Stanford vs. USC and the Greatest Pac-12 Games Ever
On a Saturday in which saw two unbeatens fall, the best game of the day was not an upset, but rather a triple-overtime classic that saw No. 6 Stanford survive a late interception by Andrew Luck to hold off USC in the Coliseum.
While there have been more memorable Pac-12 games over the years, this game certainly belongs in the discussion. It involved two of the three most traditional programs in the conference, two of the best quarterbacks of the country and its finish left fans all over the country glued to their televisions.
Here's a look at where this classic ranks among the Pac-12's best games ever played, as we rehash 10 of the league's most memorable battles.
No. 10: Arizona State 45-Washington 42, 1996
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A magical season in Tempe that almost culminated with a national title began with a shootout in the desert between the unranked Sun Devils and No. 23 Washington.
Trailing 21-14 in the second half, ASU rallied to take a 28-21 lead on a fumble return and a punt return for touchdowns. The Sun Devils extended the lead to 42-21, but a young Brock Huard and Corey Dillon led the Huskies all the way back to tie the game at 42-42 in the fourth quarter.
After getting good field position after a poor punt, Jake Plummer led Arizona State into field goal range, where Robert Nycz drilled a 38-yard field goal with two seconds remaining for a 45-42 win.
Two weeks later, ASU would end Nebraska's 26-game winning streak and go on to finish the regular season unbeaten. Only a last-minute loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl kept the Sun Devils from their first national title.
No. 9: USC 38-Arizona State 28, 2005
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USC avoided disaster multiple times on their run to the national title game, including an all-timer of a finish at Notre Dame and a highlight reel run by Reggie Bush to rally past Fresno State. In conference play, the biggest test came at Arizona State.
The Sun Devils jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead, poised to end the Trojans' 25-game winning streak. USC then wore down ASU in the second half with the ground attack, grabbing their first lead with under four minutes remaining.
Trailing by three, ASU's Sam Keller was intercepted by Kevin Ellison, and LenDale White iced the game with a 46-yard touchdown run. USC would extend their winning streak to 34 games before falling to Texas in the Rose Bowl.
No. 8: Washington State 30-USC 27 (OT), 2002
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Back in the early part of the century, Washington State was arguably the best program in the Pac-12. They followed up a 10-2 season in 2001 with a Pac-10 title in 2002, sparked by a thrilling victory over USC.
Playing with a rib injury, Cougars' QB Jason Gesser threw a pair of touchdown passes that helped put WSU ahead 24-21 late in the fourth quarter. Carson Palmer then found freshman budding star Mike Williams for a 55-yard touchdown, but Ryan Killeen's missed extra point kept the Trojans' lead at three with four minutes left.
Gesser led a game-tying drive to send the game to overtime, and after Killeen missed a 52-yard field goal, WSU's Drew Dunning drilled a 35-yard field goal for a 30-27 victory.
Both teams would finish 7-1 in the Pac-10, and this win was the tiebreaker that sent the Cougars to the Rose Bowl.
No. 7: Oregon 37-Oregon State 33, 2009
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It was winner-take-all for the Pac-10 title on a Thursday night in Eugene, and the Ducks and Beavers put on quite a show with everything on the line. Both teams entered the game 7-1 in Pac-10 play. The winner would play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
A back-and-forth game had the Ducks ahead 21-16, when Oregon State rallied for consecutive touchdowns to take a 30-21 lead in the third quarter. Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, who had been suspended for most of the season after throwing a punch in the season opener, would redeem himself in the biggest game of the year.
Blount rumbled 12 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 30-28, and freshman LaMichael James gashed the Beavers for a 52-yard touchdown and a 34-33 lead. The Ducks would run out the final six minutes to seal the team's first trip to Pasadena since 1994.
No. 6: UCLA 20-USC 19, 1982
After years sharing the Coliseum with USC, UCLA moved its home games to the Rose Bowl in 1982, with the first meeting in Pasadena between the crosstown rivals occurring that season. A return trip to Pasadena on New Year's Day was on the line as the 11th-ranked Bruins hosted the 15th-ranked Trojans.
UCLA started out strong, finding the end zone on its first two positions. USC would chip away at the Bruins' lead, pulling within 20-13 late in the game. Needing to go 66 yards, QB Scott Tinsley led the Trojans down the field and found TE Mark Boyer from a yard out to pull within 20-19 as time ran out.
