Coach O not only salvaged USC's season, but he's brought it closer to rejoining the nation's elite.
By RAHSHAUN HAYLOCKFS West
LOS ANGELES — So much in the Coliseum on Saturday night was predicated on a chance.
For interim head coach Ed Orgeron, his was the chance to prove he could lead a team to victory over a top-5 opponent and he wasn't just a quick fix to a bad situation.
USC Trojans it was snapping a four-game losing streak to No. 4 Stanford.
For Andre Heidari, it was a chance at redemption.
All of which were successful after Heidari drilled a game-winning 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining to lift USC to a 20-17 win over Stanford (8-2, 6-2 Pac-12) in front of 93,607 fans inside a sold-out Coliseum.
"I did what I need to do and I'm just thankful for my team to put me in that position," Heidari said. "It was a good feeling."
For Heidari to have a chance to be the hero, it was Orgeron who gave his team a chance. Coach O rolled the dice and succeeded.
With 1:23 left in the game and USC (8-3, 5-2 Pac-12) facing a fourth down and two at their own 48-yard line, the Trojans called a timeout but the decision was already made.
"I think he already had it in his mind that he wanted to go for it," said Marqise Lee, who caught six passes for 83 yards and a two-point conversion. "As soon as I walked to the sideline he said 'We going for it.' I walked back out (toward the field)."
Added Orgeron: "I knew I was taking a chance but I looked in these guys' eyes and I knew they wanted to go for it and I knew they wanted to win the game. I wanted to give them a chance as a coach to give them the best shot to get what they wanted."
The fourth-down play was a 13-yard completion for Cody Kessler to Lee. Seven plays later, Heidari was called on to nail the game-winner.
The completion to Lee was the last play of the game for the talented wide receiver who hopped off of the field on one leg following the catch. Earlier in the drive, trainers came onto the field to tend to him after he was kicked in the shin.
In more ways than one, Saturday night was a battle of attrition for the Trojans. Lee was hobbled late. Josh Shaw, who barely practiced during the week, went the distance at cornerback primarily locked up with Stanford speedster Ty Montgomery, who had just four receptions for 23 yards.
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams received a PRP injection earlier in the week and admitted his injured shoulder would require surgery after the season. Defensively, the Trojans used just two substitutions in the entire game, while holding the Cardinal to a season-low 17 points.
Orgeron, who improved to 5-1 overall and 5-0 in Pac-12 play, hasn't only changed the results.
"Our identity has changed here at USC now," Shaw said. "We are a tough, physical football team. If we can play, even if we're banged up or whatever, we will do that."
Added Kessler: "I speak for the team, we absolutely love him. We'd run through a brick wall for that man."
Orgeron being appointed interim head coach in September gave the team the chance to salvage their season.
On Saturday night that chance was on display for an entire nation to see and the Trojans showed that maybe, just maybe they're one step closer to rejoining the nation's elite.