LOS ANGELES — In what's been the year of the upset in college football, Stanford's stunner just might top them all.
Tavita Pritchard threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds remaining Saturday night, giving the 41-point underdog Cardinal a 24-23 victory over No. 2 Southern California.
In a season that started with Appalachian State's improbable victory over Michigan at the Big House, and a week after half the top 10 went down, the Cardinal are now the upset kings - at least for now. The way things have been going that could change next week.
The Cardinal (2-4, 1-3 Pac-10) scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and moved 45 yards in 11 plays for the winning touchdown after USC's John David Booty threw the third of his four interceptions.
A leaping Bradford caught the ball over cornerback Mozique McCurtis in the corner of the end zone, leaving the crowd of 85,125 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in stunned silence. Bo McNally's interception thwarted USC's final chance.
"This has not set in with me yet," said a jubilant Pritchard, who was making his first college start. "Our defense kept us in the game all night. It gave me a chance to get untracked."
The winning drive came after Wopamo Osaisai's 18-yard interception return gave the Cardinal the ball with 2:50 remaining. Stanford was in big trouble when facing a fourth-and-20 from the USC 29, but Richard Sherman caught Pritchard's pass over the middle right at the first-down marker to keep the winning drive alive.
"It was so loud, I couldn't hear the coach," Pritchard said. "I called my own play, and Sherm came through."
First-year Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said Pritchard called the right play - no surprise considering it worked.
"I knew he would come through," Harbaugh said of Pritchard, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound sophomore from Tacoma, Wash., who entered having thrown three passes. "From the beginning of the week, he had a bounce in his step. He had a gleam in his eye from Sunday on. We have found a true warrior."
Pritchard, filling in for T.C. Ostrander, completed 11 of 30 for 149 yards and the winning TD. The numbers weren't great, but he was awfully good when it counted most.
Ostrander didn't play after suffering a seizure in a restaurant last Sunday. He's OK, but might have trouble getting his job back from Pritchard, a nephew of former Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson.
In the days leading up to the game, Harbaugh stuck to his preseason assessment that USC might be the greatest college football team ever. In the end, the Trojans weren't the best team in the Coliseum.
"Jimmy had them ready to play," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "To give it up like this is a shame, it is crushing to me. We made a ton of mistakes. We need to find ways to make plays and go back and find the right combinations. Give credit to Stanford."
USC might also have to turn to a backup quarterback.
Booty cracked the middle finger on his throwing hand when he hit it on a helmet in the second quarter.
"He battled through it," Carroll said. "He is doing OK. We stuck with him. I don't know about next week."
The Trojans (4-1, 2-1) dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 after barely holding on for a 27-24 victory over underdog Washington in Seattle last weekend. They'll drop a lot more this week after losing to a team that was playing its first road game of the season and had been outscored 141-51 in previous Pac-10 action.
USC's 35-game winning streak at the Coliseum is over. The Trojans hadn't lost at home since Stanford beat them 21-16 on Sept. 29, 2001, in the first year of the Carroll era.
The Trojans rolled up 459 yards in total offense to just 235 for Stanford. But USC's five turnovers and Pannel Egboh's block of USC kicker David Buehler's PAT attempt early in the game provided decisive.
Booty went 24-of-40 for 364 yards, but in the end, that wasn't enough for the Trojans. Patrick Turner caught nine passes for 83 yards and Fred Davis had five receptions for 152 yards. USC netted only 95 yards on 38 rushing attempts.
The Cardinal trimmed USC's lead to 16-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Anthony Kimble scored on a 1-yard run, capping a 75-yard drive.
Booty threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to freshman Ronald Johnson less than four minutes later to cap an 86-yard drive and give the Trojans some breathing room. But it wouldn't last. Derek Belch, whose conversion provided the margin of victory, kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:43 remaining to put the Cardinal within striking range.
The Trojans finally put together a cohesive drive the fifth time they had the ball, moving 64 yards on eight plays for a 9-0 lead. Chauncey Washington scored on a 1-yard run two plays after Booty's 31-yard pass to Turner.
USC threatened again on its next possession, moving 51 yards to the Stanford 1-yard line before Nick Sanchez tackled Washington short of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal play with 8 seconds left in the half. In hindsight, a chip-shot field goal would have been the right play.
It appeared Booty and intended receiver Stanley Havili weren't on the same page on a third-and-1 play when Austin Yancy, a sophomore safety, made his first career interception and ran 31 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, making it 9-7.
USC turned the ball over on its next two possessions before Booty and Davis hooked up on a 63-yard scoring play on third-and-2 late in the quarter, giving the Trojans a 16-7 lead.