Stanford’s Deranged Tree Finally Falls.

The day started out the way I wrote it up.  Arrogant Nation showed up and made not only a great collection of my signs for College GameDay, but a great collection in general.






But let’s just set the stage.

The sanctions cup has boiled over. After the Miami non-ruling, after the lack of responses from the NCAA on how Paul Dee was allowed to oversee our committee on infractions and after our team has been playing with basically half a deck for this injured season, even the most Trojan faithful had to be wondering when we’d stop being the punching bag for a broken system.

I mean, the Paterno family threatens to sue the NCAA and despite all the, you know, child rape,  they get their penalty reduced. Because The U has a former Clinton staffer for a president who called the NCAA out for botching their investigation and threatening suit, the NCAA tried to convince us that their “self sanctioning” made it work.  It’s been bullshit case after bullshit case and because we didn’t kiss the ring, the one thing the army we were named after refused to do, we got called “arrogant” and pushed without the evidence to support anything more than the wristslap failure to monitor that Oregon got.  But we got the hammer.

And here we were coming into this game on a 4-1 run after our coach gets fired on the freaking tarmac at LAX after a road loss. Here we are with ESPN coming to the Coliseum like they do every year no matter what, hosting a Stanford team that despite the “what’s your deal” game, has been beating us in CLOSE, CLOSE games to the point that you wondered if it was a curse.

I gave an interview to the Stanford Daily about all of this. There’s this illusion that there is parity in the Pac 12 right now because USC is not winning the conference every year. There’s parity because the “1″ in the Pac 1 is literally playing with half a team. And for all of that, no losing seasons. What is Cal’s excuse? What will UCLA’s excuse be when their brand positioning as a basketball school comes back and they fade into mid-conference mediocrity. Not this year, but deep in Bruin hearts they kind of know it’s coming. Even when they deny it.

I work in strategy. Positioning. In the country’s mind, USC is the only west coast football power and right now, they are clawing their way out of a dungeon.

Positioning. USC has a lifetime over .700 winning percentage.  32-16 record in bowls.  It hit me that in the decade INCLUDING OUR BOWL BAN we went to 7 BCS bowls, won 6 of them and 2 national titles.

The issue with there being a second power in the Pac 1 is that no one else has broken the glass ceiling.  Stanford has won a couple BCS games.  Oregon has won a couple, but lost the big one that would have made a point.  They are schools with losing bowl records.  It’s easy to see them falling into the middle again.  Or maybe not. There’s been nothing to prove either way.

Look.  It was really contested with Cal for a while and then it turned into 9 years or whatever of us beating them.  Stanford had us for a little bit.  So did WSU for a while.  They won this year.  Anyone think that’s going to be sustainable?

It’s always only ever been us and unlike every team in the conference who has made a run, or had a great era or even couple years of being the bad boys, we’ve done it in every decade to every team.  If any of these teams made a run against us, they have to go undefeated for a long, long time to even the gap.

Here’s our record against the rest of the Pac 1.

59-29-3 against Stanford.
38-19-2 against Oregon.
46-29-7 against UCLA.
66-30-5 against Cal.
51-28-4 against Washington.
57-8-4 against WSU.
59-11-4 against OSU.
29-8 against Arizona.
19-11 against ASU.

Hell, ASU is actually the closest thing to an on-field rival we have.  They could win 9 in a row and tie the series. That’s crazy.

And since there are likely USC haters reading this who will point out eras they perceived we were awful in, let me bring up one stat I’d love for you to compare to your own school:  USC has won a Rose Bowl in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.  We just recently became eligible to play for them again, but it’s worth mentioning we would have played Oregon in the 2011 Pac 12 Championship for a spot in a year where we had already beaten them on the road.

The point is, you wouldn’t bet your pink slip or even 100 dollars that USC is done winning Rose Bowls, National Titles, putting more players in the NFL than anyone else.  You wouldn’t just like I wouldn’t bet 100 dollars USC is making the Final Four any time soon (as much fun as that’d be with Dunk City).

Oregon has won 2 Rose Bowls.  We have won 4 in the last 10 years and we were banned from playing in them two of those years.  USC has had several 5-7 year runs across the history of the sport in which they have equalled the entire trophy cases of many of their “rivals.”

