NCAA Football

USC vs. Stanford: Game Grades, Analysis for Trojans and Cardinal

The USC Trojans opened conference play with a hard-fought 13-10 victory on the road over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday...

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Scores First Career TD, Does Heisman Pose to Celebrate

LSU Tigers freshman running back Leonard Fournette is expecting to do some big things during his college career, and he finally got his legacy started on Saturday.

During the Tigers' game against the Sam Houston State Bearkats, Fournette scored his first career touchdown. To celebrate, Fournette went ahead and struck a Heisman pose.

[Instagram]

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Stanford Can't Contend for Pac-12 Title Until It Fixes Mental Errors

Stanford lost to USC by three points for the second consecutive season—this time falling 13-10 instead of 20-17—and the final margin was not the only similarity.

For the second consecutive season, the Cardinal floundered at finishing drives, failing to score points when they got near the USC end zone. It was an area the team highlighted before the game, knowing it would have to improve there to win, maximizing its chances.

Unfortunately, it couldn't have been more right.

The specifics? I warn you, they’re pretty ugly.

In 2013, Stanford scored 10 points on four trips inside the Trojans’ 25-yard line, which was thought to be a definite nadir. There was nowhere to go but up—or so it seemed. But then, on Saturday, the Cardinal scored 10 points on nine trips inside the Trojans’ 25, an average that comes up barely above one point per attempt.

That makes for seven empty trips down near the end zone:

Its hard to say which near-miss was the most egregious.

The shanked 26-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson was a clinic in #CollegeKickers, and the miscommunicated fumble on a pitch from Kevin Hogan to Remound Wright was ugly, too.

Ultimately, though, the coup de grace was a blindside sack by J.R. Tavai on what should have been (at least) the game-tying drive, a hit that dislodged the ball from Hogan's right hand and sealed the game in poetically apropos fashion:

Stanford outgained USC by more than 100 yards, 413-291, but still lost as a favorite on its home field. That's the sort of thing that does not happen to a mentally adept team.

Stanford is young along the offensive line, which is a fair-enough excuse, but it is also ranked in the national top 15. It cannot be so unsound with mental mistakes near the end zone.

"Bottom line, if you don't take advantage of opportunities, you're going to lose to a good football team," said head coach David Shaw—who also refused to admit that his play-calling was conservative—per DavidLombardiSports.com's David Lombardi.

Shaw did, however, accept his share of the blame:

There's a discord between how Stanford plays and how it finishes drives, and it's existed for more than a season.

The Cardinal win by running the ball, controlling the clock and disrupting opponents' offensive efficiency, which is usually the mark of a team that does well near the end zone. Playing downhill and wearing out an opponent's defensive line are supposed to fashion success at the end of drives, and in many cases they do.

But Stanford couldn't get out of its way against USC, just like it couldn't get out of its own way for most of 2013. Here is how Bill Connelly of SB Nation described Stanford in his season preview:

As much as we want to fit teams into a neat little box, it doesn't always work that way.

[...]

In 2013, the Cardinal were a bit surprising from a statistical perspective, and not necessarily in a good way. For one thing, they were wholly mediocre at closing out drives. Rushing teams have the reputation for being good near the goal line, but they averaged only 4.3 points per trip inside the opponent's 40-yard line.

Despite these manifest deficiencies, Shaw and his staff have a lot to feel good about after Saturday's game.

After a 12-play, 68-yard touchdown drive on their first possession, USC's offense was held to 41 yards and zero points on its next 21 plays. It didn't score a touchdown in the final 49 minutes of the game.

How many defenses in the Pac-12—much less the country—can suffocate an offense this talented?

The Cardinal proved Saturday that they're good enough to contend for a Pac-12 title, and although their chances of doing that (and of making the College Football Playoff) took a major hit with an 0-1 start in conference play, they are not crazy for keeping that as a goal.

They are crazy, however, if they keep that as a goal without fixing their mental issues. Whether it's Shaw doing his best (pre-2013) Ron Rivera impression by punting on the 29-yard line or Hogan and Wright colliding for an ill-timed fumble, there were too many lapses Saturday that a legitimate contender wouldn't make.

