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Relive the “Greatest Upset Ever”: Stanford beats USC, 24-23, in 2007

Ten years later, this game still brings chills to Stanford fans... but it was so much more important than that

Stanford v USC Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Really, what more can be said about the Greatest Upset Ever?

You know the story: in 2007, Stanford beat the dominant USC Trojans on their home field, 24-23, with a backup quarterback... as the biggest underdogs of all time.

10 years later from USC’s perspective, it’s an embarrassing thorn in their side. 10 years later from the Stanford perspective, it’s perhaps the single most important moment in program history. The Greatest Upset Ever helped launch the almost-unbelievable turnaround of a the Stanford football program. Consider all that’s been accomplished: the three Heisman contenders and dozens of high draft picks, the three conference championships, three Rose Bowl appearances (with two wins), one Orange bowl victory, and eight straight bowl games.

No matter where you sit, it’s pretty much impossible to overstate how important that 2007 game was for the Stanford program.

So with the added perspective of ten years, let’s relive some of the reaction at the time, and consider again just how unbelievable it was then... and how much more so it is now.

From The Stanford Daily:

No one could have seen this coming. In what some are calling the biggest upset in the history of college football, 41-point underdog Stanford toppled second-ranked Southern California on Saturday night, going into the hostile Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to shock one of the nation’s most storied programs, 24-23.

Redshirt sophomore Tavita Pritchard, making his first career start, lofted a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 second remaining to give the Cardinal its first lead of the game. Bo McNally’s fourth-down interception of USC quarterback John David Booty on the ensuing possession sealed one of the biggest wins in Stanford football history and gave head coach Jim Harbaugh his first Pac-10 victory.

The win was Stanford’s first against the Trojans since Sept. 29, 2001, which was also the last time USC lost at home to any opponent.The Cardinal victory snapped the Trojans’ 35-game home winning streak—the nation’s longest—and gave USC head coach Pete Carroll only his third home loss since he arrived in L.A. six years ago.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

When Stanford beat USC 24-23 Saturday night in Los Angeles, it not only pulled off the biggest upset of this college football season, it pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the sport's history.

Much to the delight of Cal fans, of all people.

USC came into the game unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the country in the USA Today coaches' poll. It was No. 2 behind Louisiana State in the Associated Press media poll and had won 35 consecutive home games, the longest such streak in the country. Las Vegas oddsmakers had established USC as a 41-point favorite over Stanford, which had lost three of its first four games and was without its starting quarterback, T.C. Ostrander.

But Stanford pulled out the win by coming back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The thrilling final drive was led by a sophomore quarterback making his first college start. The winning touchdown was scored by a senior receiver who just two weeks ago was on bereavement leave after the death of his father.

"After tonight, we don't care who we play," Stanford linebacker Clinton Snyder said. "We now know the only people who can beat us is us."

From The New York Times:

The fourth-down pass left the hand of a quarterback making his first career start, floated over one of the country’s top defenses and into the hands of a receiver still reeling from the death of his father.

The receiver, Stanford’s Mark Bradford, leapt in the air to haul in the 10-yard pass from the backup quarterback, Tavita Pritchard, and Bradford landed with his feet inbounds, firmly entrenched in college football history.

The improbable connection gave Stanford, a 41-point underdog, a 24-23 victory over No. 2 Southern California and provided an indelible moment. Bradford pointed to the heavens in recognition of his father, who died of a heart attack less than two weeks ago. The gesture also summed up the cosmic nature of the biggest upset in terms of point spread and this frenetic college football season.

“It feels like a movie,” Bradford said. “We go to hotels on Friday nights and we watch a movie. This feels like Disney really happened to us.”