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November 14, 2009

Trojans fall hard at Coliseum

This was supposed to be Pete Carroll's month. His teams at USC had played 28 times in November, and 28 times, he walked off the field a winner.

At least that was the case until Saturday.

The Trojan defense got soundly beat for the second time in three weeks, as Stanford ran through USC 55-21. It's the most points ever allowed by USC in school history.

USC's last two losses at the Coliseum have been to the Cardinal.

"The whole thing about November, I never knew why that existed, but as a competitor, I frickin' loved it," Carroll said. "I loved the fact that we finished better than other teams."

However, this team appears to be on a different path. Since starting the season 6-1, the Trojans have been outscored 111-55 in the last three games. The loss almost certainly puts an end to USC's run of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles.

"I'm not sure I have the right words to describe being humbled like this," Carroll said. "... The obvious thing is we got our butt kicked defensively."

Stanford running back Toby Gerhart ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns, keying 469 yards of total offense for the Cardinal. Instead of using misdirection or a gimmick-laden offense, Stanford ran directly at the heart of the USC defense with great success.

"Something didn't fit right," Taylor Mays said. "They were more physical than us. It happened on the run plays. They ran the ball and overpowered us."

Stanford dictated the game by doing exactly what it wanted to do.

"That's something that we have to do as a team, be physical and play physical," Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "That's how we play, and that's how our backs and our o-line plays."

USC's defensive woes were compounded by the fact Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck broke out of the pocket to run for 61 yards on just seven carries. Luck also threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

"This is very disappointing. It's almost sickening," Mays said. "To play at USC and be part of this tradition, especially with Coach Carroll here. All the players that played here in the past, to see them leave a legacy.

"If this is my legacy, it's sickening."

In addition to the USC defense allowing the most points ever by a Trojan team Saturday, the unit also allowed the second-most yardage in school history two weeks earlier at Oregon. But after stifling Arizona State to just nine points last weekend, some had hoped that the Trojan defense had turned a corner.

Instead, the group turned right back around.

"We've been hot and cold all year," Mays said. "It's never like we've turned a corner."

While the defense struggled, the Trojan offense looked good in spots but was plagued by turnovers.

Joe McKnight rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown, and redshirt freshman Brice Butler caught six passes for 96 yards, but Matt Barkley threw three interceptions and fumbled once.

USC trailed by seven after a 28-yard McKnight touchdown run late in the third quarter, but Stanford scored quickly to start the fourth and found the end zone again when Richard Sherman returned an interception 43 yards for a score.

The Cardinal would score two other times to close out the game, outscoring USC 27-0 in the fourth quarter.

"I don't know what it is exactly right now," Barkley said. "I don't really know what to think right now... It comes down to execution. The other team executed, and we didn't. That's pretty self-explanatory, and it sucks."

USC now heads into a bye week with lots of self-examination on tap. USC returns home the following weekend for a rivalry game with UCLA.

"I think it's going to be really good for us, and this bye is going to be good for us because this is going to settle in for two weeks," Butler said. "When we come back out here in 14 days to play the Bruins, I think it's going to show that we're upset about this loss."



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