A legitimate contender would head into Sunday 2-0.

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Stanford Can't Contend for Pac-12 Title Until It Fixes Mental Errors

Stanford lost to USC by three points for the second consecutive season—this time falling 13-10 instead of 20-17—and the final margin was not the only similarity...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

USC Defense Proves It Is Championship-Worthy Against Stanford

The USC defense showed off a championship-level clutch factor Saturday in the No. 14-ranked Trojans' 13-10 defeat of No. 13 Stanford at Stanford Stadium.

USC (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference) allowed Stanford (1-1, 0-1) just two scores despite six red-zone opportunities, overwhelming the Cardinal with a combination of physicality and athletic playmaking.

Time will tell if that championship is a Pac-12 South crown or a Pac-12 title and berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But the Trojans proved anything is possible on Saturday.

The old "defense wins championships" adage was true for Stanford when it rode that philosophy to back-to-back conference crowns, and the Trojans beat the Cardinal at their own game. That, combined with preseason favorite Oregon's struggles against Michigan State, should vault USC near the top of anyone's Pac-12 forecast.

USC overcame the numbers game that promises to plague the Trojans all season, as they had fewer than 60 scholarship players available Saturday, per Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times.

The USC defense also faced a time-of-possession disparity that had it on the field seven minutes and 31 seconds longer than the Stanford defense.

Stanford failed to score at all in a second half that USC played much of without its linebacker and co-captain, Hayes Pullard, who was ejected for "targeting" Ty Montgomery.

One of the challenges that USC faces in its pursuit of a championship this season is how it responds when it loses one of its leaders. The answer Saturday was rather resounding.  

In addition to Pullard's ejection, the USC defense also had to deal with its star, lineman Leonard Williams, playing less than 100 percent due to an ankle injury.

Don't worry about Williams too much going forward, however. All he did Saturday was tie Anthony Sarao with a team-high 11 tackles and record a sack.  

As Pete Fiutak of College Football News noted, the ceiling for a full-strength Williams is high:

When he's back to 100 percent, Williams will set the tone for USC's championship aspirations.  

Another bedrock for the USC defense in its season-long title pursuit will be the big play, as demonstrated Saturday.

The Trojans responded to Stanford's red-zone opportunities with big plays such as safety Su'a Cravens' deflection of a Kevin Hogan pass on a slant route. Had it been completed, the Cardinal were looking at nothing but end zone ahead.

Cravens was everywhere throughout the day, causing havoc in pass coverage, against the rush and on the blitz. He had another potential game-saving moment late in the fourth with a reach-out tackle on a 3rd-and-long screen play that, had Cravens missed, might have resulted in a Cardinal first-down conversion.

The sophomore's versatility will have him playing a key role in USC's title chances throughout the season.

Fittingly, another big play punctuated the USC defense's day. Linebacker J.R. Tavai blitzed off the edge and caught Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan on his blind side, forcing a fumble to seal the win.

Behind running back Javorius "Buck" Allen's 154-yard rushing performance and wide receiver Nelson Agholor's 91-yard, nine-reception effort, the Trojans mustered just enough offense to capitalize on the defense's stellar effort.  

USC managed just one touchdown, which came in the first quarter on running back Justin Davis' goal-line carry. Just about everything came at a premium for the Trojans offense, as Scout.com's David Lombardi noted:

However, that can be seen as a positive for USC's title hopes going forward.

The Trojans will face few defenses the caliber of Stanford's for the remainder of the regular season. In fact, the Cardinal rode the prowess of their defensive side to each of the last two Pac-12 championships.

Should the Trojans' new hurry-up offense face a similar speed bump as that which Stanford presented, they have seen that the defense is equipped to carry the load.  

On Saturday, that load was ending a 17-game home-win streak for the Cardinal. For the season, it could mean carrying USC back to championship glory.

 

Statistics compiled via GoStanford.com.

