USC 17, Stanford 10, "Fight On" 26 (Half)

Jordan Pratt, your leading receiver

At the half, USC has 181 yards to Stanford's 147. Stanford's leading receiver has 13 yards, while Cody Kessler is 12-of-14 for 158 yards and a touchdown. Still, it's only 17-10 Trojans, so with a little X's and O's adjustment, Stanford could find themselves in position to break the Trojans' hearts yet again.

With the second quarter underway, Tarpley and Joe Hemschoot each miss diving tackles as Javorius Allen drags across the middle for 40 yards. USC got away with a false start on the play, though Stanford probably was awarded a first down when the spot was six inches short the snap before, so who knows. The bigger issue is that Stanford can't stop the USC pass attack right now, as Ahgolor goes for 26 down the right sideline, winning a one-on-one jump-ball battle over Alex Carter. All told, this game has been an unpleasant reminder of Stanford defenses of five-plus years ago that couldn't stop the pass. Kessler is now 11-of-12 for 158 yards.

Kessler has a rare misfire at a great time for Stanford – on a third down in the red zone. It saves four points as the fullback flare could have gone for a touchdown, but instead, it's a 22-yard Andre Heidari field goal.

USC 17, Stanford 7, 9:05 remaining, second quarter

23 "Fight On's" for those of you counting. On the field, Stanford didn't send Montgomery out on a kickoff return, but he's back in the next snap and the kick was a touchback anyways. Third and three after two runs, and Gaffney is short after two up the middle. Would love to see us go for fourth and inches when we're consistently punching out two or three yards a pop, but on comes the punt team and USC assumes possession at its 25 after a 51-yard punt.

USC men's water polo, winners of the last five national championships, comes out on Homecoming to raucous applause. Stats are 183 to 108 in yards for USC. USC has 158 pass yards on 11-of-13 accuracy. Stanford has just 28 on 4-of-6 passing, but Gaffney's 77 yards are keeping the Cardinal in it – though they need a stop here.

Stanford's biggest deficit this season was 13 at Utah. That might hold, at least for now, with Murphy sacking on second down to put the Trojans in third and long. It's Stanford's first sack of the day as the Trojan offensive line has largely won that battle thus far. A throwback to Madden on third down doesn't fake out the Cardinal and on comes the punt squad. Good hold by the D there.

Stanford bombs to Rector once a half, and this period's allotment is no good. Hogan overthrew and had to release early to boot with the pass rush in his face. But the next play is a pretty 13-yard out to Jordan Pratt and the Cardinal move the chains to the USC 46. Next snap is a nice play call – a fake option to the right with a pitch back to a reversing Montgomery running left. It's good for 10-plus to move the chains. Then Hogan keeps for three on another creative look.

Gaffney into a huge pile for two – guess we hit our creativity quota there. But then is another money throw on third down, Hogan's second of this drive. It's to Whitfield for eight and the chains reset at USC's 23. Next snap, Hogan keeps for three, but a defensive holding gives Stanford a functional first and goal at the 10.5 yard line. Gaffney for zilch. Again Gaffney for zilch into a nine-man front. Not sure if we expect him to beat the whole team on a play not whistled dead again, as that's about the only way that one breaks for a touchdown. Instead, Stanford uses its final timeout of the half with the quarter running out. To paraphrase Trent Johnson, David Shaw is who he is.

So it's third down or bust for the Stanford passing attack, and it's bust, as Hogan is behind a slanting Montgomery – who was probably going to be brought down short of the end zone anyway. Ukropina (not Jordan Williamson) is good from 27, so Stanford should be within a score at halftime.

USC 17, Stanford 10, 17 seconds remaining, second quarter

Play of the quarter

It was a seemingly short quarter as the clock ran quickly, and one lacked for big plays, especially from the Cardinal. So guess we'll go with a third-down conversion on the Cardinal's lone scoring drive of the period, with Kevin Hogan finding Jordan Pratt on a nice 13-yard corner route on the right sideline.

Player of the quarter

Hogan has bounced back nicely from a rough middle of the season. He looked great against Oregon, and today is 6-of-10, albeit for just 47 yards. Still, factor in two Ty Montgomery drops, including a potential touchdown, and Hogan has done his part thus far. With the running game stuck in two yards and a cloud of dust mode and the pass defense reverting to 2006, Hogan's ability to move the chains a few times might be the difference between a surmountable seven-point deficit, and a steeper challenge.

What it means moving forward

Overheard in the press box: "Ty Montgomery has to start catching the ball." He has looked an All-American breakout player through nine games, but it's 2012 again for him today. Montgomery's consistency in the weeks ahead may factor into whether he comes back next year, and if so, what type of an offense the Cardinal can expect.

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