McKee leads Stanford’s 42-28 upset rout of No. 14 USC

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — After Nathaniel Peat broke a tackle and turned the corner, the Coliseum collectively gasped as the speedy Stanford tailback sprinted all the way down his sideline.

“I just saw green grass, and I had to put the wheels on,” Peat said with a grin.

When he finally stopped, his 87-yard touchdown run had given the Cardinal a whole lot more than their first seven points in an impressive 42-28 upset of No. 14 Southern California on Saturday night.

“Guys saw Nate take off, and there were great blocks down the field,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “It just gave us a lift, and then we got a stop, and we said, `Hey, you know, we can play with these guys. And not only can we play with them, we can dominate.”‘

The Cardinal did just that in a victory that dramatically altered the early season trajectories of two longtime Pac-12 rivals.

Tanner McKee passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another score in his first collegiate start as Stanford (1-1, 1-0 Pac-12) rebounded from a rough 24-7 loss to Kansas State last week in which the Cardinal didn’t even score until the final minutes.

Peat racked up a career-high 115 yards, and Kyu Blu Kelly returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in Shaw’s 63rd conference victory at Stanford, moving him past Pete Carroll for ninth-most in Pac-12 history.

“It shows who we are as a team,” Peat said. “We have a lot of playmakers and a lot of potential. Last week, we really didn’t show who we were.”

McKee went 16 of 23 for 234 yards, and he hit Elijah Higgins and Brycen Tremayne for TDs as Stanford rolled to a 29-point lead in the fourth quarter of its ninth victory over USC in the California rivals’ last 14 meetings.

“We saw glimpses of what our offense and our team can be,” said McKee, a Southern California native with about 30 friends and family in the Coliseum stands.

Kedon Slovis passed for 223 yards, while Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow rushed for TDs as the Trojans’ (1-1, 0-1) nine-game regular season winning streak ended with a thud. USC committed nine penalties for 109 yards, and Stanford’s defense limited star Trojans receiver Drake London to four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown with 5:54 to play.

USC coach Clay Helton‘s perpetually hot seat has become a sizzling fajita plate again just two games into his seventh season in charge of a former college football powerhouse with one conference title since 2008.

“Let’s see at the end of the year,” Helton said. “It’s Game 2, and I have total faith in this staff. I have total faith in the men that are in there, players, coaches. We didn’t play our best tonight, but … I hope that we look up at the end of the year, and you’re asking the question, `Man, that team really improved from that Game 2.”‘

Peat’s early sprint down the Cardinal sideline was the fifth-longest TD run in Stanford history, but USC evened it early in the second quarter with a 15-play, 95-yard TD drive. McKee put the Cardinal back ahead with a 3-yard TD pass to Higgins on fourth down only after Stanford decided to go for it after USC lined up in the neutral zone on a successful field goal.

Stanford went up 21-10 right before halftime on Tremayne’s TD reception, set up by a 49-yard catch by Austin Jones. The Cardinal got 174 of their 248 yards in the first half on only three plays, and USC got light boos from its home crowd heading to the locker room, followed by heavy boos for Helton during his scoreboard interview before the second-half kickoff.

“You hear it,” Slovis said. “You have to deal with it and play. It’s college football. It’s a serious business, so something that comes with expectations at USC. It’s no surprise to all these guys.”

Kelly picked off Slovis’ pass when it deflected off London’s hands, and the cornerback eluded Slovis near the goal line to score his first career touchdown. The rout was on when McKee scored on a 1-yard keeper late in the third quarter.

“Like I told them in the locker room, you never want this to happen ever,” Helton said. “But when it’s an early one in the season, you can live through it. But you’ve got to correct it extremely fast.”

ON THE 101

The 101st meeting between the Pac-12’s two California private schools resumed a rivalry that was interrupted last season for the first time since 1945 by the coronavirus pandemic.

KICKING HIMSELF

USC even began the game ominously when kicker Parker Lewis was ejected for targeting on his tackle on the opening kickoff. Alex Stadthaus was perfect on two field goals and two extra points in Lewis’ place.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: The Cardinal probably aren’t as bad as they looked last week against K-State, and they might not be as good as they appeared while racking up all these big plays against reeling USC. Either way, McKee has solved Shaw’s quarterback problem after just two games.

USC: Helton’s future is once again the hottest topic across the Trojans’ vast fan base. Athletic director Mike Bohn has seemed highly unlikely to make a midseason change, but one or two more humiliating losses like this could alter any plan.

UP NEXT

Stanford: A long trip to face Vanderbilt on Saturday.

USC: A road opener at Washington State on Saturday.

