Our series of the top 10 moments of the 2011 USC football season continues, concluding Friday with No. 1. Catch up on moments Nos. 3-10 here, including more than one Robert Woods touchdown catch and an especially courageous fourth-down call from Lane Kiffin.
Here is moment No. 2: Nickell Robey's pick-six off Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter against Stanford.
With the game tied 27-27 at the Coliseum in October, the Trojans gave up the ball to Stanford with just short of four minutes to play after going three-and-out on their own attempt to seal the game.
It looked like it'd be Luck's game to lose. And he almost did lose it.
Luck stepped back on 3rd-and-3 from his 23-yard line and, after a five-step drop, aimed over to his right where Chris Owusu was running a quick curl route intended to produce a first down. But Robey had it eyed the whole way. And Luck never once looked left in attempt to get Robey off his man.
Instead, he threw the ball right where it was supposed to go for a perfect completion into Owusu's hands. The problem was that Robey was a couple feet in front of him by the time the pass got there. The 5-8 corner corralled the pass at the 33-yard line and took off running for the end zone. Right tackle Tyler Mabry was the only Cardinal who had a shot at tackling him, but even he was a good five yards off his pace.
There's a good chance Robey ran the 40 yards from when he started sprinting to catch the ball to when he slowed down in the end zone faster than he's ever run the same distance before. In watching the tape, he literally gallops toward a touchdown, propelling his entire body with gigantic arm kicks and moving his legs higher and higher for longer strides as he got closer and closer.
Suffice it to say, the 19-year-old wanted badly to score -- and rightfully so. The touchdown gave USC a 34-27 lead, which, at the time, looked like it might hold up for the rest of the game. Of course, Luck being Luck, he came right back after the pick and led Stanford to a game-tying touchdown drive. The Cardinal ended up winning in a third overtime on a fluke fumble from Curtis McNeal.
This was, on the basis of the moment itself and the immediate aftermath, undoubtedly the No. 1 moment of the 2011 season. It had every possible element of excitement all wrapped into it. Of course, the fact that the Trojans lost the game pushes it down a notch -- but it can't push it down too far.
And the celebration doesn't hurt either. Right after,Robey ran all the way to the other side of the Coliseum and gave fans in the student section high-fives as he ran by.
Check back tomorrow for our No. 1 moment.