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LOS ANGELES (AP) Stepfan Taylor ran for the tying touchdown with 38 seconds left in regulation and the go-ahead score in the third overtime, and Stanford’s defense preserved its 16-game winning streak by forcing Curtis McNeal’s fumble into the end zone to finish a 56-48 victory over No. 20 Southern California on Saturday night.
Andrew Luck burnished his Heisman Trophy credentials by engineering four late scoring drives for No. 4 Stanford (8-0, 6-0 Pac-12), which rallied after trailing for the first time all season.
But four years after Stanford stunned USC (6-2, 3-2) with a one-point victory as a 41-point underdog, the schools played another classic on a cool Coliseum night – and once again, the Cardinal ruled.
Both teams scored on the first two OT possessions. After Taylor’s run in the third OT, Coby Fleener caught the 2-point conversion pass.
USC quickly to first-and-goal at the 4, but Terrence Stephens forced the ball from McNeal. It squirted into the end zone and A.J. Tarpley jumped on it. After a lengthy Stanford celebration, Luck was among the last players to leave the Coliseum field, sprinting to the locker room while thrusting his arms triumphantly in the air.
Luck passed for 325 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a key score, but the Cardinal were in serious trouble after he made a rare mistake. Nickell Robey intercepted his pass and returned it 33 yards for a score to make it 34-27 with 3:08 left in regulation.
Luck calmly engineered a 76-yard drive capped by Taylor’s short score.
Matt Barkley passed for 284 yards and three scores in his third straight loss to Luck. He got the Trojans into Stanford territory in the final seconds of regulation, but Robert Woods used up the final 9 seconds running to the sideline, preventing USC from trying a long field goal. USC coach Lane Kiffin said he was “very disappointed” the officials didn’t allow him to call a timeout before it ended.
McNeal rushed for 146 yards and two long second-half touchdowns before committing the key mistake for the bowl-banned Trojans, whose three-game winning streak ended.
USC ended several measures of Stanford’s dominance during the nation’s longest winning streak. Stanford fell behind by 10 points in the third quarter, and the Cardinal won by fewer than 25 points for the first time in 11 games since last November.
Luck rushed for a go-ahead score in the third quarter, but the Trojans pushed back ahead on Marqise Lee’s 28-yard TD catch with 13:04 to play. Stanford’s Eric Whitaker tied it at 27 on a 29-yard field goal with 5:10 left.
The same Trojans defense that yielded 43 points at Arizona State and 41 by Arizona in consecutive games earlier this season played quite well against Luck and the Cardinal until the score ballooned in the frantic final minutes.
Updated October 30, 2011
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