Still Number One
Sept. 25, 2004
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - USC had another harrowing trip to the Bay Area.Thanks to their defense and their unstoppable tailback tandem, this one had amuch happier ending.
Matt Leinart passed for 308 yards and LenDale White scored on a 2-yard runwith 6:15 left, capping the Trojans' comeback from an 11-point deficit for a31-28 victory over Stanford on Saturday night.
Steve Smith caught eight passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, and ReggieBush contributed 95 yards rushing and a key punt return to SouthernCalifornia's 13th straight victory. After yielding 291 yards in the first half,No. 1 USC gave up just 36 after halftime.
But the nation's second-longest winning streak nearly ended across the Bayfrom the site of the defending national champions' most recent defeat, atCalifornia last season.
Stanford took a 28-17 lead into halftime, embarrassing the Trojans' vaunteddefense and shocking the thousands of USC fans at Stanford Stadium. TheCardinal did it in style, scoring on a fake field goal and adding J.R. Lemon's82-yard TD run as time ran out.
It was all too reminiscent of the Trojans' 34-31, triple-overtime loss inBerkeley last fall. That game featured similarly tentative defensive play,another big first-half deficit and a poor performance by Leinart.
But Leinart was nearly flawless against Stanford, going 24-of-30 and finallygetting his offense going late in the third quarter on Smith's 51-yardreception to the Stanford 12. Leinart scored on a 1-yard keeper, cutting thelead to four points.
Ryan Killeen missed a 23-yard field goal on the Trojans' next drive with11:10 to play, but Bush's spinning 33-yard punt return set up a short driveculminating in White's TD dive.
Stanford couldn't reach midfield on its final drive, with Frostee Ruckerflattening Trent Edwards on a fourth-down incompletion with four minutes left.USC then ran out the clock inside the Stanford 15.
Edwards was 23-of-35 for 183 yards and two touchdowns, though Stanford'soffense floundered in the second half. Still, this impressive performance wasencouraging for the Cardinal, who were beaten by a combined 93-38 in theschools' last two meetings.
Buddy Teevens, Stanford's third-year coach, is under pressure to showresults this season after going 6-16 in his first two seasons. The Cardinalbegan this season with easy victories over San Jose State and BYU - and thisperformance should have him back in his fans' good graces.
Smith's 2-yard TD catch, set up by Kevin Arbet's interception return, gaveUSC a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter. That's when the Cardinal's offenseawoke, mounting consecutive lengthy scoring drives.
USC helped out by sitting back in a passive zone defense, rarely blitzing orpressuring Stanford's inexperienced offensive line. Edwards picked apart theTrojans with short passes to his receivers and tight ends.
When Stanford took a 14-10 lead midway through the second quarter on PatrickDanahy's 2-yard TD catch, the Cardinal cheered, danced and squirted water oneach other on the sideline. Smith fumbled on the Trojans' next play, andStanford drove to the USC 11.
Stanford set up for a field goal - but holder Kyle Matter, the backupquarterback, picked up the snap and ran untouched around the right end for ascore.
The final play of the first half epitomized USC's defensive ineptitude.Lemon simply was trying to run out the clock - but he split the line and roaredthrough the secondary, outrunning every defender for a touchdown that sentStanford Stadium into a frenzy.
The Cardinal played without starting linebacker David Bergeron, who wassuspended by Teevens for an unspecified violation of team rules.