The set-up: After losing to Stanford last year on the road in Palo Alto, the Trojans aimed to knock off the No. 4 ranked Cardinal on their home turf. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum served as the host site of ESPN’s College Game Day and added to the anticipation of the matchup between the two ranked teams. After knocking off Notre Dame a week ago, some believed USC had the confidence to upset one of the best teams in the country.
The story: The Trojans did not go down without an intense fight. After three overtime periods, the Stanford Cardinal defeated the USC Trojans 56-48 in the first overtime game between the two schools.
Stanford struck first with a touchdown on its opening drive. Heisman frontrunner quarterback Andrew Luck threw a 10-yard pass to Tyler Gaffney. After stalling on its first drive and recording a stop, USC answered back with a 22-yard field goal by kicker Andre Heidari before the conclusion of the first quarter to make the score 7-3.
In the second quarter, the USC defense performed extremely well, and Stanford only managed a 33-yard field goal by kicker Eric Whitaker. Before the conclusion of the first half, Andre Heidari made a career-long 50-yard field goal, helping the Trojans to only trail 10-6 heading into halftime.
At the beginning of the third quarter the Trojans scored their first touchdown of the game. A 61-yard run by USC tailback Curtis McNeal gave the Trojans the lead for the first time in the game. McNeal once again fueled the lead for the Trojans by breaking off a 25-yard touchdown run.
Trailing 20-10 midway through the third quarter, the Cardinal leaned on Andrew Luck to lead them down the field. The drive resulted in a five-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Hewitt. Before the conclusion of the third quarter, Luck jumped in to the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run giving Stanford a 24-20 lead.
USC regained the lead once more following a 28-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee on a slant route. The Cardinal responded yet again on a 29-yard field goal by Eric Whitaker with five minutes left in regulation. USC was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, and Stanford took over in their own territory with a chance to take the lead.
However, Nickell Robey jumped a route and took the interception 33 yards to give the Trojans a 34-27 lead with over 3 minutes to play. However, Luck once again led the Cardinal down the field resulting in a two-yard touchdown run by running back Stepfan Taylor. USC tried to set up a field goal in the final seconds, but Robert Woods failed to fall to the ground before time expired. Tied at 34, Stanford and USC headed to overtime.
The back and forth scoring continued in overtime. Stanford was the first to strike with a one-yard run by tailback Jeremy Stewart. USC tied up the game again following a 15-yard pass from Matt Barkley to wide receiver Robert Woods. Tied at 48, the game was extended into a second overtime.
Receiving the ball first, the Trojans scored after a 12-yard pass from Barkley to Randall Telfer. The game was tied once again after an 11-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Levine Toilolo. The Trojans and Cardinal were going into a third overtime after a tie remained at 48.
Stanford scored after a five-yard touchdown run by Stepfan Taylor and converted their attempt for two points on a Luck pass to Coby Fleener. Knocking on the door at the four yard line, the Trojans hoped to punch it in. However, Curtis McNeal fumbled the ball in to the end zone and Stanford recovered to seal the victory and keep their hopes of a national championship alive.
Up next: USC will travel to Boulder, Colo., to face Pac-12 south opponent Colorado on Friday, November 4 at 6:00 pm PDT. The Buffalos are 1-8 overall and 0-5 in conference play.