(Saturday, November 15th)
Final Score: (6) Southern California 45, Stanford 23
Stanford, CA (Sports Network) - Mark Sanchez threw two touchdown passes and the Trojan ground game amassed 282 yards as sixth-ranked Southern California shook off a slow start with 28 second-half points to spoil the Stanford Cardinal upset bid with a 45-23 victory.
Sanchez was 11-of-17 passing for 136 yards, but the rushing attack did most of the damage with Stafon Johnson leading the way with two TDs and 115 yards rushing on just 14 carries. C.J. Gable gained 85 yards on 14 attempts, scored on the ground and returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown.
The Trojans (9-1, 7-1 Pac-10) stayed in step with Pac-10 rival Oregon State in a heated race for the conference championship.
OSU is in control of its own destiny for the Pac-10 title. The Beavers are 6-1 in the conference, but own both a game at hand over the Trojans and the tie-breaker due to their 27-21 upset of USC earlier this season.
If the Beavers win out, they will be Pac-10 champions but that quest will be put to the test next Saturday with a road date in Tucson against Arizona before facing Oregon. USC is idle next weekend, hosts Notre Dame on November 29 and finishes the season December 6 in Los Angeles against UCLA.
The Trojans have allowed more than 10 points in only two games this season, one being their lone loss to Oregon State. Since then, the club has put together seven consecutive victories, including three shutouts. Saturday's win was also a measure of revenge for last season, when Stanford went to USC as 41-point underdogs, but came out with a 24-23 victory.
"I was happy we got the win tonight. I think that's a win for them for a long time and I appreciate that. It didn't bother us, it didn't hang with us," Trojans head coach Pete Carroll said, addressing last season's loss to Stanford and Saturday's victory.
Toby Gerhart ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries while Anthony Kimble also scored on the ground. Tavita Pritchard was intercepted once in completing 9-of-22 passes for 111 yards. Alex Loukas came on late for the Cardinal and went 5-for-5 for 54 yards and tossed an 18-yard TD pass to Austin Gunder on the final play of the game.
The Cardinal (5-6, 4-4) fell short in their bid to post their first perfect home season since Bill Walsh's 1977 team, having stood at 4-0. Stanford has now dropped two straight after alternating wins and losses over their previous five outings and finishes off the season next Saturday with a road date in Berkeley against Cal.
Stanford needs one more victory to earn bowl eligibility, something that the program hasn't done since 2001.
"It would be nice to get a bowl game too," said Gerhart. "You know, we got one more week all our goals are still in line."
With Stanford giving the Trojans all they could handle in a first half that ended in a 17-17 tie, USC started the second half in questionable form as well. A punt on the first series was preceded by a turnover deep in Stanford territory. Sanchez hit Stanley Havili on a nine-yard pass to move into the red zone but Havili fumbled.
USC's defense picked up the slack, though, as the Cardinal mustered just 36 net yards of offense in the third quarter. Stanford attempted to hang on despite its sputtering offense and the Trojans were forced to punt on their next possession, but a smash-mouth, 49-yard drive that was all running plays set the tone for the rest of the game.
Johnson capped the drive with a seven-yard run, leaving a little over 2 1/2 minutes left in the third and a 70-yard scoring drive was executed in just 2:36 with Gable's three-yard run giving USC a 31-17 lead just over three minutes into the fourth.
On their next possession, the pigskin was in the end zone in just 1:40 as the Trojans traversed 90 yards, the last 50 of which was a scoring connection between Sanchez and Havili, which made it a 38-17 game just about midway through the frame.
A Pritchard pick led to another score with Johnson taking it in from three yards out with just 1:23 left to play.
Stanford, following the Pritchard interception, turned to Loukas, who led a quick 56-yard scoring drive in six plays, the last of which was an 18-yard TD pass to Gunder as time expired.
"Our offensive line came out and blocked so much better and was so much more effective. We really started going after it and figured it out," Carroll said while addressing his team's turnaround in the second half. "Defensively, the guys came through and just stopped them series after series after series and it wasn't like that early on."
Stanford opened with an impressive seven-play, 80-yard trek with Gerhart finding the end zone from four yards out for an early 7-0 lead.
USC answered by having Ronald Johnson take the ensuing kickoff back 75 yards to the Stanford 22 but ultimately had to settle for a 37-yard David Buehler field goal before the Cardinal lengthened their lead to 10-3 on a 38-yard boot from Aaron Zagory with 1:20 left in the first.
The Trojans finally put together a sustained drive, moving 80 yards in 12 plays, with Sanchez hitting Damian Williams for a five-yard score that tied the game at 10-10.
Stanford, though, put together a 65-yard scoring drive on its next series. Gerhart took it 40 yards up the right sideline to the USC one-yard line on 2nd-and-2 and Kimble punched it in on the next play to regain the lead.
The lead would last all of 14 seconds. That's how long it took Gable to sprint 93 yards to the opposite end zone on the ensuing kickoff to tie the score, 17-17 at the half.
USC owns a 59-25-3 lead in the all-time series with Stanford, including a 40-10-1 edge in the last 51 meetings...Kimble gained 38 yards on seven carries...Delano Howell led the Cardinal in receiving with three grabs for 42 yards...Stanford won the time of possession battle 31:42-28:18...The Cardinal managed to convert on just 4-of-14 third down opportunities...USC's Joe McKnight had 72 yards rushing on eight attempts but was hobbled in the second half with a toe injury....Havili had two catches for 59 yards while Williams hauled in four passes for 35 yards.
11/16 03:01:23 ET