USC can't flip the script on Stanford

Officials deny USC a chance at game-winning field goal at end of regulation, drawing ire of head coach Lane Kiffin.

LOS ANGELES – It was all set up for USC to finally turn the tables on Stanford.

In 2007, the Cardinal stunned the Trojans, ultimately denying them a berth in the BCS championship.

In 2009, it was quarterback Matt Barkley's pick-six that started the avalanche in a 55-21 loss.

Last season, Stanford was the beneficiary of some home cooking in a 37-35 thriller.

Now USC would crush Stanford's hopes of playing for the crystal ball because of an Andrew Luck interception returned for a touchdown and a friendly clock operator to set up a game-winning field goal.

Instead, officials denied head coach Lane Kiffin a time out after wide receiver Robert Woods was stopped in bounds on what would be the final play of regulation, and running back Curtis McNeal fumbled in the third overtime as Stanford escaped with a 56-48 win over USC in front of a sold-out crowd of 93,607 Saturday night.

Woods reversed course on a screen pass and cut across the field as USC (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) tried to get into range for an Andre Heidari kick, but the sophomore was tackled by safety Jordan Richards. Officials reviewed the play to see where Woods was stopped, while a side judge told Kiffin that a timeout would be granted with one second remaining.

Instead, referee Michael Batlan sent the game to overtime tied at 34-all, drawing Kiffin's ire.

"As far as the end of regulation, I'm really disappointed in the officials. Extremely disappointed," he said. "It was explained to me by the referee that if there was one second left you wouldn't have time to call time out. But I've been around football long enough and seen plenty of time outs called with one second left on the clock.

"This isn't my opinion, and I'm not complaining. I'm just stating the exact facts."

Overtime, let alone a Stanford (8-0, 6-0 Pac-12) victory, seemed impossible after star quarterback Andrew Luck threw an interception that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown by corner Nickell Robey with 3:08 left to play in the fourth quarter.

"I knew he would look me off and come back to Chris (Owusu), so I just jumped the route," Robey said.

But the Heisman Trophy frontrunner and presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft calmly drove 76 yards in 10 plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown by running back Stepfan Taylor.

Luck completed 29 of 40 passes for 330 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The redshirt junior added 36 yards rushing and a score.

"He got us in the end," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said. "We did a great job in the first half. We just couldn't put two halves together.

"We just needed one stop, that's all, and we'd all be celebrating right now."

While Stanford rolled up an opponent-record 56 points, the USC defense actually held tough most of the game, limiting a vaunted rushing offense to 3.9 yards per carry.

The defensive line also sacked Luck twice, equal to the total Stanford had allowed all season.

"The thing with our defense, we knew we could do it regardless of if anyone else expected us to do it or thought that we could do it. For the most part, we took care of business," safety T.J. McDonald said.

But it wasn't enough, negating 284 yards, three touchdowns and a signature win for Barkley. Running back Curtis McNeal added 145 yards rushing and two third-quarter touchdowns, but fumbled into the end zone in the third overtime, where linebacker A.J. Tarpley, who also had an interception, recovered it.

"Curtis, he has a heart to him that he will not be denied," McDonald said. Unfortunately, at the end of the game that happened, but we wouldn't have even been in that position if not for him. He has no reason to hang his head."


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