- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Stanford-USC game has evolved into one of the best rivalries in the conference, if not the country. It seems like every year both teams up the ante on thrills and heartbreak. This year, the Trojans head to Stanford ranked No. 14, while the Cardinal are No. 13.
Though this series dates back to 1905 -- and there have been plenty of outstanding games along the way (Jim Plunkett in ’70, the tie in ’79), the series became a different animal starting in 2007 when the 41-point underdog Cardinal shocked USC at home.
Here are snapshots of the '07-'09 games. We'll look at '10 through '13 later today.
Oct. 6, 2007
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Final score: Stanford 24, No. 2 USC 23
The setup: It was Year 1 of the Jim Harbaugh era at Stanford. The Trojans were ranked No. 2 in the country and were riding a 35-game home winning streak. Stanford entered the game with a 1-3 record, having been blown out already by UCLA, Oregon and ASU.
Key play: Making his first career start, Tavita Pritchard connected on a 10-yard touchdown pass with Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds left to give the 41-point underdog Cardinal the victory. Pritchard, half jumping/half throwing off his back foot, just tossed it up and Bradford came down with it.
Remember this? In order to get into the USC red zone, Pritchard first had to overcome a fourth-and-20 at the USC 29. His go-to man was Richard Sherman, who made a 20-yard reception to set up first-and-goal at the USC 9-yard-line.
Quotable: "To give it up like this is a shame, it is crushing to me," said USC coach Pete Carroll. "Give credit to Stanford. They did a heck of a job and we made a ton of mistakes. We need to find ways to make plays and go back and find the right combinations."
Nov. 15, 2008
Final score: No. 6 USC 45, Stanford 23
The setup: The Cardinal were slowly making gains under Harbaugh. Nothing earth-shattering yet, but getting better. The Trojans had won six straight (a stunning loss at Oregon State in September ultimately kept USC out of the BCS championship game) and were looking for some revenge.
Key play: Already leading 31-17, the Trojans delivered the knockout blow when Mark Sanchez connected with Stanley Havili on a 50-yard touchdown strike to put the Trojans ahead 38-17 halfway through the fourth quarter.
Remember this? The Cardinal had just gone up 17-10 in the second quarter on Anthony Kimble's 1-yard run. On the ensuing kickoff, C.J. Gable went 93 yards to knot the score at 17-17 and steal back Stanford’s thunder. The Trojans would go on to outscore the Cardinal 28-6 in the second half.
Quotable: "I felt like we owed them something," linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "They came into our house and got one from us. I definitely feel like we owed them a favor."
Nov. 14, 2009
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Final score: No. 25 Stanford 55, No. 11 USC 21
The setup: A plucky young quarterback named Andrew Luck took the helm for the Cardinal, who were on the upswing. Having already dropped a close game to Washington and a blowout loss to Oregon, the Trojans were out of the conference title hunt.
Key play: The game wasn’t out of hand yet. With the Cardinal up 35-21 early in the fourth quarter, Matt Barkley was intercepted by Sherman, who returned it 42 yards for a touchdown, putting Stanford ahead 41-21.
Remember this? With 6:47 left to play and the Cardinal ahead 48-21, a two-point conversion attempt after Toby Gerhart's third rushing touchdown of the game failed. Sparking the following postgame exchange between coaches ...
Quotable: Carroll: "What’s your deal? You alright?"
Harbaugh: "Yeah, I’m great. What’s your deal?"
1dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell