Cardinal pulls out victory in tremendous triple-overtime game

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Stanford 56, USC 48, in triple overtime: Best football game in the Pac-10/12 with implications since … when?

Perhaps it’s Oregon’s near-death-experience, double-overtime victory at Arizona, 44-41, two years ago, setting up a memorable, winner-to-the-Rose Bowl joust with Oregon State in the next game. Oregon won that one 37-33.

Or, for longevity, maybe it goes back to USC’s triple-overtime loss to California, 34-31, in 2003.

What We Learned

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Stanford has some moxie as well as big guys. The Cardinal was tested by a double-digit, third-quarter deficit, by some flawed moments from Andrew Luck, and by a full house at the Coliseum. And it didn’t flinch.

With Stanford trailing 20-10, wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, “the entire Coliseum was burning with the sort of passion not felt around here since Pete Carroll walked these sidelines. Players danced, fans swayed, the aging rafters shook, it was yesterday once more.”

The Trojans’ clock management at the end of regulation might have cost them the upset. At the Stanford 40 with nine seconds and a timeout left, they ran a screen pass at the right hash mark to Robert Woods. By the time he could catch it and motor maybe 35 yards to the left sideline, time had run out, depriving USC of a long field goal attempt even as coach Lane Kiffin bitterly contended his team should have had a second left.

It helps to have a stud in the backfield. On a night when Washington was vulnerable against Arizona, the Huskies were able to turn to Chris Polk, who continued toward a record-setting 2011 bender with five touchdowns in a 42-31 victory. Meanwhile, Utah’s John White, 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds but a punishing runner, pounded out 205 yards as the Utes, 27-8 winners over Oregon State, did what Washington State couldn’t last week — hurt the banged-up Beavers on the ground.

Kyle Whittingham, the Utah coach, won’t endear himself to the OSU coaches with this observation: “I’m surprised Oregon State didn’t load the box. They stayed in base stuff they’ve been playing all season long.”

Oregon was vulnerable Saturday. With a little more ground capability, or perhaps having its starting quarterback, and maybe Washington State’s effort gets rewarded in a shocking upset. As it was, WSU wasn’t vastly outquicked by the quickest team around in a 43-28 defeat.

Cal is our Enigma of the Week. Just when the Bears (4-4, 1-4) appeared to have things figured out, they don’t, losing to an embattled UCLA team that was down several receivers suspended for the brawl Oct. 20 in Tucson.

That might have led the Bears to guess UCLA would have to feature the run, but maybe not. Kevin Prince, the oft-injured Bruins quarterback, amassed 163 yards on the ground.

“I told him, ‘You cannot run not to get hurt tonight,’ ” UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told reporters. “I told him I wanted 100 yards and I would be on his tail if he didn’t get his shoulder pads down and go.”

John Crumpacker in the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that it was “one of the most mortifying and mystifying games of the Jeff Tedford era … that called into question the Bears’ resolve and preparation.”

The Bruins (4-4) control their destiny — I can’t believe I’m writing this — in the Pac-12 South, and they’re two victories from bowl eligibility.

This Week

The headliner is Oregon at Washington, with all sorts of auxiliary subplots, while UCLA plays host to Arizona State in a game in which the winner has the edge — temporarily, at least — for the Pac-12 South berth in the league-title game.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or

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