Some things never change — death, taxes, and Stanford upsetting USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Kevin Hogan overcame a gimpy knee to lead the Cardinal to a 41-31 victory past the sixth-ranked Trojans, their fourth in their last five in Los Angeles. Hogan had a very efficient game, throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns while completing 18 of his 23 attempts. Kicker Conrad Ukropina, who just earned a scholarship on Monday, nailed a 43-yard field goal with 2:33 left in the contest to seal the deal.
It wasn't quite their 41-point upset from way back in 2007, but the victory will again upset the balance of power in the Pac-12. Coming into this game, no one knew what to think of the unranked, ten-point underdog Cardinal, who dropped their opener to Northwestern. Stanford now emerges as a legitimate title contender in the Pac-12 North -- but they didn't look the part in the early going.
It felt like a broken record of the Northwestern game at first — USC's offense looked unstoppable, scoring in no time on two quick touchdown drives to take an early 14-7 lead. Cody Kessler led the way for the Trojans on those drives, throwing for 76 yards and a touchdown.
However, Stanford eventually found its stride, finally playing the brand of Stanford football that we have come to know and love and taking a 24-21 halftime lead. The running game finally came alive for Stanford, making Hogan's job a whole lot easier. Christian McCaffrey broke out for his first big game of the year, rushing for career-high 115 yards on 24 carries, and Remound Wright added three touchdowns, capping lots of drives.
David Shaw opened up the playbook, and the offense flowed much more in a 474-yard effort, eating up the clock and winning the battle in the trenches. The Cardinal had the ball for nearly twice as much time as the Trojans (39:29 vs. 20:31), reminiscent of the Jim Harbaugh/Andrew Luck days.
Especially with absolutely zero depth on the defensive line, the defense did a good job to slow the Heisman contender Kessler's Trojans, holding the signal-caller to 272 yards on 32 attempts and slowing USC's running game, holding them to just 155 yards. Hogan outplayed Kessler, throwing just five incompletions and looking more poised and collected than ever before in spite of his injury.
In a scary moment for Cardinal fans, Hogan took a big hit to his left knee, which bent awkwardly and forced him down on the sideline.
This does not look good. #Stanford #USC pic.twitter.com/hiFlM0lsHX— Will Reeve (@WillReeveJr) September 20, 2015
Keller Chryst had to start warming up for the Cardinal, but Hogan was quickly able to recover and walk on his own power. Hogan was still limping around after the game, favoring his right leg, but David Shaw insisted that it wasn't a 'serious' injury.
It clearly didn't prevent him from making major strides against a team he had struggled against in the past -- the fifth-year senior had turned the ball over four times in his last two games against USC.