Saturday was a game of what could have been for the Stanford Cardinal. Penalties, turnovers, missed field goals, and poor execution in the red zone led to a disastrous 13-10 loss to the USC Trojans, despite out-gaining USC 413 to 291. Andre Hedari hit a game winning field goal for the Trojans with two minutes and thirty seconds left in a moment of deja vu for the Cardinal, who lost last season on a last-second field goal by Hedari. All nine Stanford drives got inside the Trojan 25 yard-line, but they only scored twice. Stanford has scored three touchdowns in sixteen trips inside the thirty yard-line this season, a disturbing number.
The first play of the game was indicative of the atrocity that was to come for the Cardinal; a false start by Johnny Caspers. Another Caspers’ penalty, this time for tripping,stalled a Cardinal offense that was humming along, taking it all the way to the USC 21 yard-line. Stanford had gained 45 yards on the ground on the drive, but the second penalty killed the drive, setting up a third down and thirty-two. Jordan Williamson missed a 49-yard field goal, hooking it several yards wide left, reminiscent of his struggles in the Fiesta Bowl.
USC took over at their own thirty-two yard line, and marched down the field, tearing apart the Stanford defense. The drive was capped by a Justin Davis one-yard touchdown run. USC back Javorius Allen had three consecutive carries of 8+ yards on the drive, taking USC from the Stanford 40 yard line to the 15, keying the score.
On the next drive, Stanford drove down the field again, all the way to the thirteen yard line, but a horrible snap by Graham Shuler flew over the head of Ty Montgomery, who was running out of the wildcat. Stanford recovered the ball after losing 16 yards, going all the way back to the USC 29. David Shaw clearly had no faith in kicker Jordan Williamson at this point, as he then chose to punt from the 29 yard-line.
After a Trojan three and out, Stanford once again marched down the field, this time capitalizing on the opportunity, with Patrick Skov taking a two-yard run in for the score, tying the game at seven apiece. With three minutes left in the half, Stanford took the ball all the way to the USC 16 yard line on the back of Kevin Hogan. Hogan threw for 65 yards on the drive, setting up a chip shot 33 yard field goal for Williamson with eleven seconds left to go. Williamson’s field goal gave Stanford a 10-7 lead going into the half. Williamson missed a similar field goal in Stanford’s first drive of the second half, a 26 yarder that inexplicably went wide left. Stanfor was stopped on fourth down in their next drive at the Trojan three yard line. Andre Hedari added a 25-yard field goal with just under a minute left in the third, tying the game up at ten apiece.
Hedari hit a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, giving the Trojans a 13-10 lead with 2:30 left for Stanford to make a comeback. Hogan completed five straight passes, taking Stanford all the way down to the USC 22. After a sack, Hogan was hit while he was attempting to throw by senior linebacker J.R. Tavai, forcing a fumble that USC recovered to seal the win. Hogan played well (22/30, 285 yards), but could not come up clutch in the redzone to give his team the victory. The loss ended the nation’s longest home winning streak for the Cardinal, a 17-game run dating back to 2011. Stanford will need to execute better if they want to succeed this season against a horribly difficult schedule.
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Cover image: By Cynthia Yock (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons