No. 7 Stanford beats No. 24 USC 41-22 for Pac-12 title
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Run, pass and catch. Christian McCaffrey did it all in a record-setting performance that should send him to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony and Stanford to another big-time bowl.
McCaffrey ran for 207 yards and a score, threw a touchdown pass, caught another and broke Barry Sanders' single-season all-purpose yards record to lead No. 7 Stanford to the Pac-12 championship with a 41-22 win over No. 24 Southern California on Saturday.
Kevin Hogan caught the TD pass from McCaffrey, threw one and ran for a third and Solomon Thomas scored on a 34-yard fumble return for the Cardinal (11-2, No. 7 CFP). Stanford will either play in the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 champion or possibly make the four-team playoff if No. 1 Clemson loses the ACC championship.
Cody Kessler threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score for the Trojans (8-5, No. 20 CFP), who lost in their first game since removing the interim tag from coach Clay Helton.
Stanford took control of the game with a pair of touchdowns in a span of just over 3 minutes late in the third quarter. After blowing an early 13-point lead, the Cardinal faced a third-down in their own territory. Hogan then found McCaffrey open in the middle of the field and he ran with for a 67-yard reception down to the USC 7. Hogan ran it in on the next play to put Stanford back on top.
Blake Martinez then sacked Kessler and caused a fumble on the next possession that Thomas scooped up and ran in for the score that made it 27-16.
After USC scored to make it a one-possession game, McCaffrey put the capper on another Stanford win with a 27-yard touchdown reception when he was left wide open in the middle of the field.
McCaffrey added 105 yards receiving and 149 return yards to give him a Stanford record 461 all-purpose yards for the game and 3,496 for the season. That broke Sanders' single-season record of 3,250 yards set in 1988, although McCaffrey took two extra games to do it.
After being thoroughly outplayed for the first 25 minutes, the Trojans got right back into the game with three straight scoring drives. Kessler led a 15-play drive in the closing minutes of the half to lead to a 40-yard field goal by Alex Wood that cut Stanford's lead to 13-3.
Kessler then threw a 1-yard TD pass to Jahleel Pinner to open the third quarter to cut it to 13-9 and Ronald Jones II scored on a 27-yard run on the next possession to give the Trojans their first lead at 16-13.
The Cardinal dominated the game early but led only 13-0 because of problems converting in the red zone. Stanford held a 210-9 advantage in yards gained but was unable to break the game open.
A holding penalty on Rollins Stallworth negated a TD on the first drive, forcing Stanford to settle for a field goal. Stanford later was stopped at the 1-yard line, leading to another short field goal by Conrad Ukropina and Hogan got sacked on a fourth down from the 1.
The only touchdown in the first half came on McCaffrey's trick play. Hogan pitched to Barry Sanders Jr., who then flipped it to McCaffrey, who had lined up as a receiver. McCaffrey then threw to a wide-open Hogan for his second TD pass of the season.