LOS ANGELES -- Having toyed with the Fresno State Bulldogs in their 52-13 season-opening victory in the Coliseum on Saturday, things take a dramatic upturn as the USC Trojans get ready for this weekend’s trip to Palo Alto and the revenge-minded Stanford Cardinal.
Head coach David Shaw’s Cardinal, no doubt, will be seeking retribution after last season’s gut-wrenching, 20-17 upset loss to the Trojans in Los Angeles, which sparked a stampede of Cardinal and Gold faithful onto the hollowed turf of the Coliseum upon the game’s stirring conclusion.
Fond memories of that USC triumph still resonate with returning Trojans players, especially sophomore strong safety Su'a Cravens.
Just ask the 2013 freshman All-American about his recollections of last November’s upset win and the current state of the USC/Stanford series, and Craven’s Hollywood smile quickly turns Tony Soprano serious.
“My interception, of course, the field goal, and team ball,” said Cravens, recalling his pick of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan in the fourth quarter last season, which helped set up Andre Heidari's game-winning 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.
“In the last couple of years Stanford has made it a rivalry, not as intense as UCLA or Notre Dame, but this is a big game coming up this weekend,” Cravens said. “They are going to be on all their Ps and Qs and so will we.”
Stanford, which opened its season at home Saturday by destroying UC Davis 45-0, obviously doesn’t have pleasant memories of the last time these two private universities met, and Shaw will have his troops good and ready for payback.
Adding to the intrigue for this Saturday’s Pac-12 opener for both teams will be the Trojans' freshmen-on-the-road factor, an element that didn’t play out in a negative way against Fresno State.
You can bet Stanford will be looking to physically and mentally intimidate Steve Sarkisian’s inexperienced, wide-eyed USC freshmen, all of whom played significant roles against Fresno State.
Having been a freshman last season, Cravens has some advice for his younger teammates as it relates to the Cardinal.
“Don’t make the game bigger than what it is,” Cravens said. “It’s a long season and I understand it’s Stanford, but it’s your game and don’t let anybody else distract you.”
Junior linebacker Anthony Sarao, once a Stanford commit, added to Cravens' advice by saying, “Take every practice this week one at a time and get ready for Stanford’s physicality by being in the film room.”
And what kind of game does Cravens expect for the noon kickoff in Northern California?
“It’s going to be a physical game,” Cravens smiled. “They like to keep it in between the tackles.”
And Cravens isn’t alone in his assessment for the upcoming Cardinal confrontation.
“It’s going to be big on big,” echoed All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
And somewhere legendary Trojans defensive line coach Marv Goux must be smiling.