USC toppled the mighty Cardinal for the second time in a row, ending Stanford’s home winning streak and laying a serious claim to a berth in the college football playoff Saturday afternoon.
It was a sloppy performance from both sides, with almost as many penalties as points scored.
So it should come as no surprise that there were equal parts dud in the game as stud.
Stud: Leonard Williams
As the minutes to kick off ticked down, rumors began to circle that Williams was in doubt to play versus the Cardinal.
Though he did take the field as a starter, it was clear his injured ankle was a hindrance.
Without Williams at full speed and missing Greg Townsend Jr, who came down with the chicken pox, the Trojan defensive line struggled to put pressure on Kevin Hogan for much of the contest.
Still, Williams toughed it out and actually grew into the game, leading the team in tackles and providing his biggest impact late.
It was Williams who downed Hogan on Stanford’s second-to-last play of the game before J.R. Tavai (a stud honorable mention) punched the ball out of the quarterback’s hands to end the game.
No wonder Williams was the first to lead the band after the victory.
Dud: The USC Offense
After week one’s display against Fresno State, all the talk was on USC’s offense.
They racked up 701 yards, ran 105 plays and looked downright unstoppable.
Turns out, they were stoppable. It just took an elite defense like Stanford to show it.
Saturday, they ran just 59 plays and gained 291 total yards.
The Trojan offensive line struggled to handle the Cardinal defensive front, while Cody Kessler struggled to maintain a rhythm.
While USC spread the wealth last week, just four Trojans caught a pass Saturday. Nelson Agholor led the show with nine while George Farmer added four.
Freshman phenom JuJu Smith came away with one catch for negative yardage.
More notably, Sarkisian seemed to struggle to find his own way, often dialing up questionable play calls in key third down situations.
Stud: Buck Allen
The one stand out from USC offensively was Javorius Allen, who set a career high with 154 yards on 23 carries.
Though he started off shaky, fumbling his first carry, he led the team down the field in the opening drive which was capped of by a Justin Davis touchdown.
Then, when USC couldn’t buy a yard or a first down, he injected life into the Trojan offense ripping off long runs to help set up both field goals.
Against a stout Stanford rush defense, Allen’s performance proved why he has received so much hype going into this season.
The game could be summed up by one word: inefficiency.
It was all over the field, on both sides of the ball and on both sidelines.
While exciting, this was not a game to show off great football.
Stanford was abysmal in the red zone, coming away with 10 points on seven red zone trips.
Part of that is down to USC’s defense closing ranks and shutting down the Cardinal offense inside the 25. Another significant part was Stanford’s own miscues, including penalties and botched snaps.
For USC, the hyper-efficient offense faded away and was replaced by one which barely achieved a 50% rate on third-down conversions.
The Trojans also got hit with 10 penalties for 87 yards.
Stud: Andre Heidari
What more can you say about a kicker who supplies the winning points twice in a row against a hated rival.
Heidari has had his struggles in his Trojan career, but he has been as reliable as they come in game-winning situations for USC. For that, he has written his name into Trojan lore.
This time, the senior hit a 25-yard field goal as the third quarter ticked down.
Then he rewarded Sarkisian’s faith in him by nailing a 53-yard kick with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Dud: Jordan Williamson
Stanford kickers have had it rough against USC lately.
Providing the ying to Heidari’s yang, Jordan Williamson missed two key kicks which would have proved the difference in the game.
Last year it was Conrad Ukropina who missed the kick which would have potentially changed the outcome of the game.