A 20-year streak

USC tormented Stanford for two decades. But that streak came to an abrupt halt in 1992.

The Cardinal's current 4-1 stretch over the Trojans represents a U-turn from not only Pete Carroll's extended run, but abuse that spanned the Watergate Era to the Clinton years. And nothing symbolized that domination more than Stanford's 10-game home losing steak to the mighty Trojans. It began in 1972 and didn't end until 20 years later. The drought started the last time the two sides met as unbeatens. Cal also played Ohio State that day. Over the course of ten games spanning 18 years, USC toyed with their hosts. Stanford led for six of the collective 40 quarters. Some very familiar names – Lynn Swann, Pat Haden, Marcus Allen and Rodney Peete among them – padded their legacies as all-time greats. But the longer the streak went on, the more unlikely of ways in which it continued. With the late Ricky Bell out with a sprained ankle, the seemingly landlocked Trojans took to the air. A tailback named Anthony Gibson scored three touchdowns. Lights appeared at a Stanford home game for the first time. Anthony Davis threw a touchdown pass. Todd Marinovich caught one. It's not like Stanford did much better at the Coliseum, going winless from 1975 to 1991. Behold, the gory details of USC's regular pillaging of The Farm:

1972: USC 30, Stanford 21

USC entered the day No. 1 in the nation, Stanford was No. 15. It ended it with a thorough victory for the eventual national champions. Stanford enjoyed early leads of 7-0 and 10-7. But Mike Boryla, the nation's leading passer coming in, and the Cardinal were outgained by a 507-199 margin.

1974: USC 34, Stanford 10

In a November showdown with Rose Bowl on the line, you'd rather your quarterback – Mike Cordova, in this case – not go 9-of-23 with three interceptions. The Card (5-1-1 that year in Pac-8) put up precious little resistance. Davis found J.K. McKay in the end zone on a halfback option. It would be 24-3 by early in the third period. Two years after wishing he could've beaten Stanford "by 2,000 points," John McKay proclaimed himself "probably the most hated man in Northern California."

1976: USC 48, Stanford 24

Any thoughts that the Trojans would be in trouble without the injured Bell were silenced on the game's third play, when Vince Evans hooked up with Shelton Diggs for a 56-yard bomb. Less than four minutes in, Stanford was already down 14-0.

1978: USC 13, Stanford 7

Finally a breakthrough, or so it seemed. A 13-yard strike from Steve Dils to Ken Margerum put Stanford ahead 7-0 to open the game. But special teams (field goals of 34 and 38 yards) and Charles White (201 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries) provided the difference. In the decisive third quarter, the Card failed to notch a single first down and held the ball just four minutes.

1980: USC 34, Stanford 9 The No. 4 visitors gladly traded John Elway's incredible scoring bomb to Margerum for Stanford's minus-13 rushing yards. Allen ran for two early scores and finished with 195 yards on the ground.

1982: USC 41, Stanford 21

Again, the Cardinal teased its fans early before the Trojans prevailed going away. Elway opened the game by leading a 69-yard touchdown drive. A 14-7 Stanford lead at the end of one period dissolved into an afternoon where Stanford was sacked six times and had three passes picked off. The aforementioned Gibson gained 120 yards and scored his first three career touchdowns.

1984: USC 20, Stanford 11

The Cardinal refused to secure a victory, no matter how hard their opponent tried to help. USC lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions. The third quarter saw Stanford force three of those turnovers, but a Trojan goal-line stand turned the tide while portable lights took effect. The Cards' offense totaled a mere 214 total yards and avoided the end zone until the final seconds.

1986: USC 10, Stanford 0

How not to impress seven bowl game reps and a national TV audience: Punt nine times, gain 172 yards of offense and waste 22 (!) tackles from David Wyman.

1988: USC 24, Stanford 20

I never saw "The Play" in person, but I can't imagine it being much worse than this fiasco. The Cardinal led 13-0 against the nation's No. 6 team at the end of one quarter. Stanford led at halftime and took back the lead entering the fourth. They held court at the USC two-yard line in the closing minutes, owning a 20-17 advantage. "It's first-and-goal!" the home fans thought. "We're not going to screw this up!" But then came two failed runs, a sack, a missed 20-yard field goal, a Peete-led touchdown drive and the notion that God himself was dating a Song Girl.

1990: USC 37, Stanford 24

By now, even the assembled media was catching on. "The resident football team continued a time-honored tradition of losing to USC," wrote the Sacramento Bee, as if Coach McKay himself was at the keyboard. The Cardinal, fresh of an upset of No. 1 Notre Dame, produced a mélange of poor rushing (four net yards), turnovers (three fumbles), and an amazing start (a 16-7 lead in the first quarter) while yielding to Marinovich's finest all-around game as a collegian.


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