Trojans fall in overtime thriller

A hushed silence fell over a sellout crowd of 93,607 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.

Last chance · Stanford recovers a fumble from junior tailback Curtis McNeal on the final play of Saturday night’s game. The Trojans had the ball at the Cardinal 4-yard line and trailed by eight points. - Carlo Acenas | Daily Trojan

For four quarters and almost three overtimes, No. 20 USC fought, scratched and clawed with No. 4 Stanford in a back-and-forth affair. In the third overtime, junior tailback Curtis McNeal took a handoff, on the verge of bringing USC (6-2, 3-2) within a two-point score of Stanford (8-0, 4-0). But the ball popped loose and slipped from his grasp. With it, the Trojans’ chances of upending the Cardinal slipped away, too, as Stanford escaped with a 56-48 victory.

“Both teams played extremely hard and played great football,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said. “It’s unfortunate that we were on the wrong end of it.”

Though Stanford managed to put up 56 points, the offensive outburst was not indicative of USC’s defensive play. Sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey picked off Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and returned the interception for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and the Trojans sacked Luck twice for a loss of 20 yards. Entering the game, Stanford’s offensive line had only allowed two sacks through seven games.

“I thought the defensive line did some good things, especially early on,” Kiffin said. “They really got after [Luck] versus a very good offensive line.”

And it was the defense that kept USC within striking distance of Stanford in the first half, limiting the Cardinal to just 10 points and 168 total yards for an offense that came in averaging just less than 49 points and more than 500 yards per contest. USC, however, was only able to manage two field goals in the first two quarters despite not much opposition from the Cardinal defense.

Because of the offense’s struggles in the first two quarters, the Trojans trailed 10-6 at halftime. But in the second half, the USC offense came alive. Junior quarterback Matt Barkley connected with sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods twice before the running game took over. On the third play of the drive, McNeal sprinted for a 61-yard touchdown run, giving USC a 13-10 lead. It was the first time Stanford had trailed all season.

A Stanford three-and-out gave way to USC’s offense, and it was McNeal who again gave the Trojans a lift. The Los Angeles native scampered 25 yards to the end zone for his second touchdown of the quarter, extending USC’s lead to 20-10. In the third quarter alone, McNeal finished with 11 rushes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. For the game, McNeal registered 20 carries for 139 yards and two scores.

“He played great for us all night long and came up with some huge plays,” Kiffin said. “He was banged up and it was great to see him play so well.”

Despite McNeal’s third quarter performance, Stanford hung around in part because of Luck’s play. The senior signal caller orchestrated drives of 75 yards and 86 yards to end the third quarter to give the Cardinal the 24-20 lead heading into the fourth. In the final quarter and three overtimes, Luck completed 12 of 17 passes for 94 yards and one touchdown to help Stanford avoid its first loss of the season.

“Luck is a great player, a great quarterback,” Robey said. “He played one of his best games. He came at us with all he could. Our defense did our job and did everything coach asked us to do. The chips just didn’t fall the way we wanted them to.”

Luck finished with 29-of-40 for 330 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Stanford’s vaunted running game, which had entered the contest averaging 5.1 yards per carry was limited to just 3.9 yards per carry. Running back Stepfan Taylor, who scored the game-winning touchdown, finished with 23 carries for 99 yards and two touchdowns.

On the other side, Barkley completed 28 of 45 passes for 284 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Woods notched nine receptions for 89 yards and a score, while freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee finished with seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown, his fifth in six games. Freshman tight end Randall Telfer also notched five receptions for 45 yards and in the second overtime, broke a couple tackles and lunged past the goal line for his second score of the year.

Though the team took a top-five opponent down to the wire Saturday, the Trojans must regroup quickly as the face Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Friday on a shorter week’s worth of practice.

“It hurts right now because we were so close,” Barkley said. “It was almost like it slipped away. Call it a moral victory or whatever you want to call it. It’s good that we took them to the wire, but it’s not good enough for us.”

8 replies
  1. DMG4USC
    DMG4USC says:

    You guys are crazy. Unless TJ McDonald can change flight mid-air, there was no way to avoid the-above-the-shoulders hit. We hit hard in Trojans football. There was no intent in hitting him high. Even the announcers pointed that out. The receiver was leaning backward when hit. This rule needs a serious looking at.

    The other glaring errors made by the lousy officials included the botched clock call at the end of regulation. Replay after replay showed 1 second remaining on the clock whether it was his knee down or he was out of bounds. The closest referee whistled the clock to stop. They were told that USC wanted a time out at the end of the play regardless of what Woods did. So USC should have been giving a field goal attempt. That is so common in football. The officials are told well ahead of the play that they want a time out when the play is dead.

    Lastly was the holding penalty at the line of scrimmage against Stanford. Then they had 2nd and 7. They mis-marked the ball. How could you have a 10 yard penalty from the spot of the foul (near the line of scrimmage) and have 7 yards to go. It should have been 2nd and 15. Another glaring mistake by the officials.

    • Trojan Alumn
      Trojan Alumn says:

      Dude, I don’t think we are crazy. It was obvious he went for the head. Go back and look at the tape. It is also NOT the first time. Who are you kidding? We can’t help when the refs make lousy calls but we can control our own destiny by knowing the rules whether we agree with them or not and i do not agree with that rule. Let them play football and hit as hard as you want just do it right so it doesn’t cost you team a chance to win.

  2. Boston Cardinal
    Boston Cardinal says:

    Looks like that $c dollar doesn’t stretch as much as it once did. LOL.
    Enjoy the rest of your probation.

  3. Rich
    Rich says:

    problem is that TJ hit the rec with his shoulder pads, and had aimed low….the reviever fell back and down while TJ was in the air, he would have hit him in the mid section, but snce the reciever fell abck and down, it was a higher hit. should not have been called. Officiating was anti USC all night.

  4. SCMom
    SCMom says:

    Wow SC we were very proud to be a Trojan on Saturday night. You proved to everyone the media got it wrong! Best game we have ever been to at SC.

  5. Just a thought
    Just a thought says:

    Classic game and my hats off to the Trojans and the coaching staff…Only one problem. Why does T.J. McDonald, who I believe is a great player, have to always go for the “highlight hit” like Taylor Mays used to do. I really think that Mays career at USC was weakened and his stock in the NFL lessened because after that one year of “head hits” that made the highlight reels, he got it into his head that every tackle had to be the next highlight. Not only did this cost his team on many occasions but now T.J. seems to think that he has to follow in his footsteps.
    When did we teach these guys to start tackling with their shoulder instead of wrapping their arms around the other guy to make sure you bring him down?
    Sorry T.J. but I was not impressed by “the hit” and it probably cost your team “the game”!

  6. Jon
    Jon says:

    That was an incredible game against Stanford. All those banged-up young guys were nothing short of inspiring. USC is once more on the verge of greatness. Couple of things. The line discipline was just about perfect but the coaches need to get a handle on those open-field breakdowns, like the taunting and the head-hunting by two players who really should know better by this time. Those incidents cost us way too much.

Comments are closed.