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Closing the Book on Stanford

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You have to agree that this game is an instant classic!

How many times has it been said...this game was a tale of two half's. When this game when to halftime the score was 10-6 Stanford.

Then the flood gates opened in the second half...

Lets discuss the last play in regulation first, because that sequence of events is going to get a lot of attention.

With nine seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 34, Matt Barkley hit sophomore Robert Woods on a screen pass at the 40-yard line and near the right sideline. With time ticking away, Woods ran clear across the field and went down at around the 33 as the clock hit double zeros. And then all confusing hell broke loose.

Woods’ knee appeared to hit the Coliseum turf inbounds and with one second left; Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin claimed he told officials prior to the play that he wanted to call a timeout if there was still time left on the clock, which would’ve given USC a shot at a 50-yard or so field goal for the win. Upon further review, the officials ruled that Woods did not get out of bounds but time had expired before a timeout was called, sending the game into the first of what would be three overtimes.

The most obvious issue with this play was that the controversy would not have happened had Robert Woods went up field and took a knee instead of trying to get out bounds.

The question here is did Kiffin prepare his team for this situation? Did they know that they had time outs to burn? Were the players aware that all they needed to do was to get as close to the goal line as possible, keeping the ball in the center of field while not running out the clock?

As unfortunate as Woods actions were I can't be down on him. He has played flawlessly this season. Players make mistakes, it happens. But I do want to make sure that the players were prepped for this scenario. That is on Kiffin and the staff, he has taken some hits for his time mismanagement in the past.

Kiffin stated his case above.

Here is the officials side of the story...

"The ruling on the field was that we were going to overtime. Through review, it was seen that the knee was down and time had expired and therefore we were headed to an overtime period," head referee Michael Batlan said. "Any coach can ask for a timeout but he doesn’t get one until an official grants or signifies it. I was not part of any conversation with regards to a requested timeout."


Maybe Batlan wasn't part of the discussion but by Kiffin's account one of the members of his crew did have the discussion. Shouldn't that hold some measure of credibility?

Batlan has been a bit of a bonehead before...


• UW reserve defensive end Louis Nzegwu was called for roughing the punter in the third quarter, giving the Seminoles a first down at their 47. TV replays showed that Nzegwu never touched punter Gano.

• Referee Michael Batlan, who called the penalty on Nzegwu, looked a bit foolish earlier after the replay official overturned a Florida State fumble early in the third quarter. After Batlan announced the play had been overturned because the knee of Florida State wide receiver Bert Reed was down before he lost the ball, he had to go back review the play again.

Why? To determine that it was second down.

Once again, inconsistent officiating changes the outcome of the game.

So much fixing the officiating ills that plague the Pac-12.

Obviously this game could have been won in a number of areas, not just on that last play, but this one does stand out if you believe Kiffin. If it is true that Kiffin did call a standing time out before the play began, it's unconscionable that the official that Kiffin made the request to didn't step forward and tell Batlan that Kiffin requested a time out.

Only a replay of the sidelines, before that play went off, would show if Kiffin had indeed been speaking with an official before the play began.

Spilt milk at this point.

But fair or not, Kiffin's time management will continue to be scrutinized...

- - -

Curtis McNeal's 61-yd TD run puts Stanford behind for first time this season.

How can you not be thrilled to see this kid step up? Yes, he did fumble on the final play that sealed the win for Stanford, but you take the good with the bad, and with Mark Tyler graduating after this season someone needs to pick up the load...McNeal looks to be that guy and what a game he had.

Before his fumble in the end zone ended the game, USC tailback Curtis McNeal was the offensive star Saturday night for the Trojans as he rushed for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns.

It was the second consecutive week he broke the 100-yard barrier as the diminutive sophomore filled in for the injured Marc Tyler.

McNeal electrified the crowd with a 61-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and followed that with a 25-yard scoring run.

"It hurts right now because we were so close that we had it," USC quarterback Matt Barkley said. "But you can't put it on Curtis.

With McNeal having such a great game, I find it hard to believe that Kiffin will punish him for that fumble.

McNeal offers up his thoughts...

McNeal has now led the Trojans in rushing in five of their eight games, and he was incredibly effective against a tough Cardinal defense on Saturday. But he will, of course, go down as the goat for how the game ended.

And he understood that.

"There's no excuse, I just fumbled," he said after the game. "You've gotta hold on to the ball in that moment, in the third overtime and everything."

Kiffin has talked time and time again this season about McNeal's transformation from a player nicknamed "Moody" for his surliness to one of the quiet, understated leaders of the 2011 Trojans. He displayed the maturation after the game in a remarkable comment considering the circumstances.

"I feel like beating myself up but I just gotta keep my head up and keep pushing," McNeal said. "I'm going to face worse things in life. I just have to keep my head up."

McNeal just needs to keep focused as his role becomes more and more prominent.

- - -

Perusing the various sites and boards I am finding pretty much the same vibe...

Most are proud of how the team performed in this game even with the loss. It's not hard to see why, as many in the press and punditry didn't give USC much of a chance.

Some think USC may be on the cusp, but it is still too early to know until the full effect of the scholarship reductions take affect. You have to be optimistic about the future though. Some continue to not be impressed. While others continue to whine and complain...

Like I said last night, USC hung with the big it a cliche'.

Unfortunately, the problem with that statement though is that it gives the perception that we aren't one of the big boys.

Props to Stanford for the win. Andrew Luck is very good QB who will very well at the next level, but...

Stanford still isn't close to what USC is in football. We all agree that Stanford has been riding the hot hand the past few years but the Farm hasn't exactly been in the national discussion consistently over the past couple of decades.

USC has always had a bit of a rivalry with Stanford, that goes all the way back to John McKay. The few contests may not have been great football from the USC perspective but when USC was in the hunt for BCS titles Stanford was no where to be found. Even after the end of the Bush/Leinart era USC was still in the discussion.

USC is still relevant even if there is a bit of nation fatigue of USC.

I saw on Twitter last night (Canzano?) that Stanford's effort last night showed that they aren't all that and that Oregon is better. We'll see, too bad that they both can't lose when they play. But while its not a given that Stanford will win (or lose depending on who you root for) against the Ducks, I do know this. Stanford WILL NOT beat LSU or Alabama if they are lucky enough to get to the tile game...I am not even sure they could beat OK St. The Stanford defense has some issues...Issues that will be exploited by UA or LSU.

There is still a lot of football to play and as we have seen anything can happen.

- - -

Some other links...

Stanford shows it vulnerable side, but makes it out of USC very much alive - Dr. Saturday

USC continues to fight on despite sanctions - ESPN Los Angeles (Markazi)

USC upset bid falters against Stanford in third overtime -

Stanford needed good Luck to win - The Orange County Register (Whicker)

Stanford 56, USC 48: Rapid reaction - ESPN Los Angeles

Stanford 56, USC 48 (final, 3 overtimes) -
USC played No. 4 Stanford even. The Trojans forced the high-powered Cardinal into triple overtime and appeared on the verge of sending the game into a fourth extra period. That’s when it all went bad for the Trojans.

Grades: Stanford-USC - ESPN Los Angeles

5 observations: Stanford 56, USC 48 (3OT) - USC : The Orange County Register
I could’ve written 50 observations on Saturday night’s epic battle between USC and Stanford.

USC FOOTBALL: Trojans run out of luck in third overtime, fall to Stanford 56-48 - LA Daily News
USC and Stanford played a game for the ages on Saturday with a triple-overtime finish that preserved the Cardinals national title hopes and denied Trojans coach Lane Kiffin the biggest victory of his career.