STANFORD -- Somehow, some way, you just knew Josh Nunes would figure out how to beat USC on Saturday because that's what Josh Nunes does.
Wait. WHAT? Yes, that's what happened, and surely nobody was more shocked about that than the Trojans.
For much of this scattered and gurgling game, Nunes bounced passes, threw interceptions and looked generally ungainly in the biggest came of his career.
But USC's Matt Barkley, the Heisman Trophy front-runner, was doing all of the same, or worse: bounces, interceptions, misfires, bad body language.
And in one of the more unfathomable developments of this or any other Stanford season, Nunes outplayed Barkley, who couldn't escape the Cardinal defense.
Nunes engineered two second-half touchdown drives, Barkley did zilch, and yes, Stanford toppled the No. 2 Trojans 21-14.
"He didn't play perfect, but he made some unbelievable runs and some unbelievable throws," coach David Shaw said of Nunes.
Was Shaw surprised to see Nunes take off three times for 33 huge yards, juking All-America USC defenders along the way?
"Shocking," Shaw said. "He's not a runner, but you can't measure heart. He'll watch the film and wonder who that was."
Maybe it wasn't a miracle, but this was still something to put in a Cardinal time capsule.
This, too: Stanford is 5-1 against USC over the last six years, Nunes is 1-0 vs. the Trojans, and Barkley will finish his Trojans career 0-4 vs.
"It feels great," Nunes said after wading through the joyous Stanford crowd that stormed onto the field after the victory over USC was official.
"They're a great program, they've got a lot of talented players. It's a great way to start conference play."
So, no, Nunes wasn't going to go into emotional overdrive on this one. He's replacing Andrew Luck, which means there are always challenges ahead.
But Stanford needed to find out if Nunes could make plays at the end of a huge game, and that's what he did Saturday, granted, after a lot of haphazard quarterbacking.
"He was a little off early and he settled down and made some big throws and the two big runs, the two big scrambles, where we have to stop them on third down," said USC coach Lane Kiffin.
"He looked like a veteran out there."
Nunes completed 15 of his 32 pass attempts for 215 yards, was intercepted twice and threw for two touchdowns; and as Kiffin said, some of his biggest plays came on scrambles for first downs.
OK, let's stop here to point out that Stanford tailback Stepfan Taylor stampeded the USC defense throughout, and that the Cardinal defense was spectacular.
But Stanford needed more than that to win this game. USC and Barkley (20 for 41 for 254 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions) were stuck in the mud.
Stanford needed to fly, just a little. It needed Nunes to put his signature on the night-and the program.
He did that in two plays with the score tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter.
The first was an awkward 12-yard run when Nunes was flushed from the pocket on third-and-10, then flashed past safety T.J. McDonald on his way to the first down.
The second came on the next play: a perfect 37-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz that was right out of the Andrew Luck playbook.
That put Stanford ahead 21-14 with 10:20 left to play, and from there, it was the Cardinal defense vs. Barkley.
And that was a mismatch all night.
So, in an inexact duplication of the seminal USC upset pulled off by Jim Harbaugh and Tavita Pritchard five years ago, now Shaw has his own USC minimiracle.
Along the way, Stanford might've ruined USC's national-title hopes and drained most of Barkley's Heisman hopes.
It certainly wasn't a thing of beauty: Missed field goals, errant passes, turnovers and general bungling crowded up much of the action by both teams.
It'd take a Stanford master's degree in quantum physics to truly understand how this happened, but nevertheless it did.
Stanford was the stronger team throughout, outgaining USC 417-280 in the game. And then, at the end, it had Josh Nunes being Josh Nunes. Nobody in the world -- probably including Nunes -- knew how fun that might be, until we all saw it Saturday.