- 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.
While 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 ’10-’13 games. Earlier today we looked back at '07 through '09.
Oct. 9, 2010
Final score: No. 16 Stanford 37, USC 35
The setup: After trading blowouts the previous two seasons, the 2010 game kicked off what would be a fantastic string of close finishes.
Key play: Stanford’s Nate Whitaker connected on a 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Remember this? Whitaker almost wasn’t the hero of this game … but the goat. He had missed an extra point after Stanford went up 34-28 on a touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Doug Baldwin. The Trojans took a 35-34 lead with 1:08 to play. But Luck drove the Cardinal 62 yards in seven plays to set up Whitaker’s game-winner. There was also this (I had to watch at least five times).
Quotable: "I knew I had to make it," Whitaker said. "There wasn't too much else going through [my mind] except it was my chance to redeem myself and give the team what it needed."
Oct. 29, 2011
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Final score: No. 4 Stanford 56, No. 20 USC 48 (3OT)
The setup: Luck had returned for another season, and the Cardinal were cruising under new head coach David Shaw. The Trojans had been stunned earlier in the year by Arizona State but were still considered a very formidable opponent -- and by far Stanford’s greatest test to date of the season.
Key play: With Stanford leading 56-48 in triple overtime, Curtis McNeal was hit at the line of scrimmage by Terrence Stephens. The ball flew forward out of McNeal’s hands and into the end zone, where A.J. Tarpley jumped on it end the game. McNeal's costly fumble overshadowed a phenomenal 20-carry, 145-yard performance with two touchdowns.
Remember this? It almost didn’t get to overtime. With the score knotted at 27-27 and 3:51 to play, Nickell Robey intercepted Luck and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown, giving the Trojans a 34-27 lead with 3:08 to play. That also prompted an announcement reminding fans not to rush the field following the game. Stanford players later recalled hearing the announcement and being quite perturbed at the assumption.
Quotable: "No excuse, I just fumbled," said McNeal. ”I feel like beating myself up, but I've just got to keep pushing. I'm going to face worse things in life. I just have to keep my head up."
Sept. 15, 2012
Final score: No. 21 Stanford 21, No. 2 USC 14
The set up: The Trojans started the year No. 1, and Matt Barkley had returned for his unfinished business. Having lost three straight to the Cardinal, this was supposed to be the year the Trojans seniors broke the Stanford curse. The Andrew Luck-less Cardinal were expected to take a step back. They didn’t.
Key play: Josh Nunes dropped a perfect ball to Zach Ertz, who made one cut and went 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, putting Stanford up 21-14 with 10:20 left in the game.
Remember this? In the final eight minutes of the first half, there were four interceptions (two from Barkley and two from Nunes), and three of them came on three consecutive plays. Points off of turnovers? Zero.
Quotable: "It's not the end of the world," said USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "We'll get back on the plane, go home and we'll get better."
Nov. 16, 2013
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Final score: USC 20, No. 5 Stanford 17
The set up: On the heels of Stanford’s 26-20 win over No. 2 Oregon, the Cardinal were in the driver’s seat for a second-straight conference title. USC had faced a tad of turmoil with the firing of Kiffin (his quotable from last season feels more ominous now, doesn’t it?) and rebounded under Ed Orgeron. The Cardinal would eventually win that second-straight conference crown. But only because they got help from Arizona. Not because of what happened in Los Angeles.
Key play: USC kicker Andre Heidari connected on a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining to put the Trojans ahead 20-17.
Quotable: "Obviously there's going to be some decisions made here after we play UCLA,'' Orgeron said. "That's out of my hands.''
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.