LOS ANGELES-The outcome of the USC-Stanford Pac-12 Conference showdown that took place Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum turned on one play. Yes, one play. It happened in the second quarter of a contest where the Trojans wore down under the massive, physical play of the Cardinals in a 41-31 defeat.
Now the outcome of a sporting contest, especially a football game, does not usually come down to one play. There are hundreds of other plays in the scope of two hours or three hours that all mesh together as one that has a trickle down effect in the conclusion of a sports event. However, there is always a caveat when trying to state that case.
The Trojans lost the game against Stanford before intermission, even though they held a 14-10 lead over Stanford when the play of the day became a part of the eraser club. It disappeared. It also became a momentum-killer for the cardinal and gold team. Shortly after Stanford pulled to within four points of USC, sophomore return man Adoree’ Jackson fielded the kickoff and streaked to what appeared to be a 97-yard touchdown.
What also showed up was the Trojans briefly enjoying a 21-10 lead with a big play that looked as if would take USC to its third straight victory to start the season. Even actor Will Ferrell, who came out leading the Trojans out of the tunnel and unto the field prior to the game, had to be standing up and cheering.
An 11-point cushion that early in a big game, especially staring down what could have been a back-breaking play, would have put Stanford in a steep hole on the road. It was not looking good for David Shaw’s team.
The momentum, the vibe was all in USC’s favor. Unfortunately, for the Trojans and their faithful, Jackson’s electrifying play was negated and called back because of a penalty. And that, my friend, wiped the smile off of the Trojans’ faces. That play seemed to take air out of the Trojans at that point of the game.
They never recovered. Oh, sure, USC did come back and score another touchdown before halftime. But through the final two quarters of play, the Trojans played deflated ball, scoring just 10 points in the second half. Against Arizona State, the Trojans will be the visiting team. They will need to shake off whatever lingering effects from the Stanford game that may be in their heads and focus on the task at hand: a win.
The Trojans still have the opportunity to win the Pac-12 Conference South Division. However, the defeat to Stanford put a big damper on those aspirations. One play does not make a season. USC has enough playmakers to make plays all over the field at any given time as evident of the 31 points they put up against the Cardinals.
The Trojans just can’t afford to have game-changing plays like the one Jackson put on display not count anymore.