Big call by interim Coach Ed Orgeron. Big catch by hobbled Marqise Lee. Huge field goal by much-maligned USC kicker Andre Heidari.
All of that in the final seconds, before a sellout crowd of 93,607 at the Coliseum, equaled a 20-17 victory for USC over No. 4 Stanford on Saturday night.
The result broke a four-game Stanford winning streak against USC -- and made it just that much tougher for USC to to hire anyone other than Orgeron to be its next head coach.
Heidari, who missed an extra point in the first quarter in a continuation of a season-long struggle, drove a 47-yard field goal right through the center of the goal posts with 19 seconds left in the game.
The game-winning kick was set up by a leaping interception by freshman Su'a Cravens, which killed a Stanford drive deep in USC territory and gave USC the ball at its own 44-yard line with 3:02 to play.
USC quickly found itself in a fourth-and-two situation near midfield, and Orgeron decided to go for it. The Trojans converted on a 13-yard pass from Cody Kessler to Lee, who had limped to the sidelines only a couple of plays earlier.
A three-yard run by Javorius Allen and an 11-yard pass from Kessler to Nelson Agholor moved the ball to the Stanford 21. From there, the Trojans were content to run into the middle of the line and take time off the clock, setting up Heidari.
Orgeron was asked after the game about his decision to go for it on fourth down near midfield. "I felt that that was the time to do it," he said. "We did it and it was a great call and it worked.
"If we wouldn't have made it, [Stanford] could have gone down there and kicked a field goal and won the game. I totally understood that."
Heidari's kick kept USC in the hunt for a berth in the Pac-12 Conference title game. The Trojans are 8-3 overall, 5-2 in Pac-12 play. The Trojans trailed Arizona State by one game in the Pac-12 South entering play Saturday.
Stanford dropped to 8-2 overall, 6-2 in conference play, falling a game back of Oregon in the Pac-12 North.
Heidari downplayed his heroics after the game.
"It's a regular kick. It's the same kick every time," he said of the game-winner. "Three steps back, two steps over, line it up, hit a target pretty much. I did what I needed to do. I'm just thankful for my team that it put me in that position."
Kessler had a big game for USC, and he needed to because the Trojans netted only 23 yards rushing.
He completed 25 of 37 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He used eight different receivers. Nelson Agholor was the leader with eight catches for 104 yards. Lee had six catches for 83 yards.
Kevin Hogan completed 14 of 25 passes for 127 for Stanford, whcih got 158 yards and two touchdowns rushing by Tyler Gaffney.
However, the Cardinal made three turnovers and had a field-goal try blocked.
Here's a recap of the game:
With the score still 17-17, there's another unusual call by those daffy Pac-12 officials.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, under a heavy rush, heaves a ball in the direction of Ty Montgomery, who is literally shoved out of bounds by USC's Josh Shaw.
The pass, a wobbler, is intercepted by USC's Su'a Cravens. But there is a flag.
The call: Illegal touching on Montgomery -- the guy who got pretty much thrown out of bounds.
USC has the ball at its own 44 with 3:02 in regulation.
Stanford has a 211-29 edge in rushing yardage, but its advantage overall is just 335-284.
More tough Stanford defense after a nice USC gain on a pass from Cody Kessler to tight end Xavier Grimble.
USC punts and Stanford takes over at its own 32 with 3:47 left in regulation.
USC's defense holds again as Tyler Gaffney is stuffed for a short gain on a third-and-five run.
After that last Kevin Hogan pass, Coach David Shaw decided against passing deep in Stanford territory.
USC's ball at Trojans' 26 with 5:53 left in regulation.
USC moves the ball to the Stanford 39 before the drive stalls.
Sellout crowd at Coliseum is watching a good one.
Stanford ball at Cardinal 20 with a little more than seven minutes to play in regulation.
Stanford had moved to the USC 10 and Kevin Hogan was looking good.
Until he threw a pass right to USC safety Dion Bailey at the seven-yard line.
Bailey returned the ball to USC's 34.
A huge turn of events for the Trojans.
Pac-12 officials strike again.
USC's Kris Albarado is dumped after getting off a punt and there is no flag.
Stanford takes over at its own 15.
The third quarter has ended at the Coliseum, right after Tre Madden doubled USC's rushing total with an eight-yard run.
That's right. USC has a net of 16 yards rushing.
USC's Cody Kessler has completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards.
USC safety Dion Bailey got beat by Ty Montgomery on a long third-down play, but Kevin Hogan's pass was too long.
After a punt, USC has the ball at its own 35 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
USC's defense comes up with a big play to negate the turnover.
A 30-yard field goal try by Conrad Ukropina was batted down in the center of the USC line.
It looked like Chad Wheeler, a 6-foot-7 offensive tackle, got the swat.
As sharp as Cody Kessler looked in the first half for USC, he looks confused and unsettled in the third quarter.
He's thrown several passes away on the Trojans' first two possessions of the second half, and he was just sacked and lost a fumble at USC's own 19.
USC 17, Stanford 17 (8:22 left in third quarter)
Stanford didn't just put together a scoring drive so much as a clinic in offense.
