to play, USC defeated No.4 ranked Stanford, 20-17.

Some will call it an upset, but for the Trojans, the train continues to roll on.

The teams exchanged momentum swings throughout the first half, and the Cardinal dominated the second half, but it was the Trojans who were able to come up big when it mattered most.

If there was a weakness in the Cardinal defense, it was their struggle to defend the pass.

Taking advantage of that, Cody Kessler began the game on fire as he led the Trojans to a 17-10 lead at halftime.

As you would expect from a veteran defense, the Cardinal made adjustments to limit Kessler’s effectiveness in the second half.

He finished the game 25 of 37 for 288 yards and one touchdown.  Kessler was sacked and fumbled the ball in the third quarter, which the Cardinal recovered, but other than that he limited his mistakes.

With the Cardinal limiting the trio of Javorius Allen, Ty Isaac, and Tre Madden to a combined 39 rushing yards, Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee picked up the slack.

Agholor hauled in eight receptions for 104 yards and Lee had six receptions for 83 yards.

Lee’s numbers won’t wow anyone simply by looking at them.  Instead, it was his ability to come up with a clutch play time and time again.

Lee’s first big play came on a two-point conversion catch in the corner of the end zone that gave the Trojans the early 14-7 lead.

Then in the fourth quarter, he took a fourth down slant pass 13 yards for a first down.

Moments prior to Lee’s fourth down catch he limped off the field with an apparent knee injury.

Whether it was due to fatigue or simply succumbing to the Cardinal onslaught, the Trojan defense missed tackles and suffered mental lapses that led to Cardinal points.

Tyler Gaffney carried the ball 24 times for 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns. One of his touchdown runs came on a play where he was stood up at the line of scrimmage but was able to fight off tacklers and break free for a 35-yard score.

However, the defense rose to the occasion in key situations.

A week after converting on 14 of 21 third downs, the Cardinal managed to convert on only four of their 12 third down attempts.

A key factor to the Trojans dominating that stat was the defenses’ ability to win on first and second down.  Instead of third and short situations, the Cardinal often faced long yardage situations.

With the game tied at 17-17 in the fourth quarter, Dion Bailey picked off Kevin Hogan’s third down pass in the red zone.  The Trojans were unable to turn that into points, but the defense responded yet again.

Later in the fourth quarter, with the game still tied, Su’a Cravens intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Hogan.  It would end up being the difference maker in the game as the Trojans were sure to convert on that turnover.

A linchpin of the Trojans’ BCS run under Pete Carroll was the ability to win games in November.

Ed Orgeron has the Trojans 3-0 in November with two games remaining.

One team, one heartbeat, lives on.