Coach John Robinson elected to go for two and the win. Tinsley was sacked by Karl Morgan to preserve the Bruins' victory. They would go on to beat Michigan 24-14 in the Rose Bowl.
No. 5: Oregon 56-Arizona State 55 (2OT), 2000
Oregon brought a perfect record in the Pac-10 to Tempe to take on 5-2 Arizona State in a late October showdown. To say the teams were evenly matched would be an understatement.
The game was tied 7-7 after one quarter, 21-21 at halftime and 28-28 after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, Arizona State led 49-42 and was trying to run out the clock, but Mike Williams fumbled and the Ducks recovered. Joey Harrington's sixth touchdown pass sent the game to overtime.
After neither team scored in the first overtime, the Ducks went ahead 56-49 in the second overtime. QB Jeff Krohn brought ASU within 56-55 on a touchdown pass to Richard Williams. Coach Bruce Snyder called for a fake extra point to try and win the game, but Krohn's pass to Todd Heap fell incomplete.
No. 4: Stanford 56-USC 48 (3OT), 2011
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Fresh off an impressive win at Notre Dame, 6-1 USC brought a three-game winning streak into a primetime showdown with sixth-ranked, unbeaten Stanford. After a low-scoring first half, Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley got hot in the second half, and the game was tied 27-27 late in the fourth quarter.
Luck, the Heisman Trophy front-runner, was intercepted by Nickell Robey, who returned it for the go-ahead touchdown. Not to be denied, Luck led the Cardinal 80 yards to send the game to overtime on a Stepfan Taylor touchdown run.
After both teams scored touchdowns in the first two overtime periods, Taylor scored from five yards out and Luck hit Cobi Fleener for the two-point conversion. With the Trojans again on the move, a Curtis McNeal fumble ended the Trojans' upset bid, as Stanford recovered and held on for a 56-48 win.
No. 3: California 34-USC 31 (3OT), 2003
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The USC dynasty under Pete Carroll was about to launch, but it would experience a temporary road block when the 3-0 Trojans traveled to Berkeley to face 2-3 California.
Behind a young Aaron Rodgers, the Bears stormed to a 21-7 lead, but USC would rally, as Lofa Tatupu tied the game at 21-21 with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown. Shaun Cody blocked a potential game-winning field goal for the Bears, and the game went to overtime, tied 24-24.
Neither team scored in the first overtime, and both would find the end zone in the second overtime. USC began the third overtime on offense, but Ryan Killeen missed a field goal. Cal's Tyler Fredrickson split the uprights from 38 yards out, giving the Bears a monumental 34-31 victory—their last win to date over USC.
No. 2: USC 21-UCLA 20, 1967
Courtesy: Los Angeles Times
The biggest game in one of the sport's great rivalries occurred in 1967, when top-ranked UCLA and fourth-ranked USC dueled in the Coliseum. It was a battle between the next two Heisman Trophy winners, UCLA QB Gary Beban and USC RB O.J. Simpson
Beban made a costly mistake in the first quarter, as the Trojans' Pat Cashman returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 7-7. Simpson would put the Trojans ahead 14-7, but Beban would throw two touchdown passes to put the Bruins ahead, 20-14. One of the game's biggest plays came on the ensuing PAT, which was blocked by Bill Hayhoe.
Simpson then broke arguably the most famous run in USC history, a 64-yard jaunt with 10 minutes remaining to put the Trojans ahead 21-20. The defense would hold Beban the rest of the way, and USC would go on to win the national title, beating Indiana in the Rose Bowl.
Beban, however, would controversially win the Heisman Trophy.
No. 1: California 25-Stanford 20, 1982
Courtesy: Sports Illustrated
There was little hype leading into the 1982 Big Game, a battle in Berkeley between 5-5 Stanford and 6-4 California. The Cardinal was led by QB John Elway, who would be selected first overall in the 1983 NFL Draft.
Elway, looking to get to the first bowl game of his career, led Stanford 70 yards to set up Mark Harmon's 35-yard field goal with four seconds left to put the Cardinal ahead 20-19. Unfortunately for Stanford, they still had to kick off.
What would ensue was the most memorable play in the history of college football, as numerous laterals (one of which may have been an illegal forward pass) eventually got the ball in the hands of Cal's Kevin Moen.
Moen had to elude the Stanford marching band, who had come on to the field thinking the game was over, to find the end zone. After five minutes of discussion, the officials upheld the touchdown, giving the Bears a 25-20 victory.