|Stepfan Taylor rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown to help Stanford win their fourth straight against USC. (US Presswire)|
STANFORD WON: The fall of Troy came down to one thing: they couldn't protect, couldn't pass and couldn't run. The Cardinal front seven dominated against the Trojans and were in Matt Barkley's face all night as they powered their way to another upset of their conference foe to the South. It wasn't the sharpest game in the world but there was only one team that made plays when they counted in the second half and that was Stanford. Stepfan Taylor made the best runs of his career to, at times, carry the offense. But on a chilly night in Palo Alto, the defense stepped up and delivered a huge upset of one national title contender.
HOW STANFORD WON: Ever since Jim Harbaugh had walked onto the Farm, this was a smash mouth team that controlled the clock by running the ball and playing solid defense. Against USC they lived true to that motto and then some. Taylor had 156 yards and a touchdown on the ground while Josh Nunes moved the chains in the second half efficiently despite winding up 15-of-32 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Trent Murphy was a big part of a front seven that was in the USC backfield every play, responsible for two sacks by himself as the Cardinal took down Barkley five times on the night (the Trojans gave up eight all of last season). With Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal banged up and ineffective, the rushing attack was non-existent in the second half as the team staggered to just 23 yards rushing on just 27 carries. This was as bad as USC looked in a game since getting blown out on the the road to Arizona State last season.
WHEN STANFORD WON: It was a tense game that could have gone either way really down to the last snap. Nunes scrambled on a 3rd-and-10 early in the 4th quarter to keep a drive alive and then found Zach Ertz three plays later for a 37-yard touchdown that ended up being the winning score. The defense forced USC to go three-and-out and the offense played keep away to take time off the clock even though they had to punt. With the ball in Barkley's hands and a possible Heisman-winning drive ahead of him, Murphy and linebacker Chase Thomas came up with back-to-back sacks to end any hope of overtime and force USC to head home disappointed.
WHAT STANFORD WON: National respect. Yes the team has had the flashy Trojans' number for the past few years but this was a different squad without Andrew Luck under center. The Pac-12's reputation has improved the past two weeks but not many have been talking about Stanford as Arizona, Oregon and UCLA have gotten people buzzing. In a nationally televised game with Gus Johnson at the mic making things exciting, the Cardinal stepped up and delivered what may be David Shaw's best win as head coach on the Farm.
WHAT USC LOST: There goes the national title hopes with one big, loud thud. After struggling against Syracuse last week and without their best offensive lineman in Khaled Holmes, the offense looked out of sync all game long and the defense was extremely winded in the second half. If you want to lose a game, this was a textbook conference loss for a team that has never had great success on the road in these situations. Come Monday, when the coaches look at film at a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated, they'll note the team was 0-12 on 3rd down.
There were great expectations placed on this team and, no doubt about it, they've failed to live up to them. Barkley saw his Heisman campaign go out the window and the team will have plenty of questions to answer about how they'll go forward. The seniors who stuck with the school through the thick and thin of NCAA sanctions go 0-4 against Stanford and though they'll still go out heroes to the Trojan faithful, they'll be disappointments in the eyes of the rest of the country.
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