In less than one season, Coach Orgeron and the USC Trojans did what Lane Kiffin never did in four years: they beat the Stanford Cardinal, and they had fun doing it.
Success does not come any sweeter than when it comes in close games like that one.
Fueled by pride, hope and a burning desire to get revenge against Stanford after falling to it four straight times, USC did the improbable. It knocked off the Cardinal, the No. 4 team in the country, 20-17, despite sputtering at times and missing a number of key role players due to injury.
It all started when Su'a Cravens tipped and intercepted a Kevin Hogan pass late in the fourth quarter, deflating the Cardinal's final drive and reinvigorating the USC sidelines. With just over a minute left, you could feel the excitement in the Coliseum rising as Trojan fans began to realize it could happen. It could've happened each of the past four seasons, but USC mistakes kept it at bay. This time however, it would be errors from Stanford that would put USC in position to get it done and create pandemonium in Los Angeles.
When Andre Heidari took the field for would be a go-ahead 46-yard field goal, fans in the Coliseum met it with apprehension. Earlier in the game, he missed an extra point; confidence from Trojan faithful was not in his corner. Some fans covered their eyes while others looked on nervously, with feelings of disappointment or utter jubilation hanging in the balance.
It was so silent in the Coliseum leading up to that kick, you could hear a pin drop. The kick sailed up, tumbling end over end, finding the promised land between the uprights.
And the USC homecoming crowd erupted into raucous cheers and celebrations.
After four years of crushing defeats, USC fans got the elusive victory they desperately deserved. When the final seconds ticked off the clock, students, alumni, and fans alike poured onto the field, celebrating side by side with their team. It was a moment USC fans will surely not forget for some time, and they will hang it over the heads of Oregon and UCLA fans alike for the weeks to come.
All of this was made possible by Ed Orgeron, who by all accounts is looking more and more like the savior of USC football.
He led the Trojans with confidence, and the players put that all out on the field. Quarterback Cody Kessler played like a man tonight, zipping between defenders and hitting his targets with poise, and he did that because his coach believed he could. The Trojan defense gritted its teeth and pushed hard against the Cardinal, and they did so because their coach believed they could.
"In our tight-knit family, there was a belief that we were going to find a way to win the game," Orgeron said to ESPN after the upset victory. "I'm proud of our young men. This is something that they've wanted for a long time now."
This game, this defeat of Stanford serves as the moment when USC told the college football world it is back. After a tumultuous era under Lane Kiffin and a season this year that saw the Trojans crippled on both sides of the ball and Heidari twice nearly losing his job, Orgeron and his team showed the nation that USC has still got it.
Orgeron has brought fun and loose football back to USC, and this big win proved that he might have what it takes to ditch the "interim" tag and just be the head coach in Troy.
#USC safety Dion Bailey: ``What we did under the past coach doesn't matter to us. We're 5-1 and one of the better teams in the nation.''— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) November 17, 2013
He's accomplished in five weeks what Kiffin could not in three years: He has willed the Trojans to win for him, and he has convinced the fanbase along the way. Inch by inch, he has helped to restore credibility to the Trojan football team, and the national media is starting to take notice.
When Lane Kiffin got unceremoniously canned back in September, the USC football program hung in the balance. Then, it looked like yet another blow to a program that just could not catch a break in the wake of sanctions. Who would've thought, nine weeks later, that moment would be the turning point for USC, the moment when the franchise would be reborn?
#USC safety Dion Bailey: ``Coach O is making up for the last 3 years in 8 games.''— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) November 17, 2013
There have been many who doubted Orgeron because of his record as a head coach at Ole Miss. There have been even more who have doubted USC's abilities to rebound in the wake of everything that has happened over the past four years. There have been more still who doubted this team could contend with Stanford, let alone upset the No. 4 team in the nation.
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In one night, those naysayers have been silenced. It seems fair to say that USC football—for real this time—is back.