On this day, they might as well have found Jimmy Hoffa. That would have been more likely than the Stanford Cardinal stunning the mighty Trojans.
First-year coach John Harbaugh took the Cardinal into Los Angeles Coliseum on a mission. Most members of the Stanford clan just hoped to avoid complete embarrassment. Instead, the cellar dwellers of the Pac-10 knocked off the most dominant program in this decade.
Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard was making his first career collegiate start, while Trojan quarterback John David Booty was a darkhorse Heisman candidate.
The second-ranked Trojans struggled to light up the scoreboard in the first half, leading only 9-0 at halftime. After running back Chauncey Washington scored a touchdown midway through the second quarter, Stanford blocked the extra point attempt.
Early on in the third quarter, Booty was intercepted by Austin Yancy, who returned the ball 31 yards for a touchdown, drawing the Cardinal within two points of the lead.
Most of the rest of the third quarter was played to a stalemate, and the hope for a miracle began to grow on the visiting sideline.
Booty went to work late in the third period, launching a 63-yard touchdown pass to Fred Davis. It looked like the heavy favorites had finally woken up and would pull away.
Not for long, though. Stanford marched back down the field, culminating with an Anthony Kimble touchdown run from one yard out.
The pressure fell on the Cardinal defense, which could not live up to the challenge. USC went 86 yards on nine plays to score another touchdown, going up 23-14 with 11 minutes remaining.
Stanford then mounted a long drive that came up just short of the end zone. Harbaugh played it safe, taking points and kicking a 26-yard field goal to pull within a touchdown of the lead with five minutes to play.
At this point, every other television channel broadcasting a game was cutting back to the studio, informing its viewers of the potential upset.
As news of this game began to sweep the nation, Stanford still trailed by a touchdown, and had to get the ball back from USC with less than five minutes to go.
Stanford did indeed get the ball back with a chance to drive for the win. As the clock wound down, Pritchard marched the Cardinal closer to the end zone, before being faced with a 4th-down and 20 on the 29-yard line, Richard Sherman reeled in an improbable reception from Pritchard just past the first-down line.
With 49 seconds to play, the miracle came to fruition. Pritchard tossed a pass into the corner of the end zone, intended for Mark Bradford, who leapt over USC defensive back Mozique McCurtis to grab the ball for the touchdown.
Before you could say “41-point underdog,” USC’s 35-game home winning streak had vanished into the night.
What America was left with was the biggest upset, according to the point spread, in the history of college football. After years of mediocrity, the win for Stanford helped put Harbaugh on the map as a coach and served as the springboard for his rebuilding process at the school.