The USC Trojans defeated the Stanford Cardinal for the second time this season. This time the game was much closer but the stakes were much higher. The Trojans won their first Pac-12 Championship since 2008. The Trojans were the favorite to win the Conference since the preseason but they were also picked to make the playoffs. The Trojans underperformed all season and a blowout against Notre Dame knocked them out of contention for the College Football Playoff.
Bryce Love hobbled with the ankle injury had 22 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown. 52 of those 125 yards came on one run, however, and USC once again contained Love to a mere 73 yards on 21 carries the rest of the game. Once again Love would have to frequently check out of the game due to the pain in his ankle.
After a hyper efficient and effective game against the Irish last week Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello went a mere 10 for 22 and 192 yards and two touchdowns. A 45 yard pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside and a 28 yard connection to Kaden Smith account for almost half of Costello’s passing yards.
To the Trojans credit they dramatically cut down on the number of mistakes they normally make as one of the worst teams in turnovers and penalty yardage. The few mistakes they did make Stanford was unable to capitalize on. USC only had one turnover when Stephen Carr fumbled the ball and Stanford recovered at the USC 45 but the Cardinal were unable to turn it into points.
USC would punt on their ensuing possession and Stanford took over at the Trojans 33 with 13:55 left in regulation. Stanford would gain 32 of the 33 yards. The Cardinal trailed 24-21 facing fourth and goal at the USC one yard line. Instead of going for the easy 3 points and the tie, David Shaw opted to bring in the jumbo package that had been wildly successful all year. The Trojans stuffed them.
Some may find this to be a controversial decision. Certainly in hindsight it seems like they should have went for the tie, but the jumbo package was certainly a high percentage play, and worst case scenario USC takes over at the one. The defense would just need to hold and Stanford would get another shot. Sam Darnold however, marched his team down the field for the score.
Stanford would get another touchdown to bring the game back to three but they failed to pickup the onside kick. USC would finish out the game by picking up the first down.