Cardinal's Missed Opportunities Lead to Signature Win for Sarkisian
USC’s upset of Stanford may have not been convincing enough to reset all of our expectations of the Pac-12, but it was a statement.
USC proved a week ago it can win with a dominating performance. Saturday proved the Trojans can win ugly.
Meanwhile, Stanford played an out-of-character game as the Cardinal missed scoring chance after scoring chance in a mistake-filled game from beginning to end.
Here’s what we learned from Sark’s signature win:
Read and React: USC 13, Stanford 10
USC Found a Way
Stanford spent much of the game self-destructing, but USC didn’t play a clean game, either. A week after running 105 plays against Fresno State, the Trojans were on the field for a mere 59 against Stanford. Stanford was able to keep the USC passing game in check as Cody Kessler went 15-of-23 for 135 yards with a touchdown. This wasn’t exactly a dominant effort by any means — particularly as the USC defense allowed Stanford to penetrate on every possession — but it’s tough to argue against a road win over the defending Pac-12 champion.
Still, Steve Sarkisian Gets an Early Signature Win
USC has established itself as a realistic Pac-12 South contender, and its credentials could improve even more over the next month. The Trojans visit Boston College next week and face Oregon State at home on Sept. 27. After that, USC gets the Arizona schools back to back with the Wildcats on the road. Navigate that stretch and stay healthy, and USC could play for the South against UCLA to finish this season. Considering the way the season started with the Josh Shaw fiasco, the ugly departure of Anthony Brown and a roster whittled to 57 scholarship players in Palo Alto, and Sarkisian has to be thankful to be 2-0.
Stanford Can’t Win the Pac-12 North with this Offense
Look at that drive chart for Stanford, nine trips inside the USC 40-yard line and 10 points. That’s 1.1 points per trip inside the 40, a metric considered to be more telling that red zone offense. Stanford averaged 4.1 points per trip inside the 40 last season. The Stanford offense moved the ball at will at times, but collapsed on USC’s side of the field. A team spending that much time in its opponents’ territory should have won easily, but Stanford walked away with three fumbles (two lost), two missed field goals and a loss. There were penalties, including two pre-snap penalties out of a time out, but Stanford playcalling with two punts inside the 35 didn't inspire confidence, either.
|QTR||Best Field Position||Drive Ended||Result|
|1||Second down, USC 21||USC 32||Missed FG (49 yards)|
|2||First down, USC 17||USC 29||Punt|
|2||Third down, USC 2||--||Touchdown|
|2||Third down, USC 7||USC 16||Made FG (33 yards)|
|3||Fourth down, USC 9||USC 9||Missed FG (26 yards)|
|3||Fourth down, USC 3||USC 3||Failed fourth down|
|3||First down, USC 32||USC 28||Fumble lost|
|4||Third down, USC 23||USC 32||Punt|
|4||Second down, USC 22||USC 25||Fumble lost|
Andre Heidari is USC’s MVP against Stanford ... Again
USC’s kicker is a senior. That’s the good news for Stanford. The bad news for the Caridnal is that he’ll leave with two long game-winning kicks against Stanford. Heidari kicked a 47-yarder in the final 19 seconds to beat Stanford last year and topped that with a 5e-yarder Saturday. He’s the BMOC in LA.