Best Games of 2011: A little Luck goes a long way vs. USC


Time to wrap up the week with one more look at one of the best games of the 2011 season. To do so we head out to the state of California, where one BCS contender stayed alive and another program showed they were up to the task to take on the best of the best.

Before we continue with a look back at the Baylor’s big win, and in case you have missed any of the previous segments, here are the games we have already reflected on:

USC vs. No. 6 Stanford
October 29, 2011

The Quick Slant: Andrew Luck makes up for a mistake and leads Stanford to a triple-overtime victory against the USC Trojans.


Game in Brief: Stanford 56, USC 48 (3 OT)

Four quarters were not enough to determine a winner between sixth ranked Stanford and a USC team looking to send a message to the rest of the Pac 12 and the nation. Neither was one overtime. Two overtimes was not enough either.

Stanford fought through as much adversity as they had faced in over a year, extending their winning streak to 16 games with a triple overtime thriller in the Los Angeles Coliseum and continuing a recent string of success against USC. They had to battle for this one.

The first half was a relative bore compared to the way this game would turn in the second half, with Stanford holding on to a 10-6 lead at the break. In the second half Lane Kiffin’s boys came out with the big plays, taking the lead on a 61-yard run by Curtis McNeal just under two minutes in to the third quarter, and about three minutes later the Trojans added a 25-yard run by McNeal to build a 20-10 lead. Of course, with so much time remaining and with Andrew Luck under center there was plenty of time before Stanford would have the urge to press the panic button. Before the third quarter ended Luck passed for and rushed for a touchdown to put the Cardinal back on top, setting the stage for a wild finish in LA.

The two California powers traded blow-for-blow in the fourth quarter, first with Marqise Lee hauling ina  touchdown pass from Matt Barkley from 28 yards and answered by a field goal by Stanford to tie the game at 27-27 with just over five minutes to play.

On 3rd and 4 from his own 23-yard line Andrew Luck made one of the rare mistakes of his collegiate career, throwing an interception in to the hands of Nickell Robey, who returned the pick 33 yards for a touchdown with 3:08 to play. A lesser team and quarterback would have folded but with plenty of time to come back, and getting the football right back, Luck and Stanford moved from their own 24-yard line all the way for a touchdown to tie the game in the final minute, showing the true gritty character that has become a trademark of Luck and Stanford’s offense. USC made an effort to at least get in to field goal position for Andre Heidari, who hit a 50-yard field goal earlier in the game, but a pass to Robert Woods took too long to get out of bounds to stop the clock at the Stanford 33-yard line. Lane Kiffin was not happy about the officiating on the play as the two schools went to overtime.

Stanford struck first in overtime with (what else?) a touchdown and USC answered with their own touchdown, a 15-yard pass form Barkley to Woods. Barkley connected with Telfer to open the second overtime and Luck found Levine Toilolo for an 11-yard touchdown strike to force the third overtime.

It took Stanford three plays to score another touchdown, with Stepfan Taylor rushed for five yards. the Stanford two-point conversion was successful, forcing USC to score eight points to keep the game alive. Barkley completed a pass to Marqise Lee to the four-yard line on the first play of their third overtime possession, but that was as far as USC would come, as Curtis McNeal fumbled the football in to the end zone on the next play. Stanford recovered the fumble to cap a wild one in southern California.

What We Said Then

 Well, actually, we never mentioned this game in a post. Oops! But if we had posted some thoughts surely we would have discussed Stanford remaining in contention for a BCS title, the rising star of Matt Barkley and how even when Andrew Luck has an off-game he is still among the best in the game. Just a hunch.


Hindsight is 20/20

Stanford managed to play in the BCS despite losing to Oregon a few weeks later, but they would become a victim of overtime in losing to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. And thus ends a great college career by one of the game’s best quarterbacks, Andrew Luck. Luck leaves Stanford having done as much as you could hope and ask for from one player. The Cardinal reached back-to-back BCS bowls, once considered a pipe dream for a program like Stanford, and they did so under two different head coaches. Now the question becomes what happens to Stanford now that Luck is moving on to the NFL?

A strong recruiting class suggests that Stanford is not going to fade away as quickly as you might think, but the 2012 season is already placing plenty of high hopes on the USC Trojans, who welcome back Matt Barkley, a Heisman favorite, and receiver Robert Woods. With the postseason ban officially lifted, everybody is expecting USC to contend for a national title right away. Is Lane Kiffin the guy who can make that a reality?

All I know is this. When Stanford hosts USC on September 15, I’ll be watching. Will they play again on November 30 in the Pac 12 championship game?

Can either team dethrone Oregon in the conference?

I can’t wait to find out.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.