Suddenly, the Oregon Ducks are back atop the Pac-12 North, and they have the interim-coached Trojans to thank for it -- USC upset No. 5 Stanford, 20-17, with the help of an Andre Heidari field goal with 20 seconds to go. Oh, and national title longshot Stanford is now out of the race entirely.
It became evident early on that there would be no Oregonian style steamrolling in this one -- USC's defensive front was clearly better equipped to handle Stanford's ground attack than the Ducks were, as they held the Cardinal to a three-and-out on their opening drive. Two of those plays were runs that went for gains of one and three yards, respectively.
Though the statistics do not show it, USC's defense performed fairly well against a Stanford rushing attack that ranked 28th in the country coming in. The Trojans allowed a total of 211 yards on the ground and 6 yards per carry, but unlike Oregon, they were able to get off the field, preventing the long, clock-killing drives that did in the Ducks.
Perhaps more impressively, they did this without the help of much substitution:
PRess box announces #USC has only played 2 defensive subs all night, and one of them only played 1 snap.— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) November 17, 2013
Stanford answered with a 35-yard score from Tyler Gaffney when the 6'1, 221-pound senior was not wrapped up on a short run, allowing him to bounce outside for a long touchdown instead.
Four minutes later, Javorius "Buck" Allen would plunge in from one yard out himself, putting the Trojans back ahead 12-7. A ridiculous catch by Marqise Lee gave USC a successful two-point conversion, making it 14-7.
USC's lead would remain a one-touchdown margin at halftime, as Heidari and Stanford's Conrad Ukropina traded field goals to make the score 17-10.Cardinal running back Tyler Gaffney would tie it again when he scored his second touchdown of the night, an 18-yard scamper with 8:22 in the third.
Neither team would find points for a while after that, although Stanford had its chances -- the Cardinal had a 30-yard field goal attempt by Ukropina blocked in the third quarter, and a Kevin Hogan interception ended another red zone trip in the fourth.
Hogan would make a second mistake with 3:02 to go in the fourth quarter -- the 6'4 junior decided to throw the ball out of bounds while being tackled, which USC eventually tipped and intercepted.
That would give the Trojans possession from the USC 44, and unlike their white wearing counterparts, they would not waste the opportunity. USC proceeded to march deep into Stanford territory after that, thanks to a 4th-and-2 conversion by Marqise Lee and an 11-yard gain by Nelson Agholor to set up first down at the Stanford 21.
Though two consecutive runs would lose yards and force Heidari to hit a 47-yard field goal, but it would not matter. The junior from Bakersfield, California hit it perfectly, giving USC a 20-17 lead with :20 seconds to go.
Box Score Hero: This award should be shared between Heidari, for his two field goals, and Nelson Agholor, who recorded 106 yards receiving on eight catches.
Rankings Ramifications: With the upset victory, USC should finally find themselves among the Top 25. They remain in contention for the Pac-12 South, as well. Stanford, now a two-loss team, will likely fall out of the top 10.
But Did They Cover? Stanford was a 3.5-point favorite. They did not cover.
Next Week's Schedule: Stanford will play rival Cal next weekend, while USC hosts Colorado.