On Sunday evening, the night before the start of classes and the day after Stanford’s impressive win over USC, I let loose for a bit and engaged in one of the most irresponsible and revolting acts of my life.
I watched the Emmy’s.
While, admittedly, Jon Hamm’s first win for Outstanding Lead Actor was a feel-good story and Viola Davis’ acceptance speech was both compelling and thought-provoking, I still turned off the television with a bitter taste in my mouth over what was unquestionably the greatest snub of all time.
Where was the trophy for the writers of these Stanford-USC scripts?
Just when we thought that the battles between the Cardinal and the Trojans couldn’t possibly produce another adrenaline-pumping sequel, the drama that is Stanford-USC produced another breathtaking episode for the ages. This time around, the theme was redemption.
For the previous two meetings in this rivalry, Stanford left heartbroken, doomed by turnovers and missed opportunities. Though those previous installments were quality entertainment in their own right, little did we know that these faceless writers were really hard at work setting up a larger narrative arc.
Sure, “The Empire Strikes Back” just might be the best Star Wars movie, but the entire series was taken to another level when Han Solo emerged from the carbon freeze and returned to save the day. Rocky’s victory over Drago wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t also mean avenging the death of Apollo Creed.
And as Conrad Ukropina stood at the focal point of 90,000 glares in the center of Coliseum awaiting the end of an interminable TV timeout, the potential for redemption was everywhere, from the sideline, to the trenches, to that sliver of air between the uprights that can free glory from the iron clutches of despair.
This last storyline came into play in a big way in this latest episode as Ukropina, who memorably had a field goal blocked during the Stanford’s last outing at the Coliseum, put the game effectively out of reach with a pressure-packed 46-yarder. Moreover, our writers continued to outdo themselves with the vindication of Stanford’s offense, who scored on all six red zone trips, including five touchdowns, after notoriously falling short in 2013 and 2014.
When it comes to Stanford and USC, we’ve been told countless times to expect the unexpected, but “unexpected” doesn’t quite cover it — at this point we might as well expect the absolutely ludicrous. The Trojans charged out of the gates Saturday and played phenomenal football, running it down Stanford’s throat with Tre Madden and Justin Davis before unleashing the sledgehammer that is Cody Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Stanford, however, absorbed every blow and the shorthanded defense grew stronger as darkness enveloped the Los Angeles skies before ultimately igniting (along with the Olympic torch) in the fourth quarter as the Cardinal held the juggernaut Trojans’ offense to just three points in the final period. Who saw that coming after the opening two possessions?
And Kevin Hogan delivered a performance of heroic proportions while battling an ankle injury, earning his first win over the Trojans as a starter. Despite another dominant performance from Kessler — one good enough to win on virtually any other Saturday — Hogan was better. Stanford was better. The Cardinal, as always, took USC’s best shot, responded to every blow and ultimately earned a redemption two years in the making in the fourth quarter.
This game wasn’t the “Biggest Upset Ever;” nor did it match the pure gridiron beauty of 2011’s triple overtime. It wasn’t as cathartic as the 2013 “Orgeron Field Storm;” it didn’t have the off-the-field intrigue that was “What’s Your Deal.”
Nevertheless, 2015 should deservedly take it’s place in the pantheon of great Stanford-USC clashes. It was as clean and well-played of a football game as you will ever see; a back-and-forth shootout that no one saw coming with more than enough defense to keep things interesting. It may lack a catchy title sandwiched between quotation marks, but it was unquestionably a game for the ages, proving once again that when these teams get together there’s truly something mystical in the air.
But I’m still waiting for that Emmy.
Part of the reason Vihan Lakshman is bitter about the writers of the Stanford-USC saga not getting an Emmy is because he is in fact waiting for his own for his KZSU broadcasts with fellow football writers Do-Hyoung Park and Michael Peterson. To give him tips for getting on the radar for the award, email him at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.