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September 2, 2014


USC (1-0 overall, 0-0 Pac-12 South) vs. Stanford (1-0 overall, 0-0 Pac-12 North), Saturday, Sept. 6, 12:30 p.m. PT, Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, Calif.


The first Pac-12 game of 2014 is a dandy: No. 15 USC goes on the road for the first time this year and faces 2-time defending Pac-12 champion No. 11 Stanford. The Cardinal is Troy’s oldest rival (the first game was in 1905). Last year’s game saw the Trojans pull out a thrilling last-second victory over No. 5 Stanford, as USC fans rushed the Coliseum field. But not only has the Cardinal won 5 of the last 7 matchups between the teams, USC is barely over .500 in its past 11 trips to Palo Alto and the Trojans have won only a third of the time against ranked Stanford squads. Troy is hoping to continue the mojo of last Saturday, as the Steve Sarkisian era got off to a rousing start with a home rout over Fresno State. QB Cody Kessler(394 passing yards with 4 TDs) directed an up-tempo USC offense that set a Pac-12 record for plays (105) while rolling up 701 yards and 37 first downs. WR Nelson Agholor had 2 TD grabs and TB Javorius Allen ran for 133 yards. The USC defense, behind the play of All-American DE Leonard Williams and 2-year tackle leader ILB Hayes Pullard, came up with 4 interceptions while limiting Fresno State to 13 points and 317 total yards. USC’s touted true freshmen played key roles (11 played in the game), as CB-WR Adoree’ Jackson was a 3- way player, WR-S JuJu Smith had 123 receiving yards, OGs Toa Lobendahn and Damien Mama became the first Trojan frosh pair to start an opener on the line and TE Bryce Dixon caught a TD. The NCAA sanction-free Trojans still have a limited roster (67 recruited scholarship players, with only 62 currently available to play and only 57 of those healthy for the opener).

Stanford, under head coach David Shaw (whose uncle was an All-American cornerback and then assistant coach at USC), has seen his team win 2 consecutive league championships and string together a 16-game home winning streak, including an opening shutout over FCS foe UC Davis this past weekend. The Cardinal offense, led by 3-year starting QB Kevin Hogan, features WR Ty Montgomery, also a dangerous return specialist, and a runner who is the son of a Heisman winner (TB Barry Sanders). The Stanford offensive line consists of all juniors, including OT Andrus Peat, while the retooled defense is guided by veterans such as DE Henry Anderson, CB Wayne Lyons and S Jordan Richards. PK Jordan Williamson is the school’s career point scorer. The game will air live nationally on ABC.


USC is ranked 15th in both the AP and USA Today pre-season polls. Stanford is 11th in both pre-season polls. (The next polls won’t be released until Sept. 2.)


Stanford is USC’s oldest rival, with the series dating back to 1905. USC holds a 59-29-3 lead over Stanford (Troy’s 2005 victory was vacated due to NCAA penalty; original record: 60- 29-3). In its last 37 contests with the Cardinal, USC has gone 26-10-1 (and Troy is 41-13-1 in the past 55 games), but Stanford has won the last 4 of the past 5 meetings and 5 of the past 7. In games in Palo Alto, the Trojans are 33-10-2. USC has lost there just 5 times since 1980 (and only 6 times since 1956), but is 6-5 in the last 11 trips.

Last year in the Coliseum, PK Andre Heidari kicked a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds to play to give USC a 20-17 victory over No. 5 Stanford in front of a national ABC-TV audience and a loud sold-out Coliseum Homecoming crowd of 93,607 that stormed the field at the game’s conclusion. The win snapped the Cardinal’s 4-game winning streak over Troy, Stanford’s longest in the series. It was USC’s first game against a ranked opponent in 2013 and its first victory over a ranked foe since beating No. 4 Oregon in 2011. After S Su’a Cravens picked off a pass from Stanford QB Kevin Hogan near midfield with 3:02 to play, the Trojans took 10 plays (including converting on fourth-and-2 at the Cardinal 48) to set up Heidari’s heroics, USC’s first game-winning last minute field goal since David Bell did so at UCLA in 2000. USC scored on each of its first 3 drives, as a 1-yard touchdown pass from QB Cody Kessler to FB Soma Vainuku and a 1-yard TD run by TB Javorius Allen sandwiched Stanford RB Tyler Gaffney’s 35-yard scoring run in the first quarter and then Heidari added a 23- yard field goal early in the second quarter to give the Trojans a 17-7 lead. But Stanford got a 27-yard field goal from PK Conrad Ukropina right before halftime and then drove 92 yards on 10 plays on its first possession of the second half to tie the game at 17-17 on Gaffney’s 18-yard TD run. The Cardinal then twice got into the red zone, but OT Chad Wheeler blocked a 30-yard Ukropina field goal try late in the third quarter after Stanford had recovered a USC fumble at the USC 19 and then S Dion Bailey intercepted a Hogan pass early in the fourth quarter after the Cardinal drove to the USC 10. Only 23 of USC’s 311 total yards came on the ground, its fewest rushing yards since getting 1 yard against Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl and the fewest rushing yards in a victory since getting 23 in 1998 against Arizona State. Stanford, which scored a season-low in points, managed just 337 yards (210 rushing) against a Trojan defense that used just 2 substitutes (1 played just 1 snap). USC was just 4-of-14 on third downs and Stanford was only 4-of-12. Kessler was 25-of-37 for 288 yards, while WR Nelson Agholor caught a game-best 8 passes for 104 yards and WR Marqise Lee added 6 receptions for 83 yards. LB Anthony Sarao had a game-best 12 tackles, while LB Hayes Pullard added 11 stops. For Stanford, Gaffney ran for 158 yards on 24 carries and Hogan hit 14-of-25 passes for 127 yards. ESPN’s College GameDay pregame show made its 10th visit to USC, but it was the first time it emanated from the USC campus (McCarthy Quad).


In 2012 in the last meeting in Palo Alto, No. 21 Stanford, behind 213 all-purpose yards with 2 TDs from TB Stepfan Taylor and a stifling defense that shut out the Trojans in the game’s final 41 minutes, upset No. 2 USC, 21-14, in the Pac-12 opener. Troy suffered its fourth consecutive loss to the Cardinal for the first time ever (and its fifth in the past 6 contests). USC’s streak of scoring at least 30 points was snapped at 10 games. Stanford limited USC to 280 total yards (just 91 in the second half), including just 26 on the ground (its fewest since getting 1 rushing yards versus Utah in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl), and 0-of-12 on third down conversions. The Cardinal came up with 3 turnovers and sacked QB Matt Barkley 4 times while picking him off twice. USC built a 14-7 lead 18:41 into the game on a pair of 1-yard TD runs by TB Silas Redd sandwiching a 59-yard scoring burst by Taylor. But it was all Stanford after that, as QB Josh Nunes hit Taylor on a 23-yard game-tying pass late in the third quarter and then found TE Zach Ertz on a 37-yard TD toss on the next possession. Taylor ran for 153 yards on 27 carries and added 60 yards on 5 receptions, Ertz had 3 catches for 71 yards and Nunes was 15-of-32 for 215 yards but had 2 aerials picked off. The Cardinal had 417 total yards, including 202 rushing, but converted just 5-of-14 third downs and missed 3 field goals.


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