Stanford vs. USC: 5 Things We Learned about the Cardinal Win over the Trojans

Bill N@@Bill_N1Correspondent IOctober 30, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29:  Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

So very close. Two heavyweights slug it out in a classic game. No. 4* Stanford (8-0) needs three overtimes and a No. 20*USC (6-2) fumble into the end zone to beat the Trojans 56-48.

USC had Stanford stopped on third down at the Cardinal 40 with about two minutes remaining but T.J. McDonald was called for a personal foul after the pass was broken up to allow the game tying drive to continue.

USC then drove to the Stanford 33, but the referees ruled time ran out as Lane Kiffin called time out when WR Robert Woods’ knee went down with one second remaining.

“I'm really disappointed in the officials,” Kiffin said. “Extremely disappointed. They said (Robert Woods) was out of bounds which he wasn't. I had asked for a timeout with one second left.”

On a night when the USC QB Matt Barkley and WR Robert Woods connection appeared out of sync at times, the USC defense kept the Trojans in the game until it looked worn out in overtime. To be far, so did the Stanford defense.

What are the five things the Trojans learned?

1. USC gave Stanford everything they could handle even though they made mistakes that could have made it difficult for the Cardinal to keep up. Very few thought the game would be this close.

2. USC continues to run well enough to help the passing attack as RB Curtis McNeal had 146 yards on 20 carries for two TDs, including one for 61 yards. Senior RB Marc Tyler re-injured his shoulder on the first carry and didn’t play again.

3. It is difficult to beat the No. 4* team with only 4-for-12 in third-down conversions. Woods showed that he isn’t perfect in a rare off night that was still good enough for nine receptions, 89 yards and one TD. Several drops and route miscommunications may be due to missed practices and various injuries, and stopped some Trojan drives.

4. The USC defensive line played very well until it ran out of gas in overtime. Stanford QB Andrew Luck was sacked the same all the previous games combined and pressured much of the night. The entire defense played extremely well considering the opponent, and Monte Kiffin’s schemes and blitz calls were excellent.

5. Barkley (28-of-45 for 284 yards, three TDs and one INT) is a very good quarterback but watching him in the same game as Luck (29-of-40 for 325 yards, three TDs, one INT plus 36 yards rushing and one TD) makes it clear that he needs to return to USC for his senior season.

This is a far better USC team, especially the defense, than the one who lost to Arizona State Sun Devils in a game that was full of mistakes. It was these mistakes that kept early games close. No surprise given the inexperience of the team despite harsh criticisms of the coaching staff.

The maturation of the USC team as the season progresses makes them dangerous against any team and bodes well for the 2012 season.

Here are grades from ESPNLA’s Pedro Moura.

The Trojans play Colorado Buffaloes (1-8) on Friday, November 4 in cold Boulder. The current forecasted high is 42 degrees, but it will be colder since the game starts at 7:00 PM MT.

*Week 9 AP ranking