Two months ago, no one could have envisioned the scene.
Fans rushing the field, players smiling, coaches crying and USC enveloped in the emotion of an upset against No. 4 Stanford.
No, two months ago, this Trojan team was in shambles. There was a disconnect between coaches and players and ultimately, a change was needed and coach Lane Kiffin was shown the door.
Since then, USC has been resuscitated and all of a sudden it’s playing like it’s 2008 – the last time the Trojans defeated the Cardinal. Andre Hedari hit a 47-yard field goal with 25 seconds left to give the Trojans a 20-17 win.
And in the middle of all the chaos, grabbing the coveted band leader's sword and climbing the ladder to lead the USC band – as is tradition after home wins – was Ed Orgeron. A man who had a miserable head coaching experience at Ole Miss, but has somehow connected with USC players like no one has since Pete Carroll, and has turned what started out as a miserable season into one that could actually mean something in the annals of USC lore.
The win makes USC 5-2 and tied for second in the Pac-12 South Division with cross-town rival UCLA. But the Trojans are two games back of division leader Arizona State.
But even if USC doesn’t end up in a BCS bowl or the Pac-12 title game, it’s done enough to make itself attractive for a major bowl – a bowl the team actually wants to play in. What’s more, the Trojans ruined Stanford’s BCS bowl streak and national championship hopes. The Cardinal had gone to three consecutive BCS bowls, but will likely fall out of contention with their second loss.
And with games against Colorado and UCLA remaining, the Trojans could finish the regular season with 10 wins. No one would have ever figured that as they were getting pummeled 62-41 by Arizona State in the fifth game of the year.
While Orgeron deserves a ton of credit for USC’s success, so does athletic director Pat Haden. It was Haden’s decision to pull the plug on the Lane Kiffin Era after five miserable weeks and try to salvage what was left. The job Orgeron has done with this team can’t be understated, though. Whether he should be USC’s full-time head coach is debatable, but there’s no doubt he has earned his spot on the next coaching staff.
Above all, he's brought winning, confident football back to USC.
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