How Uchenna Nwosu’s tackle sent USC to the Cotton Bowl
By Joey Kaufman
DALLAS — More than three weeks have passed since the stop, when Uchenna Nwosu burst into a backfield on fourth down and saved USC’s season.
The sequence has not faded into distant memory.
“That play replays in my head 24/7,” Nwosu said. “I’ll never forget that play.”
This fall was filled with dramatics by the Trojans; a double-overtime victory over Texas settled by the leg of a walk-on kicker; a 14-point comeback over Utah, one of four wins by less than a touchdown.
But few plays had more significance than the goal-line stand in the Pac-12 Conference title game against Stanford. The Trojans might not have won their first conference title in nine years nor be here for the Cotton Bowl without Nwosu’s tackle, the catalyst in their 31-28 victory over the Cardinal.
“Definitely not,” defensive end Christian Rector said.
With eight minutes left, the Trojans tightly held a 24-21 lead, but looked as if they might fall behind for the first time in the game. Stanford was positioned at USC’s 1-yard line, and Cardinal coach David Shaw kept his offense on the field for fourth down, even without running back Bryce Love, the Heisman Trophy finalist who was hobbled by an ankle injury.
Stanford went to its signature jumbo run package, using eight offensive linemen, along with a fullback. USC stacked the box. After the snap, Nwosu shot out of his edge position and dove toward the feet of Cameron Scarlett, tripping him. Scarlett, after the hit, fell onto some linemen, short of the end zone.
“It’s huge,” linebacker Cameron Smith said, “because when I look at it, it’s the fact that it’s Stanford. We stopped them on the goal line. And they’re like, ‘Oh, sweet, we’re on the goal line, let’s go pound it in like we always do.’”
After the stop, USC’s win probability rose to […]