The Cardinal (5-1, 2-1 Pac-10), coming off a 52-31 pounding at the hands of Oregon, bounced back by sending the Trojans (4-2, 1-2) to a similar fate, as Washington kicked a game-winning field goal at the buzzer to pull out a 32-31 win at the Coliseum last week.
Allen Bradford’s touchdown gave USC a 35-34 lead with 1:08 left on the clock, leaving plenty of time for Stanford to get into field goal range for Whitaker, who had missed a crucial extra point earlier in the fourth quarter.
Matt Barkley had a prolific day under center as well, completing 28-of-45 for 390 yards with three touchdowns to Robert Woods, who ended with an eye-popping 224 yards on 12 receptions in the loss.
The teams traded touchdowns early on in a tension-filled final stanza.
Konrad Reuland hauled in a two-yard touchdown pass from Luck on the second play from scrimmage for a 28-21 lead that lasted 3 1/2 minutes, as Barkley found Woods for a six-yard score to finish an eight-play, 67-yard drive.
Chris Owusu ran the ensuing kickoff back 88 yards, and a Luck-to-Baldwin connection from seven yards out gave Stanford the lead again. Whitaker, though, missed his third extra point of the season to keep it 34-28.
Four straight Barkley incompletions at the Stanford 32 turned the ball over on downs, but USC stripped Stepfan Taylor near midfield and recovered the fumble with 4:14 on the clock.
After converting a fourth-down try on the first set of downs, USC went ahead when Bradford rumbled in from three yards out with 1:08 showing.
Stanford started the game-winning trek at its own 26, and three straight completions and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the Trojans quickly moved the ball to the USC 31. Taylor scampered for 16 yards down to the 15 with 16 seconds remaining, and after two runs, Whitaker was called on to complete the comeback with his first career game-winning kick.
Dillon Baxter capped USC’s first possession, an 11-play, 73-yard march, with an eight-yard run to the end zone.
Stanford needed just five plays to tie it, as Luck hit Baldwin for an 11-yard score at the 5:39 mark.
Luck lost a fumble deep in USC territory later in the opening quarter, and Stanley Havili returned the favor early in the second, coughing it up at the Stanford 14.
Anthony Wilkerson’s six-yard run gave the Cardinal a short-lived lead with 8 1/2 minutes to go in the half. Barkley drove USC right down the field and tied it on a six-yard connection with Woods.
Stanford broke the tie with a 14-play, 93-yard drive that took up 7 1/2 minutes in the third quarter. The Cardinal converted four third-downs, the last of which came on Taylor’s one-yard plunge on third-and-goal with 5:39 left in the frame.
Woods answered with a 61-yard catch-and-run just five plays later to tie it.
This was the first time since 1986 that Stanford came into this game ranked higher than USC…It is Stanford’s first back-to-back wins over USC since 1999-2001…The Cardinal are 14-2 in their last 16 home games…Bradford came into the game averaging 9.8 yards per carry, but was held to 33 yards on 13 carries…Taylor finished with 104 yards on 23 carries, while Baldwin had eight catches for 98 yards…Stanford converted 6-of-8 third down tries, compared to USC’s 9-of-15 success rate on the down…The sellout crowd of 51,607 is a new Stanford Stadium record.