Sanders’ 4 TDs help Jackson State rout Southern for SWAC title

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JACKSON, Miss. – Shedeur Sanders threw for four touchdowns, including two on three first-quarter turnovers, staking Jackson State to a big early lead on the way to routing Southern 43-24 in Saturday’s Southwest Athletic Conference championship that was Deion Sanders‘ final game as Tigers coach.

Reports swirled before the game that Sanders would announce his departure from the FCS program after three seasons to become head coach at Colorado. Sanders acknowledged an offer from the school earlier this week and added that he had talked to other FBS programs about vacancies. Colorado’s board of regents called a special meeting for Sunday.

Neither Sanders nor JSU spoke to reporters afterward. A SWAC spokesman said the team had proceeded to go to campus for a team meeting.

In an on-field interview played over JSU’s home field public address system, Sanders referred to JSU’s upcoming Celebration Bowl appearance and said, “We still have one more to go, and we will finish.”

Southern University head coach Eric Dooley spoke about what “Coach Prime” has done for the SWAC after the game and how appreciative he was of Sanders’ efforts.

“I was able to shake his hand and hug Deion and tell him he had a good football team,” said Dooley.

When asked about the rumors floating that Sanders is en route to Colorado, Dooley spoke plainly.

“I don’t get into that,” said Dooley. “It’s his decision. He’s made a huge impact on Jackson State.”

JSU (12-0) quashed any questions about Sanders’ future being a distraction by completing the first unbeaten regular season in school history and claiming its second consecutive SWAC championship. The Tigers’ top-ranked defense set the tone by quickly pouncing on the Jaguars for three turnovers in eight plays in the first quarter.

Aubrey Miller Jr., the SWAC defensive player of the year, led the Tiger defense to an exceptional effort as he totaled one sack and two tackles for loss.

The JSU came in as the top rated defense in the FCS, and they showed exactly why by forcing five turnovers, one of which was a fumble that junior defensive back Antonio Doyle Jr. returned to the Jags’ one yard line.

Shedeur Sanders, the Hall of Fame coach’s son, and the Tigers easily converted the takeaways into a 26-0 lead after 15 minutes, a run boosted by Sy’veon Wilkerson’s 1-yard TD run two plays after Herman Smith III’s 37-yard interception return. Two fumbles created chances for Sanders to hit Shane Hooks for TD passes of 14 and 40 yards and two-point conversions to Kevin Coleman Jr.

Sanders’ 14-yard TD pass to Coleman made it 33-7 at halftime, but Southern (7-5) didn’t quit and even got within 36-24 late in the third quarter on Glendon McDaniel’s 42-yard TD run.

Sanders, the SWAC’s offensive player of the year, completed 31 of 44 passes for 305 yards. Hooks caught five passes for 98 yards and Wilkerson rushed 15 times for 61 yards.

For their efforts, Sanders and Miller were awarded both the offensive and defensive MVP’s of the game.

McDaniel was 15 of 34 passing for 220 yards and a TD for Southern.

“I thought Glendon did some great things,” Dooley said.

The two teams slugged it out on the offensive end in terms of total yardage. Jackson State racked up 445 total yards to Southern’s 412.

The Tigers advanced to the Celebration Bowl, the championship for historically Black college football, on Dec. 17 in Atlanta against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina Central.

The Tigers’ victory improved Sanders to 27-5 as coach of the FCS program and came days after he was named SWAC coach of the year for the second consecutive season.

THE TAKEAWAY

Southern: The Jaguars mounted a strong second-half offensive effort behind Glendon McDaniel, but JSU’s initial onslaught on both sides of the ball was too much to handle.

Jackson State: The Tigers put together one of the most dominant seasons in school history with the SWAC’s top defense and offense. Both units proved why as the defense overwhelmed the Jaguars from the start, while

Sanders took advantage of short fields to complete pinpoint throws from clean pockets.

UP NEXT

Jackson State faces North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 in Atlanta.

No. 1 Georgia romps into playoff with 50-30 SEC win vs LSU

Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
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ATLANTA – Georgia swatted away the field goal attempt, the ball spinning to a stop at its 4-yard line. The LSU players trudged off the field, thinking the play was over.

Christopher Smith knew better. He suddenly scooped it up and took off the other way, sprinting 96 yards for a touchdown that epitomized the Bulldogs program.

They were a step ahead of LSU on Saturday.

They’ve been a step ahead of everyone for two years now.

With all sorts of turmoil behind them in the rankings, Georgia headed to the College Football Playoff as the clear No. 1, dismantling the No. 11 Tigers 50-30 in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.

