PALO ALTO, Calif. -- In a game filled with wacky moments, horrendous red zone situations and another Andre Heidari game-winning field goal against the trees, No. 14 USC somehow found a way to squeak out a wild victory in Stanford Stadium during the Pac-12 conference opener.
The Trojans won ugly, but nothing felt better than taking down Stanford's 17-game home winning streak after grinding out a three point victory over the No. 13 Cardinal.
Buck Allen rushed for a career-high 154 yards -- the second most against a David Shaw Stanford squad. Cody Kessler was an efficient 15-for-22, but only passed for 135 yards -- 91 of those going to Nelson Agholor, who had nine catches.
While Stanford outgained USC 413-291, the Trojans defense stepped up when it was needed most. Stanford drove inside the USC 30-yard line nine times, but only scored 10 points.
The Cardinal scored a touchdown and a field goal in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead, but missed two field goals, elected to punt rather than attempt two 45-50 yard field goals, turned the ball over twice and turned the ball over on downs when and company stuffed a fullback dive on fourth-and-1 inside the 5-yard line.
The Trojans then drove the ball 90 yards before settling for a 25-yard field goal by Heidari to tie the game. With just over two and a half minutes remaining, head coach Steve Sarkisian had a difficult decision with his team sitting at the 35-yard line with a fourth-and-5 looming. Sarkisian called back-to-back timeouts before pulling the offense off the field and sending Heidari out to attempt a 53-yard field goal attempt.
Andre Heidari rewarded his coach's faith in him by banging the kick through the uprights with a good four or five yards to spare. But Stanford put together one final drive with Kevin Hogan completing five consecutive passes to move the ball to the USC 22-yard line with 50 seconds remaining.
But Leonard Williams collected his first sack of 2014 to force third-and-6. On the penultimate play of the contest, USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox brought a blitz from Hogan's blindside.
Having Ty Montgomery, who finished with nine catches for 63 yards, facing single coverage against true freshman Adoree' Jackson, Hogan loaded up to throw a deep ball toward the end zone. Instead he was crunched from the backside by J.R. Tavai. Tavai hit Hogan and the ball, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Scott Felix to seal the Trojans first victory in Palo Alto since 2008.
Williams, who some people thought may not play due to an ankle injury, and linebacker Anthony Sarao finished tied with a game-high 11 tackles. Senior captain Hayes Pullard was ejected from the game in the third quarter after he was called for targeting on a late hit of Montgomery.
Here are the USC/Stanford highlights from the Trojan victory:
We did it— Marcus Martin (@TheRealDoubleMs) September 6, 2014
"I knew the minute I hit it that it was good, absolutely" - Andre Heidari http://t.co/bcURnNJWi4— WeAreSC.com (@wearescstaff) September 6, 2014
Congrats to them boys at USC...respect y'all balled.... "Really good game"— Marqise Lee (@TeamLee1) September 6, 2014
USC does not know how to play football without drama.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 6, 2014
No one on USC's team has taken more grief than Andre Heidari, but those two game-winners against Stanford mean he'll always be remembered.— Mike Piellucci (@mikelikessports) September 6, 2014