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USC Defense Proves It Is Championship-Worthy Against Stanford

The USC defense showed off a championship-level clutch factor Saturday in the No. 14-ranked Trojans' 13-10 defeat of No. 13 Stanford at Stanford Stadium...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Scores 2014: Week 2 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

Last week's college football action got our feet wet. This week's has thrust us full bore into the journey leading to the first-ever College Football Playoff.

The game of the week was played in the pacific northwest. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks defended their turf against a tough and determined No. 7 Michigan State Spartans. 

The Spartans used a 24-point second quarter to take a 24-18 lead into the half. Oregon's defense and Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota's surgical passing took over in the second half. The Ducks outscored the Spartans 28-3 in the second half to win it 46-27.

Mariota threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter to spark his team.

In the biggest conference game on the weekend's schedule, the No. 14 USC Trojans gutted out a tough 13-10 win over archrival No. 13 Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto, California.

Despite being outgained and seemingly outplayed in several facets of the game, the Trojans defense came up with big plays when it needed to. With under two minutes remaining, Andre Heidari made the decisive field goal to beat Stanford for the second year in a row.

Senior outside linebacker J.R. Tavai sacked Stanford's Kevin Hogan and forced a fumble, which the Trojans recovered, with 19 seconds remaining. 

The win snapped Stanford's 17-game win streak at home.

The teams near and ahead of the Ducks and Spartans in the rankings took care of business against less-threatening opponents. The top-ranked Florida State Seminoles defeated Citadel 37-12.

The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners throttled in-state rival Tulsa 52-7, and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide rebounded from a shaky win over the West Virginia Mountaineers in Week 1.

The Tide rolled to a 41-0 rout over Florida Atlantic in a game called because of weather.

Two ranked teams narrowly avoided upsets on Saturday. The No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats and No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers had to rally late to win.

The Wildcats trailed 28-13 at one point in the second quarter before reeling off the final 19 points of the game to get the win. Quarterback Jake Waters' eight-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left gave the Wildcats the win.

Nebraska's victory had its own share of drama.

Tied at 24 with the McNeese State Cowboys with just 4:21 remaining, the Cornhuskers' dark-horse Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. with just 20 seconds remaining to secure the win.

Here's a look at all of the scores of the completed games involving teams in the Top 25. Just below the results is a closer look at the players whose performances really stood out on Saturday.

 

  • No. 20 Kansas State 32, Iowa St. 28
  • No. 24 Missouri 49, Toledo 24
  • No. 4 Oklahoma 52, Tulsa 7
  • Western Illinois 3, No. 18 Wisconsin 37
  • McNeese State 24, No. 19 Nebraska 31
  • Florida Atlantic 0, No. 2 Alabama 41
  • South Carolina State 7, No. 23 Clemson 73
  • No. 14 USC 13, No. 13 Stanford 10
  • No. 15 Mississippi 41, Vanderbilt 3
  • No. 7 Michigan State 27, No. 3 Oregon 46
  • San Jose State 13, No. 5 Auburn 59
  • No. 17 Arizona State 58, New Mexico 23
  • East Carolina 23, No. 21 South Carolina 33
  • Murray St. 21, No. 25 Louisville 66
  • Michigan 0, No. 16 Notre Dame 31
  • Citadel 12, No. 1 Florida State 37
  • Northwestern St. 6, No. 10 Baylor 70
  • Sam Houston St. 0, No. 12 LSU 56
  • Lamar vs. No. 9 Texas A&M
  • Virginia Tech vs. No. 8 Ohio St.
  • San Diego St. 27, No. 21 North Carolina 31
  • Memphis vs. No. 11 UCLA

 

Amari Cooper, Alabama, 13 Rec., 189 Yards, TD

Only lightning could stop Amari Cooper and the Alabama offense on Saturday.

When an Alabama football record is equaled or broken, it's a big deal. On Saturday, Cooper matched DJ Hall's school record of 13 receptions. Cooper's 189 receiving yards marked the junior's fourth straight 100-plus-yard game. That's just one short of Hall's school record.

