The game wasn’t without its controversy, however.
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.
Following the loss, Kiffin was livid at the officiating.
“I’m really disappointed in the officials,” Kiffin said. “Extremely disappointed. They said [Woods] was out of bounds which he wasn’t. I had asked for a timeout with one second left before the play. We could have kicked a 50-yard field goal to win the game. I’m not complaining. I’m just giving you the exact facts.”
Suffice to say, the officials had a slightly different view as to how the final seconds of regulation played out.
“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.”
One thing lost in all of the end-of-regulation drama and confusion was the brain flatulence on the part of Woods. On a play that begins with less than 10 seconds left and two timeouts remaining, Woods has either got to turn it up the field and get down, or not sprint across the width of the field and leave it the hands of the officiating crew to sort out the mess. In fact, that was exactly what Barkley was intimating following the loss.
“I was yelling at [Woods]. I was yelling, ‘Get down’ because I could see the clock. That play never really goes that far across the field. You hit it, and you turn upfield, but it was an unfortunate that it didn’t work out.”
Isn’t that something Kiffin and his coaching staff should be drilling into his players — especially Woods as the play was obviously designed for him — coming out of a timeout? Instead of piling onto an officiating crew that appeared to make the right call, Coach Kiffin, how about taking yourselves to task for not ensuring all of your players are aware of the situation and what their responsibilities are with so few seconds left?