STANFORD, California — Stanford has prided itself on keeping mistakes to a minimum while winning the past two Pac-12 championships and becoming a surprising college football powerhouse.
In the first big test this season, everything the Cardinal count on evaporated.
Two turnovers, two missed fields and eight penalties highlighted No. 13 Stanford's 13-10 loss to No. 14 Southern California on Saturday in the conference opener for both teams.
"You got to make field goals. You got to take advantage of field position. We just did not," Cardinal coach David Shaw said.
A game that featured an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on USC coach Steve Sarkisian for standing too close to the field, linebacker Hayes Pullard getting ejected for targeting and athletic director Pat Haden yelling at officials in a weird and wild sideline scene ended with the Trojans making all the big plays on the field in the closing moments.
With Stanford threatening to tie or take the lead, Tavai came from Kevin Hogan's blindside to jar the ball loose. Scott Felix recovered at the Trojans' 26-yard-line with 19 seconds to play, sealing Sarkisian's first major victory at USC (2-0, 1-0) and dealing a major blow to the Cardinal's chances of a conference three-peat.
"Not happy about it," Stanford linebacker A.J. Tarpley said. "Proud and happy the way our defense played, but it's no surprise for us. The guys in our locker room, we know who we have. We know what we have is all we need."
Javorius Allen ran for a career-high 154 yards, Nelson Agholor had a career-high nine receptions for 91 yards and Justin Davis ran for a short touchdown to help USC create just enough offense to win at Stanford Stadium for the first time since 2008.
The Trojans had gained 701 yards while running a conference-record 105 plays in a 52-13 win over Fresno State last week. But Stanford (1-1, 0-1) slowed down Cody Kessler and USC's up-tempo offense most of the afternoon, holding the Trojans to 59 plays.
Stanford outgained USC 413 to 291 yards but couldn't overcome its own mistakes. Jordan Williamson missed field goals of 49 and 26 yards and made one from 33 for the Cardinal, whose 17-game home winning streak — which was the longest active streak in the country — came to an end.
"I hate losing. Period," safety Jordan Richards said.
Sarkisian sent his offense on the field for a fourth-and-5 from the 35-yard line before calling a timeout to go for a field goal at the end of USC's final drive. Heidari then made the kick from 53 yards, turned around and gestured at the Trojans faithful in the far corner of the crowd to roar.
Heidari had kicked a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds to play in USC's 20-17 win over the Cardinal last year in Los Angeles.
"I trusted myself, I trusted the ball, the holder, the snapper. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do what I did last year," he said.
Stanford still had one last chance to avoid another painful memory.
Hogan completed 22 of 30 passes for 285 yards and put the Cardinal in position to come back before Tavai sprinted from his blindside and forced the fumble to cap an emotional day on the USC sideline.
Pullard was ejected after his hit near the head of Stanford's Ty Montgomery at the end of a punt return in the third quarter, and Haden was caught by television cameras disputing with officials on the sideline before the fourth quarter.
Haden, who is slated to serve on the new College Football Playoff selection committee the next two years, said somebody from compliance sent him a text message to come down and calm the situation at Sarkisian's request. He said the incident wasn't a big deal.
All the theatrics aside, it was the plays on the field that led the Trojans to victory.
USC stuffed Stanford fullback Daniel Marx on fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line, and Heidari finished off USC's next drive with a tying 35-yard field goal late in the third quarter.
Hogan had a 28-yard TD pass to Austin Hooper wiped away by a 15-yard penalty on Remound Wright for an illegal block in the back in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal punted from USC's 32 instead of trying a long field goal.
Fullback Patrick Skov, brother of former standout middle linebacker Shayne Skov, bulldozed through the line from 2 yards out for the first touchdown of his career — and the only one Stanford scored — in the second quarter.
"The charge is to our guys, our coaches and players, to be better," Shaw said. "Not to scrap what we've done, not at all, but to be better than we were today. We have a lot of good football teams coming down the road that we got to try to find a way to beat."
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