Obviously, Bama wasn't facing a premier opponent, but Cooper's production still deserves recognition.

 

Tanner McEvoy, Wisconsin, 338 Total Yards and Four TDs

The Western Illinois Leathernecks had no answer for Tanner McEvoy and the Wisconsin Badgers offense in the second half. After being held to just nine points through the first 30 minutes, the Badgers broke out, and McEvoy was a one-man wrecking crew in the second half.

McEvoy threw all three of his touchdown passes after halftime, and the defense clamped down to make this one a blowout.

This performance was a far cry from his two-interception struggle in Week 1 against LSU. Wisconsin fans can only hope McEvoy has saved some of this production for the remainder of the season.

 

Javorius "Buck" Allen, USC, 154 rushing yards

Though he didn't find the end zone, Javorius "Buck" Allen's day shouldn't be dismissed. Rushing for 154 yards against the Cardinal on the road is no small feat.

Last season, Stanford had the third-best rushing defense in the country. For Allen to have given USC such a steady performance on the ground, in a tight and sloppily played game, was invaluable.

If the Trojans' defense can continue to make the big plays it made today, and Allen can keep grinding out yards, USC could be the team to beat in the Pac-12.

 

Marcus Mariota, Oregon, 318 passing yards and Three TDs

Mariota did nothing but boost his Heisman Trophy chances on Saturday night. He stared down a Spartans defense that had begun to get to him late in the first half.

He used his weapons properly, hitting seven different receivers over the course of the game.

Mariota should have three weeks in a row to pad his stats against the likes of Wyoming, Washington State and Arizona before the Ducks meet UCLA on October 11.

 

Jake Waters, Kansas State, 377 Total Yards and Two TDs

Jake Waters simply wouldn't let his team lose. The Wildcats defense deserves credit for pitching a shutout in the second half, but Waters hurt the Cyclones with his arm and legs. Waters did most of his damage in the second half when the Wildcats turned the game around, but just before halftime, Waters led his team on a 10-play, 84-yard drive to grab momentum heading into the locker room.

Waters scored to culminate that drive.

His clutch run with less than two minutes was the play that most will remember from this very memorable game.

He now has six total touchdowns in two games this season.

 

Follow Brian Mazique, aka FranchisePlay, the Sports Video Game Journalist.

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Oregon's Marcus Mariota Finds Devon Allen for 70-Yard TD vs. Michigan State

The Oregon Ducks are taking on a tough Michigan State Spartans defense on Saturday night, but that hasn't kept them from continuing to make big plays.

In the second quarter, Heisman contender Marcus Mariota found Devon Allen for a 70-yard touchdown to go up 18-7 over the Spartans. You can see another angle of the play below.

[VineFanSided]

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Insider Film Breakdown: Kurt Roper's New Offense Works to Perfection for Gators

The Florida Gators are looking great in their first official game of the 2014 season. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how good this SEC program can be with its new offense.

Where do you see the Gators going in 2014?

Check out the video and let us know.

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USC vs. Stanford: How Trojans' Win Shakes Up CFB Rankings

No. 14 USC went on the road to take on in-state rival No. 13 Stanford on Saturday, and a 13-10 victory was the end result of an exciting, drama-filled, mishap-heavy, defensive battle. Rest assured, the CFB rankings will be shaken up in a big way following this clash of California juggernauts.

The Trojans move to 2-0 on the year, and earning a big road win in Stanford should weigh heavily with the voters—especially taking this statistic from SportsCenter into consideration:

Not only did USC prove it can win in a hostile environment, but it also proved it can win in multiple fashions. During the team's 52-13 victory against Fresno State in Week 1, it used offensive firepower to bulldoze its way to a win with 701 yards of offense.

On Saturday, against a stout Stanford defense, the Trojans only amassed 291 yards of offense, but their defense stepped up in a big way. Despite allowing 413 yards to Kevin Hogan and Co., the team gave up a total of just 10 points.

