Tanner McKee passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another score in his first collegiate start, and Stanford rebounded from a season-opening loss with a 42-28 upset victory over No. 14 Southern California on Saturday night.
Nathaniel Peat had an 87-yard touchdown run while racking up a career-high 115 yards, and Kyu Blu Kelly returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in a surprising rout for the Cardinal (1-1, 1-0 Pac-12). Led by McKee, Stanford’s offense came back superbly after failing to score until the final minutes of a rough 24-7 loss to Kansas State last week.
McKee went 16 of 23 for 234 yards while seizing his chance to start after outplaying Jack West in the opener. McKee hit Elijah Higgins and Brycen Tremayne for TDs as Stanford rolled to a 29-point lead in the fourth quarter of its ninth victory over USC in the California rivals’ last 14 meetings.
Kedon Slovis passed for 223 yards, and Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow rushed for TDs as the Trojans’ (1-1, 0-1) nine-game regular season winning streak ended with a thud.
USC coach Clay Helton’s perpetually hot seat has become a sizzling fajita plate again just two games into his seventh season in charge of a former college football powerhouse with just one conference title since 2008.
Stanford’s defense limited star Trojans receiver Drake London to four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown with 5:54 to play.
The 101st meeting between the Pac-12′s two California private schools resumed a rivalry that was interrupted last season for the first time since 1945 by the coronavirus pandemic.
USC even began the game ominously when kicker Parker Lewis was ejected for targeting on his tackle on the opening kickoff. Alex Stadthaus was perfect on two field goals and two extra points in Lewis’ place.
Peat put the Cardinal ahead early with his long sprint down the Cardinal sideline for the fifth-longest TD run in Stanford history. The speedy big-play tailback and kick returner nearly topped his previous career-high of 93 yards rushing on that play alone.
USC evened it early in the second quarter with a 15-play, 95-yard drive capped by Ingram’s 2-yard TD surge, but McKee put the Cardinal back ahead with a 3-yard TD pass to Higgins on fourth down only after Stanford decided to go for it after USC lined up in the neutral zone on a successful field goal.
Stanford went up 21-10 right before halftime on Tremayne’s TD reception, set up by a 49-yard catch by Austin Jones. The Cardinal got 174 of their 248 yards in the first half on only three plays, and USC got light boos from its home crowd heading to the locker room, followed by heavy boos for Helton during his scoreboard interview before the second-half kickoff.
Kelly picked off Slovis’ pass when it deflected off London’s hands, and the cornerback eluded Slovis near the goal line to score his first career touchdown. The rout was on when McKee scored on a 1-yard keeper late in the third quarter.
Stanford: The Cardinal probably aren’t as bad as they looked last week against K-State, and they might not be as good as they appeared while racking up all these big plays against reeling USC. Either way, McKee has solved coach David Shaw’s quarterback problem after just two games.
USC: Helton’s future is once again the hottest topic across the Trojans’ vast fan base. Athletic director Mike Bohn has seemed highly unlikely to make a midseason change, but one or two more humiliating losses like this could alter any plan.
Stanford: A long trip to face Vanderbilt next Saturday, Sept. 18.
USC: A road opener at Washington State next Saturday, Sept. 18.