LOS ANGELES — Rasheem Green said it was a week of sacrifice.
Maybe you don’t take that post-practice nap. Maybe you realize that the XBox will still be there after Saturday.
Maybe you go to the computer and cue up the tape and try to find the keys to the kingdom, try to learn why Stanford’s offense looks so old and yet works so new, sort of like USC Village.
Only the fourth and fifth-year players at USC knew how it felt to beat Stanford. The Trojans won on Saturday, 42-24, but they started winning on Wednesday, or earlier.
“We didn’t want to make the same mistakes we did last week,” said Green, the junior defensive end who helped lead the methodical handcuffing of Stanford’s offense after halftime. “We knew there were some small things we had to get right. When it came time, we knew everything they were doing.”
Defense? USC got creased for 263 rushing yards against Western Michigan. On Stanford’s first snap of its second series, Bryce Love saw a greaseboard come to life in front of him. The blocks came just as the illustrators dictated, and Love streaked 75 yards for a touchdown.
Flashbacks from seven Stanford wins in the past nine Stanford-USC games began to drift from on high.
But the Trojans held Stanford to three touchdowns, and only one after the half, and Stanford coach David Shaw didn’t quite know what hurt the most.
“First and foremost their offensive line did a great job,” Shaw said. “They ran the ball better on us than we ran it on them. I’m not used to saying things like that.”
And: “Sam Darnold made three big-time throws, throws that other guys don’t make,”
And: “Their defensive schemes gave our offense some trouble at times, and then we had opportunities to make plays and just didn’t make enough.”
Indeed, Darnold hit 21 of 26 passes, and the USC runners danced for 307 yards, and freshman Stephen Carr did some Reggie Bush-like things, and Ronald Jones II looked like a ripped version of LenDale White again.
The receivers that drew so much doubt last week were catching balls like dolphins leaping out of Sea World tanks. The Trojans cashed 10 of 12 third-down opportunities.
“When it’s third and one and your guy is out there running for 10 yards, it means you don’t have to go back in,” Green said, and indeed Stanford ran 20 fewer plays than USC.
It didn’t stanch all the bleeding inflicted by Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck, Kevin Hogan and Christian McCaffrey over the years, but it was a clear signal that some of the past is finally past.
After Love’s run, Stanford had only 95 net yards rushing on 25 tries. Love had 17 for 168 overall, 16 for 93 besides that play. (Sacks still count against rushing yards in college football, alas.). Keller Chryst made some powerful throws but he saw entirely too much of linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. But then he wasn’t always sure what he was seeing.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast aligned linebackers Cameron Smith and John Houston on either side of center Jesse Burkett. Sometimes they would step back. Sometimes they would charge ahead. He also stationed a passel of linebackers and defensive backs inside the “box.”
“You have to get Stanford out of their mode,” safety Chris Hawkins said. “All they want to do is pound, pound, pound. You make them throw against one of the best secondaries in the country and you see what happens. We had nine people in the box at times, including me.
“We have a D-coordinator that’s probably the best coach I ever played for. He gave them looks they had never seen before. The quarterback was up there, checking to runs against our pressures. Me and Marvell (safety Tell) was up, down, up, down. You didn’t know who was going to stay up and who was going back. When you have veterans like we have, you can do that. So we wound up beating them at their own game. They want to run downhill and we were the team that did that tonight.”
The Cardinal had one first down in the second half, and 116 total yards.
“When you get down by more than two scores that late in the game, it’s tough,” Shaw said, sounding like a coach who finally learned how the other 19/20ths lives.
Now the adjustment falls on other Pac-12 coaches. To find out how to handle USC, they can’t watch the Stanford tape anymore.
Might as well take a nap.
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