Loss Provides Valuable Lesson For Future

USC's 56-48 triple overtime loss to Stanford will sting for a while, but if the Trojans can learn from it, they might end up where they once were.

Mark Sanchez was on the field facing a sold-out Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Trojans put up 46 points.

But Sanchez wasn't suited up this time. He was simply watching his alma mater play Stanford while the New York Jets enjoyed a bye week. And usually when teams rack up 432 yards of total offense, especially when Sanchez played for the Trojans, those games were wins.

Alas, this isn't the USC of old. There weren't any Rose Bowl dreams for the Trojans in this one. Stanford's triple-overtime 56-48 win over USC didn't "mean" much in BCS terms, or outside of the Pac-12.

But to this program, that remembers the feats of players like Sanchez during USC's "heyday," this game meant everything.

"As far as effort and where your team is at, you've got to be pleased," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said.

Pleased with a loss? Even the dry Kiffin would be hard-pressed to believe that.

Yet as Curtis McNeal fumbled the ball in the third overtime on Stanford's one-yard line, the so-often wavering Trojan fans didn't scurry out to the warmth of their cars. Instead, they stood there and took the loss with their team.

"As a player it was the most energy I've felt in the Coliseum, it was electric, whatever you want to call it. I loved the way the fans responded," USC quarterback Matt Barkley said.

"I thought our crowd was awesome. They really helped us out and it was great to have that back," Kiffin said. "I think that's been gone for a while. That feeling that there was tonight."

It was the elephant in the room as the score remained tight for four-plus hours: This USC team was under sanctions? This team had nothing to play for but individual accolades and potential draft stocks? This USC program was on a downward slope?

The elder Kiffin, who has been coaching football for more than 40 years, put the game into proper perspective.

"You couldn't have written a better script [except] if we had pulled that one at the end there. [We] couldn't ask the offense to do anymore than they did," USC assistant coach Monte Kiffin said.

Despite going into Saturday's game as total underdogs, despite Matt Barkley hearing repeatedly how much better Andrew Luck is than himself and despite being on probation, this USC team isn't that far removed from the ones that Sanchez once led.

It was a game the Trojans should have won.

And might be able to win, in time, if they can learn from losses like this.

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