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Five things we learned in USC's loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game

Breaking down USC's 41-22 defeat by Stanford with Bill Plaschke, Chris Dufresne, Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry.

Stanford defeated USC, 41-22, in the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Here are five things we learned in the Trojans' defeat.

Nobody can stop Christian McCaffrey

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USC had no answer for Stanford's all-everything Christian McCaffrey.

McCaffrey tore through the Trojans' defense when he rushed for 207 yards and a touchdown in 32 carries, caught four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown and completed an 11-yard pass to quarterback Kevin Hogan for a touchdown.

After the game, several USC players, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Davis, and Adoree' Jackson, said McCaffrey was among the most talented players they've ever faced.

Slow first half strikes again

USC was on an emotional high in the days leading to the game, but was plagued by another slow start.

In the first quarter, USC had only 17 yards of total offense.

At the end of the first half, Cody Kessler completed seven of 14 passes for 31 yards and Justin Davis rushed for 22 yards and Ronald Jones II rushed for 19 yards.

The Trojans were just one of six on third down.

Davis perhaps said it best: "Being a second-half team is our weakness."

Turnover margin costly

USC came out inspired and took the lead, 16-13, in the second half after Jones rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown.

But a turnover cost USC momentum and possibly the game.

On third and 11 in the third quarter, protection around Kessler broke down and he fumbled as he was sacked, Stanford's Solomon Thomas scooped the ball and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, which gave Stanford a 27-16 lead.

It was USC's only turnover of the game, but Stanford didn't lose the ball once.

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Young linebackers make plays

Freshman linebacker Porter Gustin was a prized recruit in the 2015 class and he showed Saturday why his future is bright.

Stanford faced fourth and goal on USC's one-yard line and Gustin sacked Hogan for a loss of five yards.

Gustin made three tackles.

Sophomore Olajuwon Tucker made his second start at inside linebacker. Tucker led all players with 13 tackles.

No quit

The Trojans lost four regular-season games, their head coach was fired, they played under an interim coach who eventually was named the new head coach and they made it to the Pac-12 championship game.

Talk about perseverance.

Some might say there's no such thing as moral victories, but if ever there is, the Trojans are deserving of one.

After enduring several seasons of turmoil, this team shows no quit.

Questions or comments about USC? Email me at LNThiry@gmail.com or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag

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