Time, in essence, was key in USC’s defeat

For Lane Kiffin, it didn’t feel any better a day later.

USC’s 56-48 triple-overtime defeat by Stanford was hailed by many as an instant classic.

On Sunday, Kiffin agreed and indicated that he was growing tired of those kinds of assessments, especially after losing to Stanford on the final play for the second year in a row.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we’re on the wrong end of these instant classics.”

Kiffin could find himself on the wrong end of the Pacific 12 Conference office this week as his team prepares for Friday’s game at Colorado.

As he did a night earlier, Kiffin criticized the way field officials handled the end of regulation, when USC was denied an opportunity to kick a possible game-winning field goal. He said he spoke with an unnamed Pac-12 official by phone from the locker room and told the person, “I was basically lied to.”


The final play began with nine seconds left, receiver Robert Woods catching a screen pass from Matt Barkley. Instead of dropping to the ground after the catch and calling timeout, Woods ran across the field toward the Stanford sideline.

“It was an abnormal play,” Kiffin said. “I’ve never seen that play take eight seconds.”

Kiffin said he had been calling for a timeout, and that during the replay review, he told the side judge to tell the referee so the Trojans would get a final play from the Stanford 33-yard line if one second remained.

“He went over there and then came back to me and said he communicated with him, and that if his knee was down with a second left we’d get another play,” Kiffin said. “And unfortunately now [I find out] that never happened.”

After the game, USC quarterback Matt Barkley said, “I saw Kiffin call time out, but they didn’t see it.”

Referee Mike Batlan said time had expired.

“Any coach can ask for a timeout, but he doesn’t get one until the official grants or signifies it,” Batlan said. “I was not part of any conversation or meeting with regards to a requested timeout.”

Kiffin also took issue with the spot of the ball after a holding penalty against Stanford in the second overtime, and seemed to be inviting discipline from the Pac-12 office by joking that he discussed it with his young son, Knox, on Sunday.

“I said, ‘If there’s a 10-yard holding penalty that takes place on second and five at the line of scrimmage, Knox, does that go to second and seven or second and 15?’” Kiffin said. “And Knox said ‘It goes to second and 15.’

“Well, somehow it went to second and seven. And just so you know, Knox is 2 years old and figured that one out.”

USC used only one of three second-half timeouts. Asked if he thought he had made mistakes in managing the clock during USC’s final possession, Kiffin said, “I thought in general at the end of regulation that we handled it well.”

Kiffin said he thought the Trojans would win after Nickell Robey returned an interception of an Andrew Luck pass for a touchdown, giving USC a 34-27 lead.

“I really felt like that was it — that was the turn,” Kiffin said. “That those dark clouds that had started to move last Saturday [against Notre Dame], there were a lot more of them moving right then.”

But the game, he said, turned again on a personal-foul penalty against safety T.J. McDonald on the ensuing Cardinal drive. McDonald was flagged for hitting receiver Chris Owusu after an incomplete third-down pass, giving Luck all the opportunity he needed to pull the Cardinal even and ultimately force overtime.

“I just don’t really know how you coach out of that,” Kiffin said. “He hit with his shoulder. I don’t even know what to say to him.”

Quick hits

Linebacker Dion Bailey suffered a concussion Saturday and is day to day. . . . Tailback Marc Tyler, who aggravated a shoulder injury on his first carry, has not been cleared to practice, Kiffin said. . . . USC dropped one spot to No. 21 in the Associated Press media poll.