USC upsets Stanford on late field goal

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Andre Heidari kicked a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to lead USC to a 20-17 victory over No. 5 Stanford at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

With the win, the Trojans improved to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal dropped to 8-2 and 6-2.

It was an emotional effort by USC, which snapped a four-game losing streak to Stanford while winning for the fifth time in six games under interim head coach Ed Orgeron.

Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler passed for 288 yards and a touchdown on 25 of 37 passing to pace a USC offense that made the plays that it had to make to win. Case in point, a 13-yard completion to Marqise Lee on fourth and two on USC’s last drive that gave the Trojans a first down at the Stanford 35-yard line. Six plays later, Heidari was the hero.

The key to the game was USC’s ability to score early. By doing so, Stanford was unable to grind out the clock with its run game (as it did against Oregon last week). As it was, running back Tyler Gaffney still gained 158 yards on 28 carries, with two scores, but quarterback Kevin Hogan struggled to hit targets down the field, completing just 14 of 25 passes for 127 yards while throwing two interceptions, including a back-breaker to safety Dion Bailey at the USC 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

There was no major breakdown by either defense. Stanford allowed 311 total yards, while USC gave up 387. The time of possession was about even and the Trojans gained just 23 net yards on the ground. But USC’s spirited effort on defense stymied the Cardinal, whose three turnovers might’ve been the difference.

The win by USC tonight could have some long-term ramifications in the Pac-12 and nationally. By beating Stanford, Oregon has now taken control of the race for the Pac-12 North. Stanford now has no place in the national title discussion, while the Ducks have an outside chance at sneaking back into it.

Meanwhile, the temptation might exist for USC athletic director Pat Haden to tab Orgeron as his permanent head coach. But USC has the potential to get an elite coach who has proven himself over the long term. Will Haden be far-sighted enough to think of that long term rather than take the easy, emotional route? His decision could ultimately decide the course of the conference for the next five years.

For now, though, USC can enjoy a great win over a top five team. It just goes to show that despite the scholarship restrictions, the Trojans can field a roster that can compete with any team in the country. Lane Kiffin obscured that fact for a while — now it’s self evident.

Jerry Kill joins Virginia Tech support staff

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Jerry Kill stepped down as Minnesota’s head coach in the middle of the 2015 season, but he’s remained active as ever in “retirement.”

He spent 2016 as an assistant AD at Kansas State, returned to coaching as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Rutgers in 2017, but, after the same epileptic seizures that chased him out of coaching followed him to Piscataway, Kill stepped down after just one season. He was quickly scooped up as the athletics director at Southern Illinois, but now Kill is returning again to coaching — sort of.

Virginia Tech on Monday announced Kill as the new assistant to the head coach for Justin Fuente. In this newly-created role, Kill will use his experience to assist Fuente with “a myriad of duties.”

“Jerry Kill will serve as a tremendous resource for our football program,” Fuente said. “Coach Kill possesses over three decades of expertise and will be great addition to our staff. In addition to over 20 years of experience as collegiate and high school head coach, he’s served as a coordinator on both sides of the ball. He can dissect the game from virtually every angle and will be able to provide his unique perspective on everything from recruiting, to personnel and facilities. ”

“While it was a difficult decision to leave so many wonderful friends and colleagues at Southern Illinois, I am thrilled for the opportunity to join Coach Fuente and his staff at Virginia Tech,” Kill said. “I’ve long appreciated and admired Justin as a coach and teacher of the game. I respect his penchant for identifying talent and helping young men reach their potential. He has assembled a fabulous coaching staff and roster of talented players at Virginia Tech. I can’t wait to help the Hokies in any way I can.”

Kill will join the Virginia Tech staff effective immediately. He went 152-99 as a head coach at five different schools from 1994-2015.

 

Pac-12 admits refs botched Arizona State-Michigan State ending

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No. 24 Arizona State beat Michigan State 10-7 on Saturday, a win that was preserved by a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that wiped away a game-tying field goal for the Spartans. Matt Coghlin‘s second attempt, this one from 47 yards, sailed wide right, allowing the Sun Devils to hold on for the win.

But it turns out there should have been a second penalty called.

The Pac-12 has announced its officials missed a penalty on Arizona State on Coghlin’s second, missed attempt.

“An Arizona State defensive player took a running start and leapt over the kicking team’s line in an attempt to block the kick. In the process, he leapt into the frame of the body of an opponent. The penalty would have been 15 yards from the previous spot and an automatic first down.

In this case, it would have been administered as half the distance to the goal and Michigan State would have been provided one untimed down.”

That penalty would have moved the Spartans up to the Arizona State 14-yard line, giving Coghlin a third attempt from just 31 yards out.

The Pac-12 provided no word on what, if any, internal accountability the officiating crew that missed such a crucial penalty will face.

 

Chip Kelly won’t make QB change despite UCLA offensive woes

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Chip Kelly revolutionized college football back when he was at Oregon, becoming so successful that not one but three NFL teams tried or succeeded in hiring him.

Kelly’s return to the sidelines in the college game however… could be going better. UCLA was blown out of the water on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl by No. 5 Oklahoma and the Bruins offense is actually among the worst in all of FBS.

They’re dead last in yards per play, second to last in total offense and No. 127 in scoring offense. Oh and sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is No. 99 nationally in passer rating.

Despite those numbers, it appears Kelly isn’t contemplating a new face behind center as the team moves into Pac-12 play.

“We didn’t,” Kelly said when asked by the LA Times whether he thought of making a change at quarterback on Saturday. “…we felt confident in Dorian.”

To be fair, Thompson-Robinson did seem a little improved against the Sooners than he did in his first two starts of 2019 against Cincinnati and San Diego State. But those numbers speak for themselves with road trips to Washington State and Arizona coming up for the 0-3 side from Westwood.

Pony Up! SMU off to best start since 1984 at 3-0

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TCU may have moved into the top 25 of the AP Poll this week after dispatching Purdue on Saturday but upcoming opponent SMU is off to an equally hot start coming into Week 4 after topping Texas State.

In fact, it’s a historic one down in Dallas.

As the school noted recently, the 3-0 start to the 2019 campaign is the Mustangs’ best since… 1984. That’s just after the Pony Express days on the Hilltop and right before the program got hammered by the NCAA for major violations.

Sonny Dykes’ tenure got off to a rough start after going 5-7 last season but the team looks much improved thanks in part to the play of Texas transfer QB Shane Buechele.

We’ll see if the two can keep things rolling against the rival Horned Frogs but the AAC might just have another intriguing team in the mix after such a hot start by SMU.