Ten plays, 92 yards: five yards on a run, 16 on a pass, 22 on a run, six on a pass, 10 on a run, four on a run, 19 on a pass. That was followed by an incomplete pass and a two-yard run, setting up third-and-eight.
The play: a handoff to Taylor Gaffney, who bolted right up the middle of the USC defense for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Gaffney has a 129 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries.
USC drive stalls after a 27-yard gain on a pass from Cody Kessler to Marqise Lee on the first play from scrimmage of the second half.
Stanford takes over at its own eight, and the Cardinal has an opportunity to take the wind out of USC's sails by sustaining a drive.
Take away a 35-yard gain by Tyler Gaffney on a play in which he appeared to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and Stanford might not have a touchdown in the first half against USC.
Instead, with no whistle, Gaffney broke free for a first-quarter touchdown.
Without that play, Stanford would have 113 total yards. The Cardinal would have 66 yards in 18 carries.
Of course, those are a couple of big withouts.
Gaffney, a workhorse, has 80 yards in 12 carries.
USC has a net rushing total of only 23 yards in 13 carries. Javorius Allen has 24 yards and a touchdown in eight carries.
The first-half star for the Trojans has been quarterback Cody Kessler, who has completed 12 of 14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan has completed six of 10 passes for 47 yards.
It will be interesting to see if Stanford can wear down USC in the second half.
Leonard Williams, a key cog in USC's defensive line, has been nursing a shoulder injury and hasn't practiced much.
USC 17, Stanford 10 (17 seconds left in second quarter)
A 27-yard field goal by Conrad Ukropina has pulled the Cardinal within a touchdown.
The Cardinal covered 49 yards in 10 plays.
The USC offense went three-and-out for the first time and Stanford takes over at its own 41 with 5:12 left in the half.
USC holds again.
On a third-and-two run, Tyler Gaffney gains one.
After punt, USC takes over at own 24 with 7:01 to play in the half.
USC 17, Stanford 7 (9:05 left in second quarter)
Andre Heidari split the uprights on a field goal from 23 yards. This after missing an extra point early in the game.
Key plays on USC's drive: a 41-yard gain after a short pass from Cody Kessler to Javorius Allen and a 26-yard pass from Kessler to Nelson Agholor, who made a leaping catch.
USC's defense holds.
Trojans take over at their own 21 with 12:16 left in the second quarter.
Through one quarter at the Coliseum, USC leads Stanford, 14-7.
The Trojans have more total yards, 109-93, and Stanford has more penalty yards, 45-15.
USC 14, Stanford 7 (2:34 left in first quarter)
Jarvorius Allen had four yards in his first five carries. His next went for 16 yards down to the one. On the next, he scored from the one.
USC's offense looks as good as it has in ... a long time. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton is mixing up the plays and the Trojans are executing.
Quarterback Cody Kessler looks sharp. He has completed eight of nine passes for 85 yards. And that doesn't count the pass he threw that found Marqise Lee in the corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion.
Stanford 7, USC 6 (6:46 left in first quarter)
Lesson to the USC defense: Don't let up until you hear a whistle.
The Trojans had Tyler Gaffney stuffed at the line of scrimmage, but let him loose and Gaffney scrambled away for a 35-yard touchdown run.
Extra point is good, and that's the difference.
USC 6, Stanford 0 (8:47 left in first quarter)
Good news and bad news early on for USC.
Mostly good news.
The Trojans can suddenly convert on third downs, and did twice on their first-possession scoring drive.
Second, quarterback Cody Kessler, who hit fullback Soma Vainuku in the numbers with a one-yard pass for the touchdown, looks increasingly confident.
He made a couple of very nice passes on a 63-yard drive -- one to Nelson Agholor, and the other to Marqise Lee, who made a nice catch and toe dance along the sideline.
Struggling Andre Heidari continues to struggle, though.
He missed the extra point wide left. That's trouble in a close game.
Two runs into the center of the line earn Stanford four tough yards.
Next is a pass that is picked off by USC's Josh Shaw, but officials have blown the play dead, saying Stanford called timeout before the snap.
Stanford is then called for illegal procedure, setting up third-and-11. But before that play is run, Stanford has to take another timeout.
The Cardinal look disconbobulated.
Then comes a bomb from Kevin Hogan to Ty Montgomery, who runs right by Shaw down the left sideline. The pass is right on the money, but Montgomery can't make the catch.
USC from its on 37 after a punt.
We're underway at the Coliseum, and Stanford starts from its own 22.
About an hour before kickoff here at the Coliseum, which is sold out for the first time this season.
It's been cloudy most of the afternoon and there is a 20% chance of rain during the evening, according to forecasts.
ESPN's "College GameDay" show originated from USC's campus this morning, which added another element to the school's homecoming festivities.
USC is 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12 Conference after last week's easy victory at California.
The Trojans will be without tailback Silas Redd (knee) and defensive end Leonard Williams could be limited because of a shoulder injury he has nursed all season. Receiver Marqise Lee has said that his left knee is sound, so it will be interesting to see if coaches turn him loose after limiting him at Cal.
USC has not defeated Stanford at the Coliseum since 2005.
The Cardinal is 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12 after defeating Oregon, 26-20, on Nov. 7.