It’s been a wild ride for the USC Trojans this season. From their unsettled quarterback situation to begin the season from the bizarre mid-year firing of former head coach Lane Kiffin, these young guys from Southern California have had a season full of intrigue. All of that came to a head in the team’s hosting of the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal in a quest to regain some national relevance on Saturday night, and the Trojans showed some serious intestinal fortitude with their late-game heroics.
Throughout the game the running of Tyler Gaffney seemed like it would inevitably cost USC the contest, but lifeline after timely lifeline in the form of turnovers and miscues set the Trojans back up for a victory. Of course the win wasn’t just handed to Ed Orgeron’s crew as quarterback Cody Kessler showed some serious poise on the evening. He stood in the pocket and delivered strike after strike to his receivers under the gun. Starting Kessler is proving to be the best decision the team has made this year – aside from the dismissal of Kiffin of course – after Max Wittek’s struggles under center led him to the bench. Rest assured the Kessler’s recent string of success will keep him there indefinitely after the team notched its fourth consecutive Pac-12 victory.
The clutch factor didn’t end with the man under center, however, as wide receiver Marqise Lee proved both clutch and gutsy in the win. Lee made a critical fourth down grab when the Trojans went for it with around a minute left in the game near midfield. A perfectly timed throw was only one-upped by a magnificent catch and run by an obviously hobbled Lee who needed help getting off of the field following the grab. NFL scouts will love seeing him stay out on the field and playing through the pain to make a big catch for his team, and there’s no doubt he will be an early selection when the draft rolls around in May.
Adversity has been the theme for this USC squad this season, and this game seemed to perfectly illustrate the plight of the Trojans in 2013. A huge fumble by Kessler set the Cardinal up in the red zone in the second half, but after forcing a field goal attempt USC managed to block the kick and regain their lost momentum from that point forward.
This team really shows fans what college football is all about with its ability to stare down difficult circumstances and rise up to overcome them. After this victory the Trojans will surely be back in the Top 25, and their rise back from relative obscurity to national relevance has been due to the courage shown by the entire squad.