January 1st won’t just signal the beginning of a brand new year, but it’ll also signal the beginning of a new decade. The 2010’s haven’t been too kind to USC Football and provided some embarrassing moments. While there’s not too much to really be happy about with USC football at the moment, the decade of USC football has provided some memorable moments that we can never forget. We take a moment to look at the best moments that took place this decade.
Marqise Lee Performance vs Arizona-2012
The 2012 season was best remembered for the epic collapse that saw the Trojans go from the nation’s No. 1 team before the season to a 7-6 season that ended with an embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. One game that will always stick out is the Marqise Lee game vs Arizona. In the middle of the greatest season that a Trojans wide receiver ever had, Lee put in a performance for the ages where single handedly almost won USC the game. Lee hauls in 16 catches for 345 yards. Unfortunately the Trojans lost the game to the Wildcats after Lee failed to haul in a last second Hail Mary pass for the win. Lee would go on to become the first Trojan to win the Biletnikoff award later on that season.
Andre Heidari Game winning Field Goal vs Stanford- 2014
USC kicker Andre Heidari has made some clutch field goals during his time at USC, but he will forever be known as the “Stanford killer”. After defeating Stanford in a thrilling game the previous season, USC faced Stanford in an early Pac-12 meeting in Palo Alto. The Cardinal was riding a 17 game winning streak at home and was looking to avenge the late season loss to the Trojans. During the final three minutes of the 4th quarter and the game tied at 10, Heidari would connect a career long 53 yard field goal to put the Trojans up late in the game. Stanford would drive into the red zone, however J.R. Tavai would get the game winning turnover with a strip sack on Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Coming into the 2011 edition of the crosstown rivalry, USC was riding a victory over No. 4 Oregon on the road and looking to end their season on a high note. The Trojans were ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. With USC unable to play in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game, their rival UCLA automatically advanced as the Pac-12 South champion. USC would make a statement to the Pac-12 and the nation that night with an all out obliteration of the Bruins. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods would go on to break Pac-12 records that night as the Trojans would shutout the Bruins 50-0 at the L.A. Coliseum. This would also be the game where UCLA broke off the tradition of both teams wearing their home uniforms and debut their all white uniforms, now famously known as the surrender uniforms. The win would be USC’s largest margin of victory over UCLA since 1930. To this day if you mention 50-0 to a UCLA fan they’ll have the look of disgust.
USC upsets No. 5 Stanford- 2013
The energy for this game was quite different through out the day. ESPN college gamely made their trip to Los Angeles for the clash between the Cardinal and Trojans. Ed Orgeron assumed the interim head coaching role after Athletic director Pat Hayden fired Lane Kiffin following the team’s loss to Arizona State. After winning three straight games, the Trojans were ready for their biggest challenge of the season against a Stanford team who was making a run towards a BCS Championship game appearance. USC took a 17-10 lead into halftime with momentum on their side.
Stanford would go on to tie the game in the third quarter, but the Trojans managed to force a couple of key turnovers late in the game. With the game tied and going into the final seconds, Andre Heidari would connect on a 47 yard field goal to give the Trojans a 20-17 victory over the Cardinal. After the game fans would storm the field to celebrate the win over Stanford. A night that will forever be in the minds of USC fans everywhere.
USC wins the Pac-12 Championship-2017
How do you follow up the 2016 season? Ride the wave of momentum into the next season and win the conference championship. USC came into the 2017 Pac-12 Championship game with a 10-2 record and a rematch with the Stanford Cardinal. The Trojans dominated Stanford earlier in the season, however this time their meeting would be far from a domination. USC and Stanford remained neck and neck in what was going to be another close battle between the two programs. Mid way through the 4th quarter Stanford drove all the way to the USC 1 to take their first lead of the game. The Trojans defense buckled down and gave the goal line performance of the season, stopping Stanford on all 4 downs. USC would go on to score the following drive and secure their first conference championship since 2008. The Trojans would also become the first team from the south to win the Pac-12 Championship. To this date, that still holds.
The Cam Smith game- 2015
USC once again was led coached by an interim heading into a marquee matchup. This time Clay Helton took over the reigns following the firing of Steve Sarkisian. No. 3 Utah came into the Coliseum looking to make a statement against the Trojans. A freshman linebacker by the name of Cameron Smith that would have other plans for the Utes that night. Smith picked off Utah quarterback Travis Wilson three times in the game, with one of them being returned 54 yards for a touchdown to put USC up 28-14 late in the second quarter. Thanks to those three interceptions, the Trojans would upset No. 3 Utah 42-24. A game that would propel USC into position to win the Pac-12 south later on in the season.
Smith’s performance against the Utes would go on to become one of the best individual defensive performances of the decade, however....
Adoree Jackson vs Notre Dame- 2016
Arguably one of the best performances in USC football history came during the last game of the regular season against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. With USC riding an 8 game winning streak and battling for a potential berth in the Rose Bowl Game, Adoree Jackson would cap the regular season with a performance that fans will never forget. The junior cornerback made his first mark on the game on special teams with a 55 yard kick return to give USC a 17-7 lead over the Irish late in the second quarter. However, Jackson didn’t stop there.
Mid way through the third quarter, Jackson would reach the end zone again. This time from a 52 yard touchdown reception from Sam Darnold to add cushion to the Trojans lead. The fourth quarter Jackson would provide a highlight of the season with a 97 yard kick return where he hurdled Notre Dame kicker Justin Yoon on his way to the end zone. The junior would strike a heisman pose as soon as he scored. Jackson’s three touchdown performance would elevate USC to a decisive win over Notre Dame. The USC cornerback went on to win the Jim Thorpe award two weeks later.
2017 Rose Bowl Game
If you were to ask any USC fan, former player, and alum their to share the best moment and game of the decade. This would be the first that comes to mind. The Trojans returned to the Rose Bowl Game for the first time in 9 years. It came following a 1-3 star to the season where things looked to go off the rails for the team. It was only fitting that USC’s opponent would be the Penn State Nitty Lions, who were the Trojans last Rose Bowl opponent in 2009.
USC came ready to play in the first half, moving the ball at will and reaching the end zone a few times. It looked as if the Trojans would run hold off the Nitty Lions moving forward. The second half was a different story as Penn State showed USC and the nation why they were indeed a second half team. James Franklin’s squad would rally off a 21-0 run in the third quarter, taking a huge lead over a shell shocked USC team. Coming into the 4th quarter Penn State held a 49-35 lead over the Trojans.
USC refused to quit as Sam Darnold led the team back in dramatic fashion. Ronald Jones II rushed for a 3 yard touchdown to cut the lead to 7 early in the quarter. With just under two minutes left in the game and the USC defense forcing Penn State to punt, Sam Darnold once again led another drive down the field. This time he would connect with Deontay Burnett to tie the game at 49. The following drive Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley would make a game defining mistake, throwing his third interception of the game to Leon McQuay III. The interception went on to set up a Matt Boermeester 46 yard game winning field goal to give USC the win in a thrilling Rose Bowl Game.