USC trailed Stanford 21-13 in the third quarter when Drake London had a pass bounce off his hands and fall into the hands of cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly, who returned the interception 31-yards for the score.
That play sent USC fans to the exits as Stanford went on to a dominating 42-28 win over the Trojans in the conference opener on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s early in the season,” USC head coach Clay Helton said. “We lost our first conference game. I look forward to seeing the production of our team through an entire season, and looking forward to seeing where we add up at the entirety of a season. Obviously, this is a step back from last week’s performance, but something that I know our kids will react from. And I hope our fans, and I know they will, they’ll support our players.”
Stanford opened the scoring with an 87-yard run from Nathaniel Peat. It was the fifth longest rushing touchdown in Stanford history. USC answered with a 2-yard touchdown run from Keaontay Ingram to tie it 7-7 in the second quarter.
The Cardinals were getting ready to kick a field goal but USC was lined up in the neutral zone. Stanford went for it on fourth-and-goal and McKee hit Elijah Higgins in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.
After a USC field goal, Stanford went down the field and scored on a McKee 6-yard touchdown pass to Brycen Tremayne. Stanford took a 21-10 lead into halftime.
“For defense specifically, I think we just have to execute better,” USC defensive back Isaiah Pola-Mao said. “Coach makes any call and honestly we just have to make it happen, regardless if it’s right or wrong. Our defense thrives on turnovers, and we didn’t get any tonight, so I think we just have to step up as players and execute better.”
Stanford put the game out of reach on McKee’s 1-yard touchdown run and Isaiah Sanders 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. USC scored two touchdowns with just under four minutes left in the game but it was too little too late.
Kedon Slovis was 27 for 42 with 223 yards and London finished with four receptions for 68 yards. USC had 11 different receivers register a catch in the game tonight, with five catching at least three passes.
“When you look at it across the board, they beat us in every phase,” Helton said. “In each and every phase, you look at the execution they out-executed us. And when you look up, we did not do what we did in the first game. We got beat in penalties. We got beat on third down efficiency, and got beat in the turnovers, we didn’t get turnovers.”
USC will look to bounce back when they hit the road against Washington State on Saturday, Sept. 18.