USC stuns No. 4 Stanford on late field goal

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California’s surge under interim coach Ed Orgeron has swallowed up No. 5 Stanford.

Andre Heidari kicked a 47-yard field
goal with 19 seconds to play, and USC’s stalwart defense repeatedly came
up big in a 20-17 upset of the Cardinal on Saturday night.

Cody Kessler passed for 288 yards as the
revitalized Trojans (8-3, 5-2 Pac-12) earned their fifth win in six
games under the irrepressible Orgeron, who replaced the fired Lane
Kiffin in late September.

“In our tight-knit family, there was a
belief that we were going to find a way to win the game,” Orgeron said.
“I’m proud of our young men. This is something that they’ve wanted for a
long time now.”

USC’s remarkable defensive performance
included two fourth-quarter interceptions and a season-low 17 points
from the powerful Cardinal (8-2, 6-2), who followed up last week’s win
over Oregon by getting knocked out of the national title chase and maybe
the Rose Bowl race as well.

Heidari nearly lost his job twice this
season, and he missed an extra point in the first quarter. But the
junior coolly nailed the tiebreaking field goal — and then got an
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for running the length of the field to
celebrate it.

After the inconsistent Heidari’s field
goal and Stanford’s final play, thousands of USC fans stormed the
Coliseum field, where Stanford had won in its last three trips,
including a triple-overtime thriller two years ago.

Soma Vainuku caught an early TD pass and
Javorius Allen rushed for a score for USC, which didn’t score in the
second half until Heidari’s kick. Nelson Agholor had eight catches for
104 yards, while Marqise Lee had six catches for 83 yards — and both
receivers made big plays on USC’s final drive.

“I don’t know if I pulled them
together,” Orgeron said. “I think they just came together. The
leadership of this program is really coming to the forefront.”

Tyler Gaffney rushed for 158 yards and
two touchdowns for Stanford, which had won three straight while closing
in on the chance to host the Pac-12 title game for the second straight
year. Kevin Hogan went 14 of 25 for 127 yards, but the Cardinal couldn’t
regain the lead after trailing at half, despite repeatedly getting
close.

After trailing 17-10 at halftime,
Stanford calmly tied it with Gaffney’s 18-yard TD run on the first drive
of the third quarter. USC’s offense struggled throughout the second
half, but the Trojans’ thin defense kept it close despite using just two
substitutes for most of the night.

Dion Bailey intercepted Hogan’s
third-down pass at the USC 6 with about 10 minutes to play, killing what
seemed certain to be Stanford’s go-ahead drive. Su’a Cravens then
intercepted a tipped pass at the USC 44 with 3 minutes to play, giving
another chance to the Trojans’ offense.

After Lee caught a 13-yard slant pass
over midfield on fourth-and-2, the Trojans reached the Stanford 21
before two straight yardage-losing plays pushed them back to the 30 —
and Heidari still nailed his kick.

USC hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent
since 2011, and the Trojans hadn’t had much to celebrate during an
up-and-down season that cost Kiffin his job. But USC has played with
fire for Orgeron, the longtime defensive line coach whose raw enthusiasm
has worn off on the program.

Orgeron wasn’t thought to be a serious
candidate for the Trojans’ full-time job when he took over for Kiffin,
but his players are pushing his name deeper into the discussion with
each passing victory.

“Obviously there’s going to be some
decisions made here after we play UCLA (on Nov. 30),” Orgeron said.
“That’s out of my hands.”

Under the lights at the sold-out
Coliseum, Stanford betrayed a few nerves early. The Cardinal burned two
timeouts and committed an illegal-snap penalty on the game’s first
drive, and Ty Montgomery dropped two passes in the opening minutes.

USC’s opening drive was smooth, with
Lee making a tiptoe sideline catch before Vainuku came out of the
backfield for a play-action 1-yard TD catch just 6:13 in.

Gaffney scored on a 35-yard run moments
later when he popped out the back of a scrimmage pile and sprinted past
the slumbering USC defense, but the Trojans answered with another long
drive capped by Allen’s 1-yard TD run and a 2-point conversion catch by
Lee.

Kessler was outstanding in the pocket
and on the run, completing 10 straight early passes before Heidari’s
field goal put the Trojans up by 10 points early in the second quarter.
Stanford added a field goal with 17 seconds left the first half.

After Gaffney capped a 92-yard drive
with his TD run up the middle, Stanford forced a fumble by Kessler at
the USC 19, but the Cardinal’s field goal attempt was blocked.

Stanford is USC’s oldest rival in a
series dating back to 1905. The Cardinal had never won four straight in
the series before the last four meetings.

Former Stanford lineman Jonathan Martin watched the game from the sideline in a backward Cardinal cap.