Bleacher Report tweeted the defense's biggest play of the game:

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted an impressive stat line and his take:

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted yet another telling statistic:

If USC's defense wasn't enough to admire, kicker Andre Heidari appeared to have ice water flowing through his veins, nailing a 53-yard field goal with just 2:30 remaining to give USC the lead for good.

This is a very well-rounded team.

The strength of victory should propel the Trojans up the standings prior to Week 3 should a top-12 team falter on Saturday evening. UCLA didn't look very impressive in Week 1, and if the Bruins don't fare better against Memphis, they could slide below USC—even with a win.

Assuming UCLA doesn't earn a decisive victory, the Trojans will at least move up to No. 11.

As for the Cardinal, it was a three-point home defeat. While the loss is a tough one to swallow, the team remained in contention until the bitter end against a strong opponent. Expect Stanford to slide in the standings—but just slightly. Due to the struggles of No. 19 Nebraska and No. 20 Kansas State on Saturday, there's no way Stanford drops out of the top 20.

On Saturday, the Trojans proved they are for real. With only three ranked teams remaining on their schedule—No. 17 Arizona State, No. 11 UCLA and No. 16 Notre Dame—it would not come as a surprise to see USC finish the season with an undefeated record. If that's the case, the team will warrant a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

USC's win over Stanford applies plenty of pressure on the nation's top teams. The Trojans proved they can compete with the FBS elite—now everyone else must prove the same.

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Florida Football: Why SEC Should Be Afraid of Gators' Defense

There'll be plenty of noise coming out of Gainesville this week surrounding Florida's offense, and with good reason.

The Gators' 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan marked the most points Florida has piled up since a 62-3 win over Florida International in November 2009, a validation of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's hurry-up spread attack.

But Florida fans should be equally excited about what their defense showed Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida clipped the Eagles' wings, forced four turnovers and scored its first shutout since a 23-0 whitewashing of Jacksonville State on Nov. 17, 2012. A year ago, the Gators managed just 18 turnovers all season. 

The Gators consistently swarmed to the ball and didn't let Eastern Michigan get anything going, allowing just 121 yards of total offense, although Florida head coach Will Muschamp was noncommittal about it afterward with SEC Network's Heather Mitts.

"It's one game," he said. "We'll play better than this bunch. We need to improve." 

With seven starters back from a unit that allowed just 21.1 points per game a year ago (No. 15 nationally), the Gators' SEC foes should have reason for pause this fall.

Entering this season, the Gators sought a talented pass rusher to pair with junior "Buck" end Dante Fowler, and they might have found him in linebacker Neiron Ball.

Ball showed up in a big way Saturday, strip-sacking EMU quarterback Reginald Bell and forcing a fumble recovered by middle linebacker Antonio Marshall.

The Gators' defense features five senior starters, but its best player is a sophomore—cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III—a third-team Associated Press All-American as a freshman.

Hargreaves is an excellent, aggressive cover corner who anchors an already good secondary full of playmakers. Freshman corner Duke Dawson showed the unit's depth with a 37-yard interception return score late in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 51-0.

Florida's defense will get its first big test in two weeks when Alabama visits, although the Crimson Tide still haven't officially settled on a quarterback between Blake Sims and Jake Coker.

LSU and sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings visit Oct. 11, with Missouri and sophomore Maty Mauk following a week later.

The Gators must face off against Georgia's potent offense in their annual Jacksonville neutral-site game on Nov. 1,  and they host South Carolina on Nov. 15 before traveling to defending national champion Florida State on Nov. 29.

If this salty defense can continue its progress as the season unfolds, it'll truly be a unit to be reckoned with. If the offense can follow suit, that’s great news for Florida fans. The rest of the SEC? Not so much.

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Kansas State QB Jake Waters Proves He Has Skills to Beat Auburn

With a Thursday night matchup against the Auburn Tigers looming for Kansas State, Saturday’s contest against Iowa State had all the makings of the perfect trap game. 

And for most of the game, it looked as though the Cyclones, coming off a deflating loss to North Dakota State last week, would upend the Wildcats, who are projected as one of the front-runners in the Big 12. 