We’re the Yankees, coming with all that victory, baggage and hatred from the rest of the world and in this case, the NCAA itself.

And that brings us to Saturday.

Underdogs, a rare thing in a conference game, even during sanctions.  Playing shorthanded.  Getting calls like THIS made against you:



Literally, referees unable to read the chains.

And they take their punches in front of a full house of recruits and beat back another Pac 12 team’s chance at a National Title. There is really only one team in this conference that has consistently been able to win the big one and they came into the game unranked.

It made me think of how often USC gets called out for losing the big game. The OSU games. The awful Booty UCLA loss. It happens a lot because we are constantly in the big game. The gravity of USC potentially winning 11 games this season, with this few scholarship players, is so insane they should cue up the 30 for 30 crew. Alabama didn’t survive these sanctions. They had to rebuild.

No losing seasons.

We were named for an army that fought to the death and died. The idea of this school was remaining dangerous even when being beheaded. That’s what Saturday was. It was a reminder that even starved, caged and beaten to death, we can still land a kill shot.

I am so against us rushed the field. I shook my head as we did, but I was smiling because if there was ever a time to do it, it was then. Not because we beat Stanford. It wasn’t because of that. It wasn’t because we beat a highly ranked team.

It was a celebration because it guaranteed that we beat the NCAA. Make no mistake about it. They tried to kill us. Nothing would shown we were hurting like inviting ESPN to the game and having our asses handed to us by a deeper, bigger team that is laying claim to a conference they have no claim on. Wouldn’t have mattered that we never had a losing record during sanctions (what was WSU’s excuse?).  All that would have mattered was a triumphant 66-7 Stanford drubbing in front of the whole country.

But it was Hector’s day. Not Achilles. It was a hero maker day, not because beating Stanford meant so much, but because we told the country “wait til we’re at full strength.”

Everyone knows it now. It was a psychological victory for us, which is rare because we’re always psychologically winning. Hell, we’re myopic fundamentalists about winning. You can never shut a Trojan up with a loss because the Trojan mind (and history) will tell you your win, your five wins, were anomalies. We will win the lifetime series. When future generations get interested in football and Google the Pac 12, they will realize it’s the Pac 1 until someone strings together a couple epic decades and says otherwise.

I am against rushing the field, but to scream FUCK YOU to the NCAA on national television, the Bearfighter will allow it.


Here’s to a monday that feels the way it should.






Filed under USC Football

38 Responses to Stanford’s Deranged Tree Finally Falls.

  1. Juan

    One of your very best Zach. I think the fncaa sanctions, the kiffin era, the injuries, the pac-1(2) and larry scott and all of the crap that’s happened over the last several years came to a head on Saturday. The sense that finally, the Trojans turned the corner – against all odds – was the primary motivator (IMHO) for rushing the field. It was honest emotion on display.
    After all, we are all family – Trojan Family.

  2. HeliGeorge

    I have to say, I think if there was any time to rush the field it was this one. I think the last time was in ’99 when we beat UCLA for first time in 8yrs. That means this is the first time the fans have touched the turf in 14yrs. As you have aptly pointed out, we have done a lot of winning in those 14yrs, what I feel made this special is this was us shaking off that black cloud of unjust sanctions. We may be ultimately vindicated by the evidence (or lack thereof) but the NCAA, the PAC12 and USC cannot undo the last 4 years. We can only play through it, which we have done and will continue to do next year.

    13 warriors played defense against one of the best O-lines in college football and succeeded! Fight to the death is right and we are still here and still kicking. If we take a knock as fans for stepping on the green once every 14yrs, I’ll take it. #FTFO

    PS I was happy to observe the enthusiasm on field from the 25th row.

  3. Awesome again. I so look forward to your posts.

    Good god, Saturday felt good.

  4. SCRower

    I had the same thoughts when I watched the fans rush the field. We don’t do it because we’re supposed to win. However that game was every fan flipping the bird to the NCAA. That was every fan doing what Haden won’t do, and in front of a national audience! I’m so proud of those Trojan players for believing in themselves. #FTFO

  5. thekatman

    Not only the bad ref call about the 1st down, and “glasses ref” wasn’t even there, but the tackles and hits above the shoulders by the Stanford defense and no penalties… Oh yeah, the knock down of Alborado and no roughing the kicker….. It’s so great to have watched SC take the refs out of the game, as well as Stanford. Double duty…..

