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It could come down to kicks again when Stanford visits USC

LOS ANGELES -- The USC/Stanford rivalry, featuring two proud and private West Coast universities, has been a gridiron war on numerous occasions. In fact, in the last two meeting between these two contentious adversaries, the battle has been decided on a Trojans field goal late in the final quarter.

While attention is understandably being focused on the two opposing quarterbacks, the Trojans Heisman Trophy candidate Cody Kessler and Stanford's veteran Kevin Hogan, if recent history has anything to do about it, it could come down to yet another chapter of a late, game-winning field goal.

Trojans history has had its fair share of game-winning field goals over the Cardinal, or have you forgotten the Sam Tsagalakis 38-yard field goal in 1953 to beat Stanford, 23-20, with 0:14 remaining, or the 34-yard dagger in 1969 by Ron Ayala to crush the Cardinal, then known as the Indians, 26-24, with no time remaining?

And surly you remember Andre Heidari's career-high 53-yarder last season with 2:30 remaining to upend the boys from Palo Alto, 13-10. It was the second season in a row that a Heidari field goal was a game-winner in the fourth quarter.

Of course, Stanford can answer back with a killer field goal winner in 2010, or have you some momentary cardinal and gold amnesia when it comes to that 30-yarder by Nate Whitaker at the gun that downed the Trojans, 37-35. To add insult to injury, the Trojans had lost the previous week to Washington on a game-ending field goal with no time remaining.

So, you'd better check each team's roster Saturday because it could come down to a guy named Alex Wood or another named Conrad Ukropina, both former walk-on kickers for the Trojans and Cardinal, respectively.

Wood, a junior, is the Trojans placekicker from Mercer Island (Wash.) High, who was discovered in the Great Northwest by a former USC football player in a local youth religious camp while Stanford's Conrad Ukropina, a senior from Pasadena, California, is a former kicker from Los Angeles Loyola High where he was a three-time special teams MVP.

Receiving a scholarship during training camp this season, the inexperienced Wood, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, has attempted just one field goal this season, a 24-yard boot last Saturday that was good in contributing to the Trojans 59-9 demolition of the Idaho Vandals.

Last season, however, Wood never even attempted a field goal while being just a kickoff performer.

As for the Cardinal's Ukropina, who took over for the graduated Jordan Williamson, he is nearly as inexperienced as Wood, having played in just one game in 2014, converting an extra point against UC Davis.

This season, Ukropina is 3-of-3 in the field goal department with a 52-yarder last week against Central Florida. After Stanford's 31-7 win over Central Florida last Saturday, Ukropina, 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, was finally awarded a scholarship in the locker room during the post-victory celebration.

With neither field goal kicker having played in such a high stakes game as what this weekend will provide, it's anybody's guess which one will rise above the pressure in front of a potential Coliseum sellout and television audience.

One thing, however, is for sure. Both Wood and Ukropina will be trying to placekick their team to victory, and the one that can handle the pressure best will probably boot his name into the gridiron history of this unique rivalry.