Instead, a stellar final drive by quarterback Jake Waters—who had a career day in his home state of Iowa—that capped off a 15-point comeback and set the stage for Waters to lead the Wildcats to a possible upset over the Tigers.

Waters, who's been under a mountain of pressure in the Little Apple since his backup last year, Daniel Sams, transferred to McNeese State, was the unquestioned superstar on Saturday. 

K-State's gunslinger had arguably the best game of his career against the Cyclones, accounting for two of the team's four touchdowns, both on the ground, and racking up 377 total yards. He also had a career rushing day, picking up 138 yards on mostly designed quarterback draws. 

It was Waters' game-winning touchdown run with 90 seconds left in the game that capped off a 32-28 win for the Wildcats. 

Waters looked like Collin Klein—who's now a graduate assistant with the Wildcats—out there in Ames. And that proves that Waters has what it takes to lead K-State to a win in what Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer called college football's "Game of 2014"—a September 18 tilt with Auburn. 

Last season, when the Wildcats started 0-3 in Big 12 play and just 2-5 overall, there was probably the biggest quarterback controversy in America happening in Manhattan. Waters and Sams couldn't separate from one another, and Snyder gave both guys ample opportunity throughout the course of the season. 

But the Wildcats finished 2014 on a 6-1 run—the only loss coming to the Oklahoma Sooners. During that stretch, Waters finally separated himself from Sams. 

By the time the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl rolled around, Waters was in full stride. The Wildcats beat the Michigan Wolverines in that game thanks largely in part to Waters' 271 yards and three touchdowns through the air. 

Because Waters had all but secured the starting job for the Wildcats, Sams tried a position change to wide receiver this spring. Sams failed to make any significant noise there, so he decided to transfer to FCS McNeese State, the team that just gave Nebraska a run for its money. 

But it's clear that the Wildcats got the better end of that deal, as Sams is still playing second fiddle behind McNeese State starting quarterback Tyler Bolfing. 

Meanwhile, Waters has a bowl win as a starter under his belt and is finding his stride at the FBS, Big 12 level. 

Now he'll truly be put to the test, as the Wildcats have just under two weeks before a Thursday night prime-time matchup against Auburn. 

Kevin Haskin of The Topeka Capital-Journal wrote after Saturday's win over Iowa State how Waters is becoming a bona fide leader for the Wildcats. 

“He was ready to compete,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said, according to Haskin. “There was no doubt in my mind, nor anyone else’s.”

Auburn's defense is menacing, as always. But against Arkansas in Week 1, Razorbacks gunslinger Brandon Allen found at least a small bit of success against the Tigers, throwing for two scores and completing 18 of his 31 passes. 

Even going back to last year's season, the teams that gave Auburn the most trouble had good quarterback play. Against Florida State, Alabama, Missouri, Georgia and Texas A&M, the Tigers were 4-1 but also gave up an average of 337 yards passing, with the Aggies and Bulldogs surpassing the 400-yard mark through the air. 

Auburn's weakness is its secondary, and K-State's strength is slowly but surely becoming Waters. 

On Saturday against Iowa State, in a game where seemingly everything went wrong for the Wildcats, Waters did most everything right. More importantly, he proved that he can carry the load for a Big 12 title contender and that he's capable of beating the defending SEC champions. 

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USC vs. Stanford: Score and Twitter Reaction

A late field goal and superb defensive play lifted the No. 14 USC Trojans over the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal Saturday, 13-10, to mercifully put an end to a messy contest.

Stanford had won five of its last seven encounters with USC, but a new Trojans era under the guidance of Steve Sarkisian got underway with the upset in hostile territory.

Trojans star running back Javorius Allen was the only consistent performer on the day, carrying the ball 23 times for 154 yards. Quarterback Cody Kessler finished with just 135 yards passing. Stanford's Kevin Hogan threw for 285 yards, but he fumbled away his team's chance to win it at the very end.

USC's defense stepped up in a major way, too, holding the Cardinal to 10 points despite their seven trips inside the Trojans' 35-yard line.