    Fight on.

  6. Brian Ward

    Great piece, as usual. Gotta disagree on the field rush. Your other commenter is, I believe, correct that the last field storm was 1999 when we snapped the UCLA streak. Before that, 1997, when we broke the ND streak. I was a yell leader in 99 for the last one. One of the best and purest moments of my Trojan life when 20,000 fans rushed past me to celebrate on the 50.

    Ever since then, we have been ‘myopic fundamentalists about winning’, but you have to admit, it started to feel a little stale. Constant success leaves a part of the emotional experience ignored; triumph. Triumph, not be confused with victory, is deeper and more satisfying than winning and is only possible because of adversity; something that winning does not breed. It’s saying Fuck you to NCAA, Stanford, haters, hell even fuck you to those uppity Bruins. T
    Triumph, by its nature, can only be experienced rarely. The fans had every right to participate in the triumph. After all, with all the winning that is likely to follow, it will be a long time before we get to experience triumph again. For most of those people, it will be the only one they ever get. Drink it in and Fight On! Now, show me you O face.

    • Marcelo

      I was at the 1999 UCLA game as a freshman. I do believe we rushed the field again in 2000 when we beat ND. And maybe again in 2001 vs. UCLA, that was the one where the cops started pepper spraying the students and Dr. Bartner wrote an editorial in the Daily Trojan slamming DPS for being such punks.

      My memory is fuzzy, but I know 1999 wasn’t the last time because of Bartner’s editorial, which was a year or two later.

    • Brianne

      The Notre Dame win was in 1996, my freshman year. You are right, the last rushing the field was 1999 against UCLA. They were indiscriminately pepper spraying the front of the student section, where the band used to play, and I got a bit of it. I also got some awesome photos.

  7. jon

    Speaking of refs, I think they blew the whistle on Stanford’s first touch down but then let it go on once Gaffney broke away. If you watch the replay, both line judges were running toward the center of the field. Don’t they only do that when the play is over?

  8. Drew Davidson

    I was there in ’97 for the domer game. Wish I had been there on Saturday. Proud of the team, the fans, and the middle finger we flipped all the haters.

  9. Mike

    Good read. I don’t have a dog in this fight (I’m a lowly SDSU Aztec; I do happen to know the guy your practice field is named after, though), but that makes me objective enough to say Trojan fans never seem to acknowledge the Tollner/Smith/Hackett/Robinson II years. Those were pretty dark days for you. And nobody was too happy until Uncle Pete showed up and the Trojans shot to Number 1. In fact, they weren’t happy with that hire at all until they started kicking ass.
    I don’t care about the cheating – we all know if you aren’t cheating at this level, you aren’t trying. But those USC flags all over Balboa Island were in mothballs for a good 20 years – USC couldn’t even beat Fresno State in the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim.
    Never forget! I’m just glad Haden finally realized what a lousy coach Kiffin was and like seeing Coach O rally the troops. I hope he gets to keep the job, but he better beat the Bruins!

    • admin

      People talk about that era, but most Pac 1 teams would have died to have won a rose bowl in each decade. Obscurity is Cal the last ten years.

    • Trojan Bandie01

      I was in the TMB during the Robinson II/Hackett years and was out of college by Pete’s 1st year. While we had some 6-6, 5-7, 7-5 seasons, the Trojans also:

      - won the rose bowl
      - ended ND 13 year streak
      - ended fucla’s 8 year streak
      - qualified for bowl games (tho a loss in the El Paso Bowl in ’98 sucked)
      - drafted handfuls of quality NFL players

      Those were the “dark” days of USC. Notice they aren’t 1-11, 0-12, 3-9 seasons. I’ll take those “dark” days over this season for Cal, Hawaii, etc. Trojans know how to rise out of the ashes; have done it before, will do it again, each and every since time its needed.

  10. Bill

    All I can say is… FIGHT ON!!!!

  11. cctop

    Hey Zach — I’m a Stanford fan who’s been following your blog for a couple of years.

