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Stanford 32, USC 30
Associated Press


STANFORD, Calif. -- Chris Lewis and Jamien McCullum both saw their final, beautiful touchdown pass unfold in slow-motion.

The USC Trojans will be seeing it in slow-motion, too -- for a very long time to come.

On the kind of play every kid has made a million times in the back yard, Lewis threw a 20-yard scoring pass to McCullum as time expired, giving Stanford a 32-30 victory over Southern California on Saturday.

"I broke, and the ball was right there," McCullum said, grinning at the mental replay. "It was in a perfect spot. I felt like it was in slow-motion almost. I had no idea where I was."

For the second time this season, backup quarterback Lewis showed an astonishing flair for the dramatic -- and he handed a crushing loss to a Southern Cal team that was just 4 seconds from salvaging part of its disappointing season.

Lewis only entered the game with 55 seconds to play when Randy Fasani re-injured his knee while scrambling on Stanford's deciding 50-yard drive. The redshirt freshman gave the Cardinal an improbable come-from-behind victory -- just as he did five weeks ago in Stanford's 27-24 win over then-No. 5 Texas.

"I guess I'm the No. 1 reliever," Lewis laughed. "I think I'll go pitch for the Mets or something."

Lewis moved Stanford (3-4, 2-2 Pac-10) to the Trojans 10 with a scramble and a short pass, but threw three incompletions into tight coverage. With 4 seconds left, the Cardinal were hit with two penalties that moved the ball back to the 20.

On fourth down, Lewis evaded a strong pass rush and lofted a perfect pass to McCullum, who was unguarded in the right corner of the end zone. He planted his foot about 6 inches before the sideline, then stood awkwardly in the corner of the end zone, almost in disbelief.

"I knew DeRonnie (Pitts, who caught 13 passes) would get double coverage," Lewis said. "I threw it and it was like slow-motion. I was telling it, 'Come down! Come down!' And when it did, I lost it."

The Stanford bench charged across the field and buried McCullum under a pile of scarlet jerseys. The jubilant home crowd then briefly quieted as the officials gathered in the end zone, but the result was only an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the celebration.

It was a gut-wrenching loss for USC (3-4, 0-4), which scored 22 straight points in the second half and appeared headed to a convincing victory. Instead, Southern Cal lost its first four conference games for the first time in school history.

"There's nothing I can tell them after this," said USC coach Paul Hackett, whose tenuous job security didn't improve with the Trojans' fourth straight defeat. "They gave everything they had. It just wasn't good enough today. It's too painful."

Lewis beat the Longhorns with a last-minute TD pass to Pitts, but he went 0-3 as a starter while Fasani recovered from cartilage damage to his knee.

Fasani (18-of-36, 196 yards, two second-half interceptions) had a frustrating day, but he led the Cardinal to 1 late scoring drives -- and Lewis did the rest. Afterward, Fasani said the injury wasn't as serious as it felt.

"My knee just gave out on me," Fasani said. "It feels good now, but it was weak and tired. At first I was scared and thought I tore another ligament, but now I know I didn't re-injure it significantly."

When Fasani went down, the Trojans made a critical tactical error. Fearing Lewis' mobility, they abandoned the heavy blitzes that destroyed Fasani's rhythm all afternoon and sat back in a zone defense.

"We wanted him to stay back and make (Lewis) make the decisions," Hackett said. "He didn't do it on five plays. On the sixth play, he did. If I had to do it again, I'd probably (blitz) him."

Overshadowed by the last-minute heroics was Kerry Carter, who tied a Stanford record by rushing for four touchdowns. Pitts' 13 catches for 176 yards were a career-high.

In a meeting of once-promising teams with three-game losing streaks and fading postseason hopes, the Trojans had a clearly superior offense that amassed 420 total yards after a slow start and pounded Stanford's defense throughout the second half.

Sultan McCullough rushed for 130 yards and Carson Palmer was 15-of-30 for 190 yards. Petros Papadakis rushed for two TDs, and McCullough and Palmer also had rushing scores.

"Things haven't gone our way for a few weeks now," Papadakis said. "I can't tell you how frustrating it is. It feels like someone is ripping your heart out."

Stanford jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first half, but USC's relentless blitzing of Fasani ground the Cardinal's offense to a halt.

A 69-yard run by backup tailback Malaefou MacKenzie set up John Wall's 22-yard field goal with 12:08 left, and another long run by McCullough put Palmer in position for a 1-yard TD keeper with 8:16 to play that put USC up 30-20 -- and appeared to put the game away.

But Stanford came back with a 78-yard drive capped by Carter's 20-yard TD run, and after Southern Cal punted, Stanford the got the ball at the 50 with 3:42 to play.

"I thought there was no way they'd go the length of the field and get a touchdown," Hackett said. "Sure enough, they did."

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 Stanford's Randy Fasani scrambles to find Derronnie Pitts for a 4th-down conversion, setting up a Cardinal TD.
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 Kerry Carter shakes off a few tacklers and goes 4 yards for the Stanford TD.
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