Stanford's 21-14 victory over Southern California Saturday night makes its prior wins over the Trojans look minor.
The game went back and forth for 60 minutes, with the Trojans' final drive ending in bitter disappointment. Matt Barkley couldn't find time to throw, and the Trojans failed to knot the score. His heave on 4th-and-long fell harmlessly to the ground with nine seconds remaining on the clock.
The Trojans were fighting an uphill battle for most of the night, and they didn't do much to help their cause. Losing running backs Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd (both would eventually return) led Lane Kiffin and the USC coaching staff to abandon the run game in the second half, and Stanford sat on the pass.
Even when healthy, the Trojans' backfield only amassed 26 total yards. Redd's two one-yard scores were the lone bright spot.
Matt Barkley finished 20-of-41 passing with 253 yards and zero touchdowns. He didn't perform like the Heisman Trophy's leading contender should, typified by his two interceptions.
His top targets, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, were held to 12 combined catches and zero touchdowns. For anyone else, that's not a big deal, but these two All-American talents are normally much more involved.
Barkley's counterpart, Josh Nunes, played well enough in his first major contest as Andrew Luck's successor. He went 15-of-32 for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
He showed surprising mobility and commanded the Cardinal offense when the game mattered most. He did throw two interceptions, but growing pains are anticipated.
Stepfan Taylor made his job a lot easier. The underrated ball-carrier toted the rock 27 times for 153 yards and one touchdown. He was a consistent threat between the tackles and allowed Nunes to play a secondary role in the offense.
The Trojans' defense was exploited at times, but the team was inconsistent overall. Barkley's turnovers, plus the injuries to McNeal and Redd, made this game a very steep hill to climb.
As the game went along, Stanford Stadium got louder. Knocking off the No. 2 team in the nation is always exciting, but the rivalry makes the victory even sweeter.
David Shaw's squad played cagey defense and ran the ball well. It had its flaws, but it played big in big moments.
The Cardinal victory marks the biggest upset in an upset-laden 2012 college-football season. They locked down the Trojans' offense as much as possible and turned the BCS picture on its head in one fell swoop.
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