STANFORD, Calif. — Even without Andrew Luck, Stanford still had every answer for Matt Barkley and Southern California.
Josh Nunes threw a go-ahead 37-yard touchdown to Zach Ertz, Stepfan Taylor ran for 153 yards and scored two touchdowns, and No. 21 Stanford upset second-ranked USC 21-14 on Saturday night for its fourth straight win in this series.
Heisman Trophy hopeful Matt Barkley threw for 254 yards and two interceptions while completing only 20 of 41 passes. He was sacked twice on the final drive for the Trojans (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) and threw out of bounds on a final, desperate heave on fourth-and-39 from USC’s 25-yard line.
Coming out of a two-year bowl ban, USC had national title hopes this season. Now the Trojans will have to climb out of another hole to get there.
A sold-out crowd at Stanford Stadium rushed the field, tossing streamers and jumping in a wild celebration at midfield with Cardinal coach David Shaw and players caught in the middle of the mess. Stanford (3-0, 1-0) is 3-0 for the third straight season for the first time since 1970-72 and has its longest winning streak ever against USC in a rivalry that dates back to 1905.
“I love the energy and I love the enthusiasm,” Shaw said. “But we are not surprised.”
Barkley has beaten every conference team but is 0-4 against Stanford. The only chance the senior quarterback and possible No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft has for revenge against the Cardinal now is a rematch in the Pac-12 title game.
Stanford’s Jordan Williamson missed field goals of 47 and 23 yards and had a 51-yarder blocked by T.J. McDonald. With a defense that flustered Barkley and a new quarterback that found his footing late, the kicker who missed three field goals in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma state last season could smile in the pile with everybody else.
Except for the Trojans, that is.
A year after Luck led Stanford back in a 56-48 triple-overtime thriller at the Coliseum, a new crop of Cardinal players delivered another moment to savor.
Taylor took a short screen pass and scurried 23 yards for a tying touchdown late in the third quarter. Nunes scampered 12 yards on a third-and-10 from midfield in the fourth and then delivered the strike to Ertz, who juked a defender and dove into the end zone to give Stanford a 21-14 lead and send the home fans into a flurry.
The last chance for USC never amounted to much.
Marqise Lee caught an 18-yard pass on fourth-and-4 on the sideline that was originally ruled out of bounds. After a video replay, officials ruled Lee’s left foot landed in bounds and he controlled the ball.
Mistakes finally doomed the Trojans.
USC had a 10-yard holding penalty, then Trent Murphy sacked Barkley, followed by a 5-yard false start penalty on the Trojans and a sack by Chase Thomas before Barkley’s final heave out of bounds.
Nunes threw for 215 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 15-for-32 passing in the redshirt junior’s biggest game yet. In the end, all that really mattered to Luck’s replacement was the win.
USC center Khaled Holmes, who left last week’s victory over Syracuse on a cart with a right leg injury, struggled along with the rest of the offensive line to protect Barkley from Stanford’s relentless rush.
Stanford sacked Barkley four times and had him constantly losing his poise in the pocket. The Cardinal outgained the Trojans 417 to 280 total yards and held USC to only 26 yards rushing.
“Against the best quarterback in the nation, these guys played great,” Shaw said of his players.
The Trojans seemed poised to run away from Stanford at the start.
But each time the Trojans scored, Taylor — often in Luck’s shadow the past three years — refused to let his team go without a fight and perhaps launched his own Heisman campaign in the process.
Taylor ran 59 yards, making four defenders on a nine-man defensive front miss and running for touchdown that tied the score 14-all midway through the third quarter.
A pass interference penalty by Terrence Brown against Lee extended USC’s drive in the second quarter. Then Robert Woods caught a 24-yard pass from Barkley, sliced back right and dove just short of the pylon to set up Penn State transfer Silas Redd’s second short TD run to give the Trojans a 14-7 lead.
A wild, wacky sequence in the final 8 minutes of the first half featured five turnovers and, perhaps amazingly, no points by either side.
At one point, Barkley threw two interceptions — one to Jordan Richards and another to Brown — sandwiched between an interception thrown by Nunes that landed in the hands of Dion Bailey on three consecutive plays. Jawan Starling picked off another pass by Nunes in the final second of the half.
But just like the rest of a miserable night on The Farm, the Trojans couldn’t convert when it counted.
No. 4 Oregon 63,
Tennessee Tech 14
EUGENE, Ore. — Marcus Mariota threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns before Oregon pulled its starters as it beat Tennessee Tech.
Multitalented De’Anthony Thomas had 222 all-purpose yards on 10 touches. He ran for a 59-yard touchdown and caught a 16-yard scoring pass from Mariota.