    USC played a great game and deserved to win. As Harbaugh liked to say, they played with their hair on fire.

    A couple of disagreements with you:

    First, complaining about the refs is pedestrian. Every fanbase does it. And in this case, USC benefited from as many bad calls and non-calls as Stanford did.

    Instead I would be focusing on the positives. USC played only 13 guys on defense the entire game. That’s incredible. And Marquise Lee limping back onto the field to make the final catch was inspiring.

    Second, I have to disagree with the too-cool-for-school attitude about rushing the field. It’s not about expecting to win. It’s about shared celebration. It’s one of the beauties of the college game that keeps it from being as sterile as the NFL or NBA. I don’t know whether you have kids, but my own kids couldn’t care less who won the game. The sheer joy on their faces when they get to be on the field afterward changed my mind about it.

    Congratulations. I’m already looking forward to next year’s game.

    • admin

      Looking forward to next year’s game and your field rush, regardless of outcome haha.

      I get it, it’s “okay” to celebrate sometimes. But field rushing short of this situation is awful. I don’t know an educated Stanford fan that was thrilled when they rushed the field at home as favorites. It’s giving too much power to the enemy.

      • cctop

        Well, now you know one educated Stanford fan who was thrilled. :-)

        You feel rushing the field elevates your enemy. I’m saying it’s a celebration and it’s simply fun. My kids & I would be on the field after beating San Jose State if they let us.

        At the risk of opening a can of worms, it’s the same argument about Stanford’s “Greatest Upset Ever” T-shirts. Some dislike the shirts as glorifying USC while diminishing Stanford. Others, myself included, say the shirt is not about the other team. It memorializes a turning point — the moment a Stanford program that was being given last rites woke up from its coma.

        • admin

          I work in positioning. It constantly fails for brands. Saying a product is better than the leading product has never worked.

          Rushing the field when you are favored may be fun, but it is exactly why the safe marketing money is on Stanford falling in and out of mediocrity. It’s not a winning brand on the field. Academically, it could slip to be a top 40 school, but the name holds meaning and it could return quicker.

  12. No doubt USC has a rich history of success and will have plenty more in the future, don’t count out Oregon though until the Nike money runs dry. As far as the pink slip betting, wouldn’t bet against another bowl win but would bet on another NFL quarterback failure (sorry, had to).

    As far as the comments saying field rushing is lame… you haven’t seen lame field rushing unless you’ve been a part of a field rush as a result of the only win of the season. Those were some rough times in Boulder.

    • admin

      The QB comment is fair, but USC is just another acronym for NFL. The historical list at almost every position is incredible. And Boulder has a football team?

    • JP

      Never understood the QB “diss”… is it a poor reflection on SC for getting so many guys in the NFL? Not really the school’s issue if they don’t pan out. I mean when you’re backups make it thats pretty legit.

  13. Rick Brown

    Superb job of encapsulating the rich tradition & history of USC football against the vindictive sanctions levied against USC. You’re absolutely correct about the rationale of why USC fans rushed the field, it wasn’t about beating Stanford, it was about the beat down we (Trojan Family) all experienced from the NCAA and Kiffin’s inability to delegate and inspire the team.
    Let’s remember the NCAA spent 5 years investigating USC & came up with one incidence..70 miles from campus and then blamed the entire University for “lack of institutional control” ~ really? Pete Carrol had approximately 700 players come through the program & the NCAA found one “off campus” issue and decided to label USC a dirty/cheating program…What a pile of BS!
    Fast forward to last Saturday, the Trojan players are playing inspired football, Coach “O” has masterly allowed his coaching staff to make decisions & take responsibility for the kids they know best, Coach “O” is not only delegating, inspiring and leading the team but he has a great appreciation of the deep tradition of USC Football and tremendous following of Alumni & fans who have been starving for someone to field a Trojan team full of fight & heart. We saw that brand Saturday night which we have all grown to love & cherish…that’s why the emotions of everyone at the Coliseum exploded like shaking a soda can prior to opening the top!
    It just felt sooo good to walk away feeling proud of the effort displayed by the Trojans! FIGHT ON!

