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USC is putting it on the line against Stanford

Interim Coach Ed Orgeron says the Cardinal reminds him of a strong SEC team on the offensive and defensive lines and that the Trojans must not be intimidated by Stanford's physicality.

November 15, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • Linebacker Shayne Skov tries to fire up the Stanford faithful during a game a victory over Oregon.
Linebacker Shayne Skov tries to fire up the Stanford faithful during a game… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

Ed Orgeron spent three seasons as the coach at Mississippi and one as an assistant at Tennessee, so he is well-schooled in the powerful Southeastern Conference's style of play.

USC's interim coach drew on that experience this week when assessing fifth-ranked Stanford, saying, "Stanford reminds me of a strong SEC team on the offensive and defensive lines."

Line play, of course, is a key factor in any football game, but it will be the main one for USC on Saturday when the surging Trojans attempt to bring down Stanford at the Coliseum and end a four-game losing streak against the Cardinal.

USC is 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12 Conference. The Trojans are riding a three-game winning streak after victories over Utah, Oregon State and California.

None presented the physical challenge that is Stanford, which has not lost to USC at the Coliseum since 2005. Stanford frequently runs formations stacked with additional offensive linemen and tight ends.

"They run a lot of power," said Trojans defensive end Leonard Williams, who is expected to play despite a shoulder injury. "They just put the biggest guys up front and just rely on their O-line to win the game."

Stanford is coming off a victory over Oregon on Nov. 7, a win that improved the Cardinal's record to 8-1 and 6-1 in the Pac-12.

Running back Tyler Gaffney carried the ball 45 times for 157 yards and a touchdown in the 26-20 victory that propelled the Cardinal to fourth in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

"They want to run the ball down your throat," said USC cornerback Josh Shaw.

Stanford Coach David Shaw said he was not worried about the so-called "hangover" effect that sometimes affects teams coming off emotional victories. "We don't have time for that," he said during the Pac-12 coaches weekly teleconference. "The conference is too tough. Going down to play at the Coliseum against USC on national TV, that's enough to get your attention."

Stanford was on USC's mind even before last week's blowout victory at Cal.

Orgeron noted Thursday that his players sensed the opportunity at hand and that "vibe" around the team this week had been different.

Junior safety Dion Bailey said that no players needed to be reminded about the Trojans' recent history against the Cardinal:

•In 2009, Pete Carroll's final season, Stanford demolished USC, 55-21, at the Coliseum.

A redshirt freshman quarterback named Andrew Luck and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart were among those who dealt Carroll his only November loss.

Carroll's "What's your deal?" postgame exchange with former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh instantly entered college football's lexicon.

•In 2010, Luck struck again, guiding the Cardinal on a 62-yard drive with a little more than a minute left to set up a field goal on the final play for a 37-35 victory at Stanford Stadium.

•In 2011, the outcome again was decided on the final play.

Late in the fourth quarter, USC cornerback Nickell Robey intercepted a pass by Luck and returned it for a touchdown. But Luck drove the Cardinal to a touchdown to tie the score, 34-34. The Trojans then drove to the Stanford 40-yard line and ran a pass play designed to set up a potential game-winning field goal. But replay officials ruled that receiver Robert Woods had been tackled before getting out of bounds to stop the clock before time expired.

Both teams scored touchdowns on their first two overtime possessions, and Stanford did again on its third. The Cardinal won the game when it recovered a fumble by USC tailback Curtis McNeal in the end zone, clinching a 56-48 victory.

Former coach Lane Kiffin was later fined $10,000 for criticizing officials.

•Last season, the second-ranked Trojans took a 14-7 halftime lead, but the Cardinal's front seven overwhelmed USC's offensive line in the second half. Quarterback Matt Barkley was hit throughout the game in a 21-14 defeat.

After watching film of a seemingly revitalized USC team this week, Shaw said the Trojans were "dangerous."

Orgeron said the Trojans offense must not be intimidated.

"Their line is very good, but ours is getting pretty good too," he said. "It's going to be a match of two physical lines and see who can execute the best."


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