Flashback eight years ago.
The (1-0) #3 USC Trojans march into The Horseshoe to face off against (1-0) #8 Ohio State Buckeyes. A match up which had gained momentum throughout the offseason and was now finally here. Primetime, Saturday night, for the whole nation to see. A Trojan team with championship goals on the horizon, being led by Matt Barkley in his second career collegiate game. Needing leadership and guidance, the USC offense relied on none other than the late great Joe McKnight.
Down 15-10, the Trojans had 7:15 to drive 86 yards to try to win the game. However, the Trojans had been held to only 10 points all game, zero in the second half, and only totaled 222 yards on the day.
In steps McKnight.
The superstar out of River Ridge, LA now in his junior year, finally had the lion’s share of workload at running back, and now was his first chance of the season to prove why. After a sack and false start, USC was left looking at a 2nd and 19 from their own 5 with a minute already gone from the drive.
McKnight, using great patience, vision, and acceleration, gained 32 yards total (rushing and receiving) on the next two plays to build momentum with just five minutes left in the game. Barkley, who had been harassed all night by the Ohio State pass rush, was given ample time on back to back plays to first find McKnight, and then Anthony McCoy for a 25 yard gain down inside the Ohio State 40.
After another successful pass and 4th down conversion on a QB sneak, the Trojan offense looked to Joe McKnight to lead them thru the red zone. After another tough 11 yards gained by McKnight, the offense faced a 2nd and 10 with under two minutes to play. This was my favorite play from my favorite moment as a Trojan fan.
McKnight burst through the initial hole, met three Buckeyes defenders head on at the 10 yard line, and carried them down to the five. I get chills watching the replay of McKnight dipping his shoulder and lowering the boom. If you listen closely you can hear the Ohio State defense’s back breaking.
Two plays later with just over a minute left, Stafon Johnson capped off the game winning drive with a 3 yard touchdown run with 1:05 left.
Despite the failures of that season, finishing 9-4(5-4) for a team thought to compete for a national championship, this still remains my favorite moment.
That drive represents the passion and determination of USC football. Despite what is stacked against them, the Reign of Troy continue to fight, finding ways to win. We here at Conquest Chronicles look to bring that same fire.
You can watch the drive here.