Stetson Bennett‘s threw a season-high four touchdown passes in another stellar postseason performance, while Smith’s heads-up play gave the Bulldogs an early spark.

“I’ve got good players around me. I’m not that bad at football, either,” Bennett said with a smile. “We’ve got a good team.”

Georgia (13-0, No. 1 CFP) also caught a big break when Smith deflected a pass that bounced off an LSU receiver’s helmet and wound up being picked off by the Bulldogs, setting up a score that contributed to a 35-10 lead by halftime.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels re-injured a sore right ankle late in the second quarter, giving way to Garrett Nussmeier in the second half.

The backup guiding the Tigers (9-4, No. 14 CFP) to three second-half touchdowns, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Georgia accomplished something that not even last season’s national championship squad could could do – win its first SEC title since 2017. The Bulldogs were denied in this game a year ago by Alabama, before bouncing back to beat the Crimson Tide in the title game.

“I don’t want one kid to walk out of our program without an SEC championship ring in their careers,” coach Kirby Smart said. “That could’ve happened. They said enough is enough and got ’em one tonight.”

Georgia heads into the playoff assured of a return trip to Atlanta for a de facto semifinal home game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, just 75 miles from its Athens campus.

LSU’s outside hopes of crashing the four-team playoff field were wiped out a week ago by a stunning loss at Texas A&M, one of several upsets that will give the selection committee plenty to think about before its announcement Sunday.

Tennessee and Clemson also ruined their playoff hopes with losses late in the regular season, while No. 4 Southern California is presumably out after getting blown out by Utah in the Pac-12 title game Friday night.

Just as the SEC game was kicking off, No. 3 TCU lost to Kansas State in overtime for the Big 12 championship, further clouding a playoff picture that suddenly looks much more favorable for No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Alabama.

No matter who makes the elite field, Georgia is firmly focused on becoming the first repeat national title since Alabama in 2011-12, having won all but one game this season by double-digit margins.

“I’ve tried not to play attention to any of it,” Smart said of all the chaos. “It didn’t matter to me. That’s so far away.”

The Bulldogs showed they are more than just a bunch of talented athletes – this is a smart, well-coached group.

When Nazir Stackhouse burst through the middle of the line to block LSU’s 32-yard field goal attempt late in the first quarter, Smith knew what to do.

“That’s a scenario we go over a lot in practice,” he said.

He looked toward the sideline to see if it was OK to grab it.

“You’re not allowed to pick it up unless you can score with it,” Smart said.

Smith took care of the rest.

LSU coach Brian Kelly blamed himself and his staff for allowing the play to happen.

“Obviously, we did a poor job if coaching,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to have our guys alert in that situation. They were not alert.”

LSU quickly tied it up on Daniels’ 53-yard touchdown pass to Kayshon Boutte, only to have Bennett take control from there.

The sixth-year senior, a former walk-on who was offensive MVP of both Georgia playoffs wins a year ago, struck for four TD passes in a less than 15-minute span: 3 yards to Brock Bowers, 22 yards to Ladd McConkey, 14 yards to Darnell Washington and 3 yards to Dillon Bell.

Just like that, Georgia led 35-7.

“I was in a zone,” Bennett said.

It’s been that way for two years now.

THE TAKEAWAY

LSU: Kelly’s debut season turned a bit ugly the last two weeks, but the Tigers are on the right track. “We want to get back here next year. That’s our goal,” Kelly said. “Get back here and win it.”

Georgia: Win or lose in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs were assured of a spot in the playoff. But Smart continues to impress with his ability to keep the team motivated. While there were some huge defensive lapses in the second half, this game was never in doubt.

GOING FOR 2

When Georgia scored its final touchdown early in the fourth quarter for a 48-23 lead, Smart surprisingly called for a 2-point conversion.

The Bulldogs converted it with a trick play, but Smart insisted that he wasn’t trying to run up the score.

“The books says you go for 2 there,” he said.

When asked about the play, Kelly stumbled over his words a bit before finally saying, “I don’t get too caught up in what other teams are doing.”

INJURY REPORT

While Daniels went down for LSU, Georgia also lost a couple of players to injuries in the first half.

McConkey landed awkwardly making a catch along the sideline, inflaming a knee issue that’s been bothering him all year. Tight offensive tackle Warren McClendon sustained what appears to be a mild MCL sprain.

Neither returned after halftime.

UP NEXT

LSU: The Tigers get their postseason assignment Sunday, with the Citrus Bowl among the possibilities.

Georgia: The only question is who the Bulldogs will meet in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve, with TCU, Ohio State and SEC rival Alabama all in the mix.