Cody Kessler passed for 288 yards as the revitalized Trojans (8-3, 5-2 Pac-12) earned their fifth win in six games under the irrepressible Orgeron, who replaced the fired Lane Kiffin in late September. Orgeron immediately returned fun to a dour program — and wins have followed, none bigger than this streak-snapping win over powerful Stanford.
"In our tight-knit family, there was a belief that we were going to find a way to win the game," Orgeron said. "I'm proud of our young men. This is something that they've wanted for a long time now."
USC's remarkable defensive performance included two fourth-quarter interceptions and a season-low 17 points from the Cardinal (8-2, 6-2), who followed up last week's win over Oregon by getting knocked out of the BCS title chase and maybe the Rose Bowl race as well.
Heidari nearly lost his job twice this season, and he missed an extra point in the first quarter. But the junior coolly nailed the tiebreaking field goal — and then got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for running the length of the field to celebrate it.
"They all said, 'We know you got this. You do it every day in practice,"' Heidari said of his teammates. "They believed in me."
Moments later, thousands of USC fans flooded the field. Stanford had won in its last three trips to the Coliseum, including a triple-overtime thriller two years ago, and its last four meetings with USC overall.
Soma Vainuku caught an early TD pass and Javorius Allen rushed for a score for USC, which played 38 straight scoreless minutes until Heidari's kick. Nelson Agholor had eight catches for 104 yards, while Marqise Lee had six catches for 83 yards — and both receivers made big plays on USC's final drive.
"I don't know if I pulled them together," Orgeron said. "I think they just came together. The leadership of this program is really coming to the forefront."
Tyler Gaffney rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns for Stanford, which had won three straight while closing in on the chance to host the Pac-12 title game for the second straight year. Kevin Hogan went 14 of 25 for 127 yards, but the Cardinal couldn't regain the lead after trailing 17-10 at half, despite repeatedly getting close.
"I think this is the first time anyone on this team has lost to them," Gaffney said. "It's a tough thing to swallow."
Stanford tied it with Gaffney's 18-yard TD run on the first drive of the third quarter, but couldn't score on six drives in the final 23 minutes, managing just 88 yards — 75 on a single drive ending in Dion Bailey's interception.
USC's offense also struggled throughout the second half, but the Trojans' sanctions-depleted defense kept it close despite using just two substitutes for most of the night.
"They're a good team, and they got healthy at the wrong time for us," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "In the second half, we did a heck of a job defensively. We just didn't make enough plays on offensively. That's not going to win on the road in this conference."