On June 9, Kendall Ellis broke social media when she came from seemingly miles behind in the last leg of the women’s 4×400 race at the NCAA National Championship to bring home the victory for USC.
The video of the comeback went viral as fans listened to the announcers count out USC and declare Purdue the early winner. After bobbling the baton in the last handoff, it was going to be a hard finish for Ellis, who placed second in the 400 earlier in the meet, but with about 80 meters to go, her seemingly superhuman strength took over to surpass Oregon and Purdue for the win.
Almost every major sports account tweeted the video which collected millions of likes and retweets, was replayed on ESPN through the following days, and even received attention from basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
USC is no stranger to comebacks, but rather it is home to some of the greatest. Let’s backtrack from Ellis’ impressive feat and remember some of the best in Trojan history.
USC vs. Penn State – football (2017)
This Rose Bowl game was as classic as Rose Bowl games get. USC and Penn State entertained with a high-scoring battle up until the clock read 0:00. The first quarter went much in favor of USC, ending with a score of 13-0 and teasing Trojan fans with a cushion. Penn State ran up the score in the second quarter, but USC remained on top going into halftime. Right out of the locker room at the start of the third, the Nittany Lions quickly scored three touchdowns to startle USC and lead by 15. At the start of the fourth quarter, USC was down 35-49, but Sam Darnold’s solid passing for consecutive first downs drove the Trojans to a 49-49 tie. Matt Boermeester hit a 46-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to clinch the victory and end the highest scoring Rose Bowl game in history.
USC vs. Stanford – women’s tennis (2012)
The match began with a USC win, but Stanford quickly tied it up 2-2. The Cardinals then began to dominate on three of the four courts, making it seem like the Women of Troy’s opportunity had slipped away. All at once but on three different courts, Gabriella DeSimone, Danielle Lao and Sabrina Santamaria battled in their respective three-set comebacks to ultimately defeat Stanford 5-2 in the NCAA Semifinals. They went down in history that day for beating Stanford in an NCAA tournament, a box that had remained unchecked for this USC team since 1983.
USC vs. Oregon – men’s basketball (1999)
USC trailed Oregon 79-84 with 2.8 seconds left in a regular season game. Off an inbound pass, Adam Spanich caught the ball behind the arc and made the shot to close the gap to 2 points. With 0.8 seconds left, Spanich intercepted the Ducks’ pass from the baseline, threw up a shot from half court and beat the buzzer, making one of the more improbable comebacks in college basketball history.
USC vs. Notre Dame – football (1974)
On November 30, 1974, Anthony Davis became a hero for all USC fans. The Trojans were trailing the Fighting Irish 6-24 at halftime, when head coach John McKay prophesied that Davis would return the kickoff for a touchdown, and he did just that for a 102-yard score. The Trojans then went on to score 49 points in 17 minutes and shut out Notre Dame in the second half. With four touchdowns from Davis, USC took the 55-24 victory and went on to win the national championship.
USC vs. Minnesota – baseball (1973)
The Men of Troy were in danger of a shut out as they entered the bottom of the ninth inning in the College World Series semifinal against Minnesota. They were trying to catch up from a 7-0 deficit against Minnesota pitcher Dave Winfield, who had struck out the Trojans 15 times. After Winfield sat, USC opened the inning with a base hit and followed with a grounder that turned into a double play. They then scored 8 runs in one of the greatest comebacks in College World Series history, beating Minnesota and going on to win it all.