PALO ALTO — C.J. Gable's 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was one of several highlight-reel plays for the Trojans' kickoff return team in a 45-23 victory over Stanford on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
The Trojans amassed 230 kickoff return yards, 125 by Ronald Johnson and 105 by Gable.
"Teams think they can just kick away from me but we have another weapon back there with C.J.," Johnson said. "Hey, kick away all they want. They're not going to have anyone to kick to."
Gable's second-quarter sprint -- his first return for a touchdown -- came after the upset-minded Cardinal had pulled ahead, 17-10, on a one-yard run by Anthony Kimble.
Gable caught the ball at the seven, dodged a tackler and then broke to his left before sprinting down the Stanford sideline to tie the score.
"I got good blocking," Gable said. "I just hit it and I was hoping not to get caught from behind."
Johnson's 75-yard kickoff return in the first quarter gave the Trojans the ball at Stanford's 22-yard line, but they were forced to settle for a field goal.
USC Coach Pete Carroll and Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh played it cool during the week, downplaying the significance of Stanford's upset victory last season and any simmering rivalry.
But Carroll appeared motivated to make a point by keeping the offensive starters in the entire game and scoring a touchdown with 1 minute 23 seconds left.
Harbaugh engaged in some gamesmanship of his own after the Cardinal drove to USC's 18 with three seconds left. Harbaugh sent out the field-goal unit, then called a timeout and brought his players to the sideline.
USC safety Will Harris good-naturedly jawed with Harbaugh.
"I was like, 'You guys want to score? And he said, 'Yeah, we want to get some points on the board,' " Harris said.
Quarterback Alex Loukas' touchdown pass to Austin Gunder as time expired pulled the Cardinal to within 45-23, undoubtedly causing anguish for many: USC was a 24-point favorite to win.
Linebacker Rey Maualuga sat out part of the second quarter after suffering what he said was a concussion.
"I was a little dizzy," he said. "I didn't know what play was being called."
Redshirt freshman Chris Galippo played in place of Maualuga, who returned in the second half and finished with nine tackles.
The game drew 50,425 to Stanford Stadium, but it sounded like a partisan USC crowd.
"Our crowd was dominant tonight for us," Carroll said. "I was shocked that it was like that. And it wasn't any one section. They were all over the place."
USC offensive linemen were thrilled to clear the way for a rushing attack that amassed 282 yards, most coming in the second half.
"You're moving the ball, not getting stopped for negative yards, you're putting guys on the ground, you're high-fiving," senior guard Jeff Byers said. "You love to see your running back running 20 yards downfield."
Receiver Vidal Hazelton caught a third-quarter pass for five yards, the junior's first reception since the season opener against Virginia.
"We practiced that play during the week so I kind of knew it would be called sometime," Hazelton said. "It's always good to catch the ball. We'll see what happens."
Hazelton, who led USC receivers with 50 catches in 2007, caught five passes in USC's 52-7 win on Aug. 30, but suffered a high ankle sprain. That injury and later a concussion suffered in practice slowed Hazelton while Damian Williams, Patrick Turner and Johnson emerged as the main receivers.
Hazelton had requested that he be allowed to redshirt so he could work through the injuries and mature. But coaches played him after the third game of the season, negating his opportunity to apply for a medical redshirt.