The No. 17 ranked Trojans traveled to Palo Alto to take on No. 10 Stanford to open Pac-12 play. Fresh off a victory against unranked UNLV, the Trojans faced their first test of the season. Unfortunately, in the 99th meeting between the two programs, USC walked away with a loss to the Cardinal, 17-3.
Stanford struck first on their opening drive. After Heisman Trophy hopeful Bryce Love only tallied 29-yards in a win against SDSU, the Cardinal fed him the ball early and often.
USC was able to stack the box against Love, but once again failed to limit explosive plays. Love took the edge on a toss to give the Cardinal their first score. In one drive, Love surpassed his week one total with 37-yards on five carries.
USC's first drive ended in a 3-and-out as well as injury. True freshman starting quarterback JT Daniels left the game with an apparent hand injury. After missing one series, he would later return and replace Matt Fink on offense.
Following the game, Daniels said that his hand was 'pretty swollen.' Daniels also said he had to change his throwing approach when he returned. "I had to hold the ball a little differently."
Chase McGrath, who tied a school record with a 5-5 performance last weekend failed to chip in a 53-yard kick on USC's second drive.
It took the Cardinal 44 seconds to score its second touchdown of the night. Deep throws by quarterback K.J. Costello allowed the Cardinal to march 51-yards up field. A 7-yard pass to Colby Parkinson capped the drive and brought the first half to a close.
On the failed play Daniels said, "I don't think that was a big turning point. We didn't play well the whole game. We left a lot of things on the board."
Freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who had 7 receptions for 98-yards in his debut, did not account for a single reception in the first half. USC's receivers totaled 67-yards in receptions and its trio of tailbacks just 77-yards.
USC came into the second half swinging. A deep 45-yard pass to Michael Pittman Jr. gave USC its first trip into red zone. Unfortunately, the Trojans could not answer back and instead settled for a 35-yard field goal for their first and only points.
Stanford quickly answered back with a field goal of its own after a 59-yard run by Bryce Love.
The Trojans and Cardinal would trade the ball back-and-forth in the game's closing quarter.
JT Daniels would throw two picks in the final minutes, including an end zone throw intended for Amon-Ra St. Brown.
"Very proud of our kids and how they played tonight," Coach Clay Helton said in the post-game. "I thought they competed like warriors. I know it's not the outcome that we hoped for, but was very enthusiastic about how they fought to the bitter end."
On the experience JT Daniels said, "The main takeaway is you just gotta execute. There's things we missed, things we left on the board."
Bryce Love: Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love had a disappointing week one performance against SDSU. To keep his candidacy alive he needed a big game. Love delivered for the Cardinal with 136-yards on 22 carries and one touchdown. His longest run, a 59-yard carry, allowed the Cardinal to put themselves firmly ahead of USC with a field goal.
Tyler Vaughns: A week ago, Tyler Vaughns hauled in just 37-yards on four receptions. This week, Vaughns was the team's leading receiver with 84 yards on seven receptions. He maintained a constant presence on offense for quarterback JT Daniels.
Joey Alfieri: The Cardinal outside linebacker was all over USC's offense. Alfieri had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a quarterback hurry and several tackles in the win. His hit to JT Daniels in the first quarter, forced the quarterback out of the game with a hand injury. His forced fumble would later allow the Cardinal to score to close the first half. In short, he was a huge part of the Stanford defense.
USC Tailbacks: The ability to plug one of Aca'Cedric Ware, Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai at any given moment proved to be a big help for USC. The trio totaled 129-yards across the night. While neither could find a way into the end zone, the group allowed USC to march up the field when things in the air were not working.
USC Defense: While it may be hard to recognize the positives of a defense in a loss, the USC secondary allowed a talented Stanford team to score just 17 points. The team forced the Cardinal to punt often, giving the Trojan offense multiple chances to score. Linebacker Cameron Smith had this to say: "I feel like the defense played just lights out and just like a lot of credit to them. "
USC faced its first test of the season and came up short. The team was unable to limit explosive plays again. Deep throws by K.J. Costello and big gains by Bryce Love all proved to be costly.
JT Daniels failed to connect with receivers on a number of occasions. There was a definite lack of chemistry at times. His favorite target last week, Amon-Ra St. Brown was targeted just four times overall.
The team will need to make the most of its offensive possessions next week on the road against Texas.
USC will be back on the road next week against Texas. The two teams will face each other for the second consecutive season. Last season, the Trojans were able to defeat the Longhorns by a score of 27-24. Texas won their first game against Tulsa after dropping their opener against Maryland.
Stanford will remain at home against UC Davis.
Quote of the Night:
"The kid fought hard and I'm proud of him," Offensive coordinator Tee Martin said about JT Daniels.
- Isaiah Pola-Mao left the game with a dislocated shoulder. No other information was provided.
- JT Daniels bruised his right hand early in the game. X-rays were negative, allowing Daniels to return.