It was a feeling many Stanford football players had never experienced, and it didn't sit well Saturday. The 13th-ranked Cardinal lost on its home turf for the first time since 2011, snapping its nation-best 17-game streak after a frustrating 13-10 defeat to No. 14 USC.
Stanford had many chances to put the Trojans away, but couldn't finish the job.
"We can play so much better than we played," said senior running back Remound Wright, who ran for a team-high 60 yards on 11 carries. "In between the 20's, we moved the ball pretty easily, but we just couldn't capitalize over and over. It leaves a sick feeling in your stomach."
Inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley, a fifth-senior, agreed.
"We've got to take it for what it is," he said. "I thought defensively, we played well. We have some mistakes to clean up. I'm sure our offense will come back . . . We were out there fighting and that's what you want to see out of guys."
Both Wright and Tarpley are confident the team has the character and leadership to bounce back, starting this Saturday against visiting Army at 2 p.m.
"All we're trying to do is get that win streak back going," said Tarpley. "We have a lot of season left. We have the guys we need in this locker room."
Added Wright, "All our goals are still attainable. We just have to win one week at a time. Our mentality is not going to change, but our execution has got to change. We should remember our pain. I think if we play our best, that final score ends up differently today."
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Senior fullback Patrick Skov scored his first career touchdown in the second quarter on a 2-yard run.
"I just do my part, do my thing," Skov said. "Individual stuff doesn't really matter. All that matters at the end of the day is what the score is, and unfortunately, we didn't do enough to end up on top."
Skov, whose older brother Shayne starred for the Cardinal and is now a member of the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad, said the team has no time to feel sorry for itself.
"It's part of the road," he said. "We have to learn from it and move on. We still have our goals ahead of us."
The offense moved the ball well, amassing 413 yards, but scored only two of five times inside the red zone.
"At the end of the day, it's about what we do and our execution," said Skov. "We didn't do enough to get the job done, but we know we have what it takes. We just have to put it all together and we'll be fine."
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Junior center Graham Shuler gave USC credit, but knows the Cardinal made too many mistakes and squandered too many scoring opportunities.
"USC came out and played a helluva game," he said. "They made more plays than us and played a better game.
"Our seniors, those guys that came before us, laid so much groundwork -- we trained and did so much -- for us to come up short, it really hurts. But it's gotta be fuel; it's got to move us on to next week. The only remedy we have for this is putting our nose to the grindstone and coming and battling as hard we can. We left a lot of points out on that field today."
On Stanford's last offensive play, quarterback Kevin Hogan was sacked and fumbled after a blindside hit by outside linebacker J.R. Taval. The Trojans recovered on their own 26 with 19 seconds left, crushing the Cardinal comeback hopes.
"We'll have to see it on film," said Shuler. "We were trying to hurry up and get a play off. Sometimes if everybody isn't on the same page, you're going to get exposed. That's something we can't have. We'll see it on film and get it fixed."
With four new starters on the offensive line, players are still learning and getting trying to get comfortable in the heat of the battle.
"We have a lot to learn and a lot to get fixed," Shuler said. "We're going to be in relentless pursuit of getting that fixed.
"You can't stop drives on your own and you can't beat yourself, and that's what we did over and over again. But USC was flying around the ball and made more plays."
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Senior wide receiver Ty Montgomery had another big day and contributed 189 all-purpose yards. He caught a team-high nine passes for 83 yards, and added 69 yards in kickoff returns and a 44-yard punt return.
"I think we have one of the best players in college football," Stanford head coach David Shaw said.
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Senior strong safety Jordan Richards made a team-high 10 tackles, eight unassisted . . . Sophomore outside linebacker Peter Kalambayi recorded his first career sack in the second quarter . . . Junior offensive tackle Andrus Peat missed some first-half playing time due to a bloody nose . . . Tarpley made his 34th career start, which was also his 26th straight . . . Stanford finished with a time of possession advantage of 33:47-26:13 . . . Ten NFL teams had scouts in the press box . . . Also in attendance was Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott . . . Stanford was in the national news twice last week as former QB Andrew Luck graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, which included a feature story on the Stanford-USC football series.