Curtis McNeal had a career-high 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but he also fumbled on the four-yard line in the third overtime, ending the game as the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal recovered the ball in the endzone, pulling out a 48-41 win over the No. 20 USC Trojans in three overtimes in front of a season-high 93,607 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday night. It was the largest home crowd for USC since the same amount came to watch the Trojans beat the Ohio St. Buckeyes on September 1, 2008.
The loss by USC was the 16th consecutive win by Stanford, the longest active streak in the nation.
The game was a defensive battle in the first half, as Stanford took a 10-6 lead going to the break. But the second half was a back-and-forth affair, beginning with USC finding its offensive identity in the third quarter. McNeal ran for 110 yards on six carries in the quarter, including touchdown runs of 61 and 25 yards to give USC a 20-10 lead. It was the first time Stanford trailed all season.
Andrew Luck bounced back with two long touchdown drives of his own, giving Stanford a lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Matt Barkley found Marqise Lee for a 28-yard touchdown and a 27-24 lead. The Cardinal tied the game with a field goal, then got the ball back with under four minutes remaining to try for the go-ahead score.
But USC cornerback Nickell Robey had other ideas, intercepting Luck and returning it 33 yards for a touchdown, giving the Trojans a 34-27 lead with 3:08 remaining. But Luck had an answer, a 76-yard game-tying drive to make it 34-34 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Trojans drove into Cardinal territory and had a pair of timeouts remaining, but Robert Woods had a brain cramp, trying to get out of bounds on a pass catch at the 33-yard line rather than go down and use a timeout to stop the clock. The clock ran out, putting the game into overtime, rather than give Andre Heidari a chance at his second 50-yard field goal of the game.
Both teams traded touchdowns in the first two overtimes, then Stepfan Taylor ran for a five-yard score to give Stanford the lead. Beginning with the third overtime, by rule, each team must go for a two-point conversion, and Stanford hit theirs with a pass to a wide-open Coby Fleener.
USC had a chance to answer after Lee caught a pass and ran to the four-yard line for first and goal, but McNeal's fumble was recovered in the endzone by linebacker A.J. Tarpley to end the game.
The Trojans next battle the Colorado Buffaloes on Friday night in Boulder.
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