Even with all of the prestige of the two programs involved, Stanford and USC combined for 18 flags that totaled 155 yards, and the plans executed by the coaches were timid at best. USA Today's Paul Myerberg summed up the sloppy contest well:

The first conference game of the 2014 season between top-15 teams had plenty at stake, not to mention it featured the Pac-12's best cross-division rivalry.

Interestingly enough, the rivalry heated up this past offseason when USC hired Sarkisian away from Washington—a team that lost to the Cardinal last year, which spawned a public spat when the now-Trojans coach accused David Shaw's players of faking injury to slow his offense. Of course, it's an issue both men claim is in the past.

"It was over," Shaw said, via ESPN.com. "It was in the past. He and I sat together at lunch and breakfast a couple times and talked about a bunch of other things. Our wives are getting to become good friends; they know each other well so there's no animosity whatsoever."

As much as fans surely wanted to see a revival of the Jim Harbaugh-Pete Carroll drama from years past, they instead got an ugly affair in which the coaches caused more harm than good at times.

Shaw's team throughout most of the contest looked nothing like his rosters that won the Pac-12 title in each of the past two seasons. The early errors over the course of the first half were bountiful. A wealth of penalties killed the opening drive, which was capped off by a blocked field goal attempt.

The list continued throughout the half. Only nine players on the field on special teams. Too many in the huddle on a third down in the red zone. Then a delay of game on the very next play. As CBSSports.com's Jerry Hinnen points out, there were even questionable instances of conservative decisions:

But the biggest offender of all, bar none, in the eyes of observers, was Shaw's obsession with the Wildcat attack in the first half as a way to get senior wideout Ty Montgomery the ball as a rusher.

By halftime, Montgomery—who finished with nine catches for 83 yards to lead the team but had negative rushing yards—had rushed three times for minus-13 yards. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer and reporter David Lombardi were miffed at Shaw's dedication to the approach:

It was an interesting strategy, to say the least, with Hogan—who entered with a 10-1 mark against Associated Press Top 25 teams—playing so well.

Despite the wealth of issues for Shaw's team, the Cardinal still entered the locker room at the half with a three-point advantage. Sarkisian's fabled offense was 5-of-7 on third downs, but Kessler mustered just 37 passing yards while Stanford controlled the clock. 

This is where the spotlight switches to Sarkisian for a tad. He simply refused to open up the playbook for his talented crop of players. Kessler failed to average even four yards per attempt in the first half en route to finishing with his mediocre line.

On a certain level, the lack of creativity makes sense against a Shaw-led defense on the road. But on another, USC doesn't reel in so many elite recruiting classes to run an attack similar to Lane Kiffin's, right? Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News certainly didn't think so:

No matter, though, as Shaw's squad continued its error-laden ways into the third frame. Stanford's first drive resulted in a missed field goal, the second saw the team get stuffed by Leonard Williams and the Trojans defense with one yard to go on fourth down.

It didn't exactly change the course of the game as it would any normal contest.

Not to be outdone, Sarkisian's side tied the game at 10 after the goal-line stand, but on the field goal, the Trojans were hit with a penalty. Sarkisian himself then got hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty for complaining. At the tail end of the subsequent return by Montgomery, the Trojans hit him out of bounds, drawing another flag and an ejection. 

That ejection comically drew Trojans' athletic director Pat Haden out of his press box and to the field so he could argue with officials. Take it away, Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times:

So hey, maybe the coaches weren't fibbing about their indifference toward one another—Stanford fumbled the ball away on the very next play.

Confusing? Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times has it in 140 characters or less:

Finally, when a team decided to play disciplined football and win the thing—Hogan hit a wide-open receiver for a touchdown with about eight minutes left—the Cardinal were called for a chop block.

So it went.

The hero for such a contest, as anyone could have predicted, wound up being a kicker. USC's Andre Heidari connected on a 53-yard attempt with under three minutes left to take the game to its final score, before Hogan was hit from behind and fumbled away Stanford's last chance.