    • Tim Bearer

      Rick, my pledge bro while we were at SC during the Marcus Allen era, you are so right on with your comments! I have been to a couple hundred games at one of the greatest sporting venues in America (first Ram game saw Jim Brown on the field for the Browns in ’63), and there was something very definitively different in the air Saturday night, something so real and yet so inexplicable.

      Was it the same electricity that is experienced in some Irish visits? Yes, and yet more. Was it the intensity of the “on your guard all day” games with UCLA? Naw! We have one of those match-ups in LA every year. There is a different aura to those classic match-ups.

      There was PURPOSE to our appearance on Saturday on those hallowed grounds. We – fans and team collectively – WE came to play that game with more heart and soul than I have experienced ever in the Colosseum. It was deep seated in the gut of everyone in that stadium that has stood-up to the sanctions, and faced-off against anyone bashing one of the few absolutely outstanding programs and our tradition, all because of #5′s stupidity.

      WE knew that WE could collectively will OUR team to a victory, with deep seeded intensity and desire. You could sense that intensity in everyone in cardinal and gold in attendance, especially from the three “high-tening” middle-aged Trojan women that sat in the row behind me, and engaged me after every critical play. As THE FIELD GOAL passed through the uprights, I collapsed backwards with hands raised for their continual slaps, and as I turned, tears were streaming down two of their faces, and mine, as we all bellowed our euphoric responses form our parched and scratchy throats! The demons had – indeed – been exercised.

      My wife asked me Tuesday what I was going to do with the clump of grass that sits on my counter, near the sink in the bathroom. The clump I secured from the 37-yard line, the same spot where I encouraged those making mock snow-angles on video to do their thing as we performed our giddy dances on the field after the game. I will probably select a few of my favorite mountain-biking spots and scatter the blades of grass in those places so that every time I ride by I can release my Trojan spirit to that moment once again.

      Oh, it was a special time and place. One that anyone there will harken to many times in the future as we relate the classic moments of Trojan lore.

  14. Hozman

    That was a GREAT summation of the game AND USC. I’ve been a Trojan fan since OJ busted out that 63 yard “23 Blast” run to beat the bRuins in 1967.

    History shows there is only one CFB power west of the Mississippi and that is the USC Trojans! Fight On! Keep up the great writing!

  15. Hozman

    Left a reply earlier but it’s gone now. Did I fuck up somewhere along the subscribe line?

  16. Truly one of your best! Keep Fighting ON! You make all Trojans proud, looking forward to your post after we beat FUCLA this year.


  17. Balston

    By the numbers, UCLA is the closest thing to and on-field rival you have. Learn math. Someone who “work in strategy” (because that’s a job) should know that.

    • admin

      Not by the numbers. I’m sorry you aren’t happy with your win. We look forward to Mora success at U Dub

      • Balston

        By your numbers, Southern Cal has won 56% of its games against UCLA and 63% of its games against ASU. I guess you tried though.

        • admin

          It’s not a percentages game. My point that I made was ASU is the only school that could even the series in a decade. Regardless of your impressive math skills, it’ll take a long time for UCLA to even it up, which they won’t.

          • Balston

            OF COURSE that was your original point. That was made abundantly clear in the article. I’ll take current wins over wins in the 30s and 40s any day.

          • admin

            Current wins like 5 Rose Bowls in the last decade? Or current wins like winning the Pac 12 south unofficially 2 years ago? I am happy for you that you won. I guess UCLA is the dominant power in LA now. Debate over!

  18. Hozman

    Well fear not dear bRiun Balston! There is still hope that a collection taken from all the local delivery drivers, valets and chiropractors might just boost your football budget in range of possibly retaining Mora, (I know it’s a bit of a pipe dream). However, it’s a moot issue anyway because in 2-3 years, Sark and the Trojans will be beating the Sabans and Meyers of CFB with Fucla but a distant memory and just another late game on the schedule while waiting to go to a major Bowl game…
    It all adds up…
    So enjoy your win while the winning is good…

    • Balston

      Keep telling yourself that. Predictions about the Trojans always pan out. Remember that #1 2012 finish? Enjoy waiting “2-3 years” to finally have any hope of being pulled back from the grasp of mediocrity. It also looks like our valets boosted our budget, so get used to losing.

      Now get out of here and clean my house!

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