USC Coach Lane Kiffin was happy to escape with a victory over Utah and already has turned his attention to Syracuse.
But college football fans Sunday were still trying to make sense of a USC-Utah ending that caused Pacific 12 Conference officials to announce late Saturday night that the correct score was 23-14.
“I never care what the score is as far as the final score, but I’m sure it made a lot of