Curtis McNeal fumbled in triple overtime against Stanford last season, marking USC’s second consecutive loss to the Cardinal on the game’s final play.
But the senior tailback said Tuesday that his feelings in the immediate aftermath had not lingered.
“I was able to put it away that night,” McNeal said. “My teammates came up to me and coaches and family came up to me and let me know I’m going to be all right.
“It happens. It’s football, and you’ve just got to keep going.”
On Saturday, McNeal and second-ranked USC will try to end its three-game losing streak against the Cardinal, which routed the Trojans at the Coliseum in 2009, beat USC with a last-second field goal at Stanford Stadium in 2010 and escaped with a 56-48 victory last season.
Quarterback Matt Barkley has defeated every Pac-12 Conference school except Stanford, but the senior said there was “nothing special” about Saturday’s opportunity.
“I’m not hyped up for this game more than last week or a bowl game or something like that,” he said.
Last season against Stanford, USC receiver Robert Woods caught a pass on the final play of regulation, but officials ruled that the clock had expired before he got out of bounds. The ruling prevented the Trojans from trying a possible game-winning field goal.
Asked Tuesday if he would have done anything differently, Woods said, “I probably would have hit the ground earlier right in the middle of the field, call a timeout and get the game-winning kick.”
Stanford, led by quarterback Andrew Luck, outlasted the Trojans and won when McNeal fumbled.
“I haven’t had a worse feeling than that one,” Woods said of the loss. “Pretty sour.”
A few days after the game, the Pac-12 reprimanded USC Coach Lane Kiffin and fined him $10,000 for comments he made that were critical of officials. Kiffin said after the game that he was calling timeout during Woods’ play and that there was one second left on the clock. The referee said time had expired.
A day later, Kiffin said he had spoken with an unnamed Pac-12 official by phone from the locker room and told the person, “I was basically lied to.” He also took issue with the spot of the ball after a holding penalty against Stanford in the second overtime, joking that his then-2-year-old son had better math skills than the officials.
A Pac-12 spokesman confirmed that Kiffin had paid the fine, which goes into a fund for postgraduate scholarships.
Heidari reportedly has surgery
Kicker Andre Heidari, who suffered an apparent injury during the opener against Hawaii and did not travel to New Jersey for the game against Syracuse, had knee surgery last week and is expected to be sidelined for about three weeks, according to a published report.
Walk-on Alex Wood kicked extra points and Craig McMahon handled kickoffs against Syracuse. The Los Angeles Daily News reported Heidari’s surgery on Sunday night.
Kiffin is not addressing injuries this season. USC also announced in August a policy barring the media from reporting strategy or injury-related news observed during in-season practices.
The Daily News report did not cite practice-related information.
Still, USC has barred Daily News reporter Scott Wolf from attending practice for two weeks and will not issue him a credential for the Trojans’ Sept. 22 game against California at the Coliseum, said Gene Warnick, sports editor for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which includes the Daily News and other Southland papers.
“From our standpoint, Scott was doing his job,” Warnick said. “This wasn’t something that was part of practice. We were just trying to report the news.”
Warnick said he and sports editors from The Times and the Orange County Register were scheduled to speak with USC Athletic Director Pat Haden on Wednesday.
A USC athletic department spokesman declined to comment.
Kiffin declined to comment on the status of receiver Darreus Rogers, who signed a letter of intent with the Trojans but was not cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center until last week and is not enrolled in school.