Giant Killers: The 2007 Stanford Cardinal
First of all, I just want to say how glad I am to join in on the "Giant Killers" series here on Bleacher Report. Here is a topic where we won't run out of things to talk about, as it is what makes watching live sports what it is.
In any event, over at my sites, The Sports Chat Place and The College Football Place, we are constantly looking for the upset. There are more than just a few that have happened that make every game worth watching, no matter how big of a mismatch the game appears to be.
To kick off my contributions to the series (I'm going to shoot for at least one a week during the offseason), I'm going to go with the biggest college football upset according to the point spread, and it didn't happen too long ago.
If we look back to Oct. 6, 2007, the Stanford Cardinal were visiting USC and were listed as a 40-point underdog. While 40 seems like a lot—and at nearly six touchdowns, it is—there was good reason for the USC backers to be confident.
USC was riding a 35-game home winning streak, including 24 straight home wins against Pac-10 teams. The Trojans were thinking National Championship; the Cardinal were thinking of erasing an 11-loss season a year earlier.
To make matters seemingly worse for Stanford, their starting QB, T.C. Ostrander, was out for the game, and their backup, Tavita Pritchard, with only three passes ever thrown at the college level, was set to start.
The first half was all USC, but it didn't play out like a lot of people had expected. The Cardinal had gritted it out, and the Trojans only led 9-0 at halftime, thanks to a blocked extra point—which, as we heard so many times, did come back to haunt the men of Troy.
Stanford opened the scoring in the third quarter as Austin Yancy picked off a John David Booty pass and took it 31 yards in for the score to make it 9-7, but USC quickly retaliated with a Fred Davis 63-yard pass reception to make it 16-7 Trojans.
In the fourth quarter Stanford still showed signs of life as Anthony Kimble scored from one yard out to cut the lead to 16-14. USC then appeared to put the game away when Ronald Johnson scored on another long pass play, 47 yards, to make it 23-14 USC.
Stanford rebounded with a long drive that went 12 plays and 61 yards, but with just over five minutes remaining in the game, the Cardinal were forced to settle for a field goal as Stanford still trailed 23-17.
With 2:53 remaining in the game, Stanford defensive back Wopamo Osaisai intercepted a John David Booty pass and gave Stanford the ball on their own 45-yard line.
With the clock ticking down, Pritchard went to work, looking like a seasoned pro moving his team down the field. With 1:38 left in the game, the drive and game looked over as Stanford was faced with a 4th-and-20 at the USC 29, but Pritchard came through again, completing a pass to Richard Sherman at the USC nine-yard line for a first down.
After a run for four yards, Stanford had incomplete passes on second and third downs setting up a fourth and goal from the five-yard line with less than a minute to play. Almost unbelievably, Stanford was flagged for a substitution infraction that made it fourth down and 10 yards to go.
Almost magically, and certainly unlikely, Tavita Pritchard completed a pass to Mark Bradford in the end zone. Derek Belch kicked the extra point to give Stanford a 24-23 lead with less than a minute to go.
USC took the kickoff back to the 25, but a 15-yard facemask penalty against Stanford gave the Trojans the ball at their own 40 with 45 seconds left to play. Booty was sacked for a six-yard loss on the first play. After two Booty incompletions and a fourth down interception, the upset was complete.
In our great sport of college football, there have been hundreds of upsets over the years, and hopefully we'll get to most of them, but none so far have ever had a bigger point spread than the 2007 USC-Stanford game.
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