Lopsided loss to No. 6 USC gives young Stanford Cardinal something to shoot for

“We’re still learning about our team. Who we are … hasn’t been defined. It’s one day,” says head coach Troy Taylor

While Stanford’s season-opening victory over Hawai’i demonstrated what the Cardinal could become under new coach Troy Taylor, a 56-10 loss to No. 6 USC on Saturday night demonstrated how far the Cardinal still has to go, at least if it wants to compete with the best teams in the country.

The Trojans (3-0) led 49-3 at halftime and cruised to the third-largest blowout in the series’ 118-year history, having played 102 times. Stanford was defeated 49-0 in 1977 and 54-7 in 1952 by USC.

“We’re still learning about our team,” Taylor admitted. “What I do know is that they will compete, that they will not give up, and that they will continue to improve.” And we’ll follow suit with the coaching staff. We don’t know who we are yet because the season is new. It’s only one day. We’re obviously not at their level right now. But we’ll aim to be there, and we’ll keep working on it.”

The Cardinal (1-1) will have a chance to quickly rebound. Next up is a home game against Sacramento State, where Taylor was the head coach for four seasons before being hired by Stanford in December to replace David Shaw.

Stanford dominated the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in every phase. Six of USC’s seven first-half possessions ended in touchdowns, special teams allowed a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, and the offense committed three turnovers and was held to three points until the final four minutes.

Caleb Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, played only the first half but still accounted for 281 passing yards and four touchdowns, including a 21-yard run. He made 19 of 22 passes.

During the first half, the points came so fast that Keely Eure, a USC in-house reporter, wrote on X that Traveler, the team’s live mascot, didn’t come out on the field to celebrate one score “because the horse was too tired.”

Taylor stated that the margin of defeat will have no bearing on how the team prepares for the rest of the season.

“They’re rivals, and these guys work extremely hard.” “They’re not going to tank for one game,” Taylor said. “It’s disappointing — and they should be — and they’ll lick our wounds, and we’ll wake up tomorrow and get ready for the next week.” We’re still early in the season and have a young team. We were well aware of this. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be an excellent team. So we’ll keep working, and I can assure you that those guys will not be put in the tank. They’ll be prepared.”

Stanford did not make any players available for comment following the game.

The quarterback room is one aspect of the USC game that could have a long-term impact. When he was hit from the side while throwing, starter Ashton Daniels appeared to suffer a right arm injury early in the second quarter. Although Syracuse transfer Justin Lamson finished the game, Taylor stated that Daniels’ injury was not serious.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Taylor said. “He just got a little banged up.” It was just an opportunity to give Justin a chance to play. Justin is a fantastic player. He’s worked extremely hard and had a fantastic camp.”

Lamson ran 16 times for 36 yards and completed 8 of 18 passes for 121 yards. He was sacked once and fumbled once.

Stanford and USC have opened the Pac-12 conference schedule in recent years by playing in Week 2, giving both teams an early measuring stick. After losing to the Cardinal in their previous meeting in Los Angeles in 2021, USC fired coach Clay Helton. Last Saturday, however, demonstrated how quickly the Trojans have recovered under coach Lincoln Riley, as well as how far Stanford has fallen.

Both teams will leave for new conferences in 2024, making it unclear when they will play again.

“It’s two incredible institutions that have played football for a really long time,” Taylor explained. “Both have illustrious histories. It’s been an enjoyable rivalry. Both sides have been challenged, in my opinion. However, it is what it is. Maybe we’ll play them again someday.”

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