The good news for Stanford is that the team gets to remain at The Farm for another week and recuperate, as a date with Army is on the schedule next before a conference matchup against Washington and then a trip to South Bend to encounter Notre Dame.

USC surely catapults into the Top 10 and announces itself as a serious contender for the inaugural playoff. The Trojans will travel to Boston College to encounter an Eagles team coming off a loss to Pittsburgh, which may prove a tougher test than most realize if the Trojans experience a hangover or overlook their opponent with major conference tests on the horizon.

 

Note: All stats and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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USC's J.R. Tavai Seals Win over Stanford After Strip-Sack of Kevin Hogan

The USC Trojans were able to beat the Stanford Cardinal for the second straight season on Saturday, and senior linebacker J.R. Tavai came up with the game-sealing play.

With Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal offense driving down the field and getting close to the end zone, Tavai got the strip-sack on the Stanford quarterback. The Trojans recovered and were able to come away with the huge 13-10 victory.

Now 2-0, the Trojans will try to remain undefeated next week against Boston College.

[Vine]

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Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State: Live Score and Highlights

Virginia Tech 7, Ohio State 0 — Early 1st quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 8 Ohio State (1-0) and Virginia Tech (1-0). ESPN is televising the matchup nationally from Columbus.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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USC's Pat Haden Runs onto Field, Complains to Referees About Sark Penalty

USC Trojans athletic director Pat Haden came down from the press box and ran onto the field to confront the referees during Saturday's game against the Stanford Cardinal.

As you can see in the Vine above, Haden didn't look very happy. Here's a GIF of the interaction.

Rotoworld's Josh Norris tweeted that Haden told ESPN he came down because head coach Steve Sarkisian texted him to, so it was likely about the 15-yard penalty he received after complaining to the officials.

Here's the full conversation Haden had with ESPN's Heather Cox on the sideline, according to Lindsey Thiry from the Los Angeles Times:

I got a text just to come down because Sark wanted to talk to me, he felt the penalty was unfair and the referee explained he had warned him, so that's why he got the penalty. It's been a really frustrating quarter with the penalties, believe me.

Most athletic directors and coaches are never happy with the explanations they get, but we got an answer and we have to move on and have a good fourth quarter.

Several people took to Twitter to joke about the interaction.

As Eric Sondheimer from the Los Angeles Times points out, Haden is on the Final Four selection committee this season.

[Instagram]

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Lamar vs. Texas A&M: Live Score and Highlights

Texas A&M 0, Lamar 0—WEATHER DELAY PRIOR TO KICKOFF

After a surprisingly dominant win over South Caroling last week, Texas A&M, led by phenom quarterback Kenny Hill, looks to keep the momentum going this week against FCS opponent Lamar.

The Aggies opened quite a few eyes to "life after Manziel," but Hill will be under the microscope of the nation this week as he looks to confirm everyone's suspicions: that he's the next great Aggie.

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Citadel vs. Florida State: Live Score and Highlights

Florida State 14, The Citadel 0 -- 13:20 2nd Quarter

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Michigan vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

ND 7, UM (Early 2nd)

Scoring/action update: Cam McDaniel's one-yard touchdown gives the Irish the lead.

Michigan and Notre Dame are giving it one final go...for now. 

It's a somewhat sad day in college football. 

"Well, you know there's going to be some emotion, but you can't let that get in the way of good execution..." Irish coach Brian Kelly said, via NBC sideline report. 

Entering tonight, Notre Dame holds the best winning percentage in FBS at 73.32, just five-hundredths better than the Wolverines' 73.27.

Game coverage is live on NBC. 

Keep your browser locked to this live blog for the latest updates, analysis, commentary and more. And don't forget, game grades for each side will be available on Bleacher Report after the the pair of heavyweights settle the score. 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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East Carolina vs. South Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

East Carolina 13, South Carolina 10—Mid-2nd Quarter

We are underway in Columbia as South Carolina receives the opening kickoff.  

You can watch live on ESPNU, but make sure to stay with us here at Bleacher Report for news, notes and analysis of tonight's game between South Carolina and East Carolina.

You can find the box score here

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