Posted by Chris Huston
LOS ANGELES -- It was a whirlwind night for Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal.
The 56-48 triple overtime win over USC was capped by a wild celebration in front of Cardinal fans before the Heisman front runner was whisked away to talk to ESPN's Chris Fowler on a Game Day set that seemed to appear magically on the Coliseum turf.
Luck, exhausted, teetered a bit before collapsing in his chair. But, just like in the game, he gathered himself up and managed to finish strong.
"I just need a few minutes to digest it all," he said afterward to the assembled media who wanted to know what it was like to play in such an exciting game.
Heisman voters shouldn't have any problems digesting Luck's performance. He threw for 330 yards and three scores on 29-of-40 passing and rushed for another 36 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans. He made one truly bad throw all game--a fourth-quarter pick that USC corner Nickell Robey took to the house--but he calmly regrouped and led his team back when it counted.
It's that calm under pressure that will impress the Heisman electorate the most. Without Luck's steadying presence and clutch play, Stanford would've joined Clemson and Kansas State as once-undefeated teams who were dumped on the season's ash heap on Saturday.
Instead, thanks to Luck, the Cardinal might be in the driver's seat to play for their first national title since 1926. And, thanks to tonight's win, Luck is in the driver's seat to win Stanford's first Heisman since 1970.
What about USC's Matt Barkley? The junior showed himself to be, at times, every bit the equal to Luck. Had the Trojans pulled this one out, it might've sparked an improbable late-season run to New York in the mold of Carson Palmer's 2002 campaign. In the end, it was not to be. Should he return for his senior season, however, people will point to this night as the beginning of the 2012 Barkley candidacy.
In the end, this was Luck's night. And, oh, what a night it was.