USC quarterback Sam Darnold led the Trojans to a 31-28 victory over Stanford on Friday night in the Pac-12 Championship.
With just over eight minutes left in the game, No. 12 Stanford was in USC's redzone with the Trojans leading 24–21. Stanford decided to go for it on fourth down on USC's 1-yard line. But the No. 10 Trojans' defense stonewalled the attempt and made the Cardinal pay for the decision.
Darnold then led the Trojans down the field in an eight-play, 99-yard touchdown drive to take a 31–21 lead that they would not relinquish.
While Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello led a touchdown drive to make it 31–28 in response, Stanford's defense didn't give Costello another chance to get back on the field. Instead, USC's Darnold took control, getting a first down on a pass play on a 4th and 2 situation to win the game.
Darnold worked in tandem with running back Ronald Jones II throughout the entire game. The quarterback went 17–for–24 with 325 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jones had 30 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Stanford suffered injuries to its star players, most notably a recurring injury from Heisman-candidate running back Bryce Love. Love took only five reps in practice this week, commentators said, and he repeatedly took hits throughout the game that sent him to the sidelines. But he stayed in the game, finishing with 125 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.
Costello was also suffering from an apparent thumb injury, but played through to finish with 192 yards and two touchdowns.
USC had not played since Nov. 18, beating UCLA in its final regular season game. However, Stanford was coming off just six days of rest after playing Notre Dame on Saturday.
The two teams met earlier in the season, with then No. 6 USC taking the 42–24 win.