The Ducks (3-0) were playing their final nonconference game before hosting Arizona next Saturday. They had 652 yards in total offense, compared to 177 yards for Tennessee Tech. Oregon did have its issues, however, with 12 penalties for 105 yards.
The Golden Eagles (2-1) have never defeated an FBS-level team in 28 tries. The game against the Ducks was the Ohio Valley Conference team’s first against a Pac-12 opponent.
No. 5 Florida State 52,
Wake Forest 0
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Chris Thompson scored on runs of 74 and 80 yards on consecutive carries in the first half to lead the Seminoles.
Thompson, who suffered a broken back at Wake Forest a year ago that nearly ended his career, already had a career-high 197 yards following his 80-yard touchdown run that put the Seminoles into a 28-0 lead with 9:42 remaining in the first half.
His 74-yard touchdown followed a 60-yard punt return TD by Rashad Greene as the Seminoles (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) led 38-0 at the half.
Florida State’s defense, which has allowed just three points this season and plays Clemson at home next week, held Wake Forest (2-1, 1-1 ACC) to 126 yards. Tanner Price managed only 82 passing yards.
No. 9 West Virginia 42,
James Madison 12
LANDOVER, Md. — Geno Smith completed 34 of 39 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns for West Virginia.
Smith set the school’s career passing yardage record, topping Marc Bulger.
Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin both had 100 yards receiving before halftime for the Mountaineers, who improved to 2-0 and are 13-0 against FCS schools.
Bailey finished with 173 yards on 13 catches and three touchdowns. Austin had 113 yards on 11 receptions and one score.
The Dukes upset then-No. 13 Virginia Tech two years ago, but they never challenged the Mountaineers. They fell to 2-1.
The Mountaineers hosted the game at the Washington Redskins stadium to help maintain an East Coast profile now that they’ve moved to the Big 12.
No. 11 Clemson 41, Furman 7
CLEMSON, S.C. — Tajh Boyd threw for 310 yards and three touchdown passes, Sammy Watkins had a 58-yard touchdown run in his season debut and Clemson won its 30th straight over Furman.
Watkins scored in the first quarter after taking an inside handoff from Boyd and rushing past the right side of Furman’s defense. The All-American sophomore receiver spent the past two games on the sideline, suspended for a May drug arrest. He finished with four catches for 52 yards.
Boyd’s three scoring throws gave him 43 for his career, second at Clemson (3-0) and just six behind the record held by Charlie Whitehurst.
Furman of the Football Championship Subdivision opened 0-3 for the first time since 1979.
No. 13 Virginia Tech 17
PITTSBURGH — Ray Graham ran for 94 yards and two scores and added an 18-yard touchdown reception to lead Pitt to its first victory of the season.
Tino Sunseri passed for 283 yards and two touchdowns and freshman running back Rushel Shell added 157 yards as Pitt (1-2) gave coach Paul Chryst his first career victory in emphatic fashion.
Virginia Tech (2-1) had won 13 straight true road games, the longest active streak in the country, but let Pitt race to a quick three-touchdown lead and never really threatened. Logan Thomas completed just 14 of 31 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions.
No. 17 Michigan 63, UMass 13
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Denard Robinson put up 397 yards of total offense and accounted for four touchdowns for Michigan.
Robinson, who came out of the game with Michigan (2-1) leading 56-13 late in the third quarter, rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown and completed 16 of 24 passes for 291 yards and three scores.
Fitzgerald Toussaint, who missed Michigan’s opener due to suspension and then carried for just 7 yards against Air Force, had 85 yards and a touchdown against the Minutemen.
Former Wolverine Michael Cox, now a grad student at UMass, led the Minutemen (0-3) with 76 yards rushing.
No. 19 Louisville 39,
North Carolina 34
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Teddy Bridgewater threw three first-half touchdowns and No. 19 Louisville scored on its first six possessions, and then had thwart North Carolina’s comeback with a late defensive stand.
Bryn Renner settled down from a rough first half to rally the Tar Heels (1-2) from a 36-7 deficit with four second-half touchdowns, including a screen pass to Romar Morris for a 50-yard touchdown with 1:45 remaining.
North Carolina’s Norkeithus Otis then forced Adrian Bushell to fumble the ensuing kickoff, and the Tar Heels recovered at the Cardinals 10. But after moving to the 3, North Carolina was penalized for a false start and Renner’s final pass two plays later was broken up by Andrew Johnson in the end zone.
Bridgewater finished 23 of 28 passing for 279 for the Cardinals (3-0).
Renner had five TD passes.