STANFORD, Calif. – New Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian smiled, pumped his fist and threw his arms in the air as his players jumped around the sideline at Stanford Stadium.
All of the emotions that had been lacking for USC the past few years finally came pouring out on the road, against a rival and in front of a national television audience – sometimes even a bit too much. Few things looked pretty for the Trojans on Saturday except for the final score:
USC 13, Stanford 10.
Andre Heidari kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining, J.R. Tavai forced a fumble to end the Cardinal’s comeback bid and the 14th-ranked Trojans upended No. 13 Stanford in dramatic fashion again.
“I think it says a lot that we can come in against this team, in this environment, and the game not really going our way and not really in our favor, just for whatever reason, and find a way to win,” Sarkisian said.
A game that featured an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sarkisian for standing too close to the field, linebacker Hayes Pullard getting ejected for targeting and athletic director Pat Haden yelling at officials in a weird and wild sideline scene, ended with USC making all the big plays on the field in the closing moments.
With Stanford threatening to tie or take the lead, Tavai came from Kevin Hogan’s blindside to jar the ball loose. Scott Felix recovered at the Trojans’ 26-yard line with 19 seconds to play, sealing Sarkisian’s first major victory at USC (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) and dealing a major blow to the Cardinal’s chances of a third consecutive Pac-12 title.
Javorius Allen ran for a career-high 154 yards, Nelson Agholor had a career-high nine receptions for 91 yards and Justin Davis ran for a short touchdown to help USC create just enough offense to win at Stanford Stadium for the first time since 2008.
Stanford (1-1, 0-1) outgained USC 413 to 291 yards but couldn’t overcome its own mistakes. The Cardinal committed two turnovers, eight penalties for 68 yards and Jordan Williamson missed two field goals.
The loss snapped Stanford’s 17-game home winning streak, which was the longest active streak in the country.
“You got to make field goals. You got to take advantage of field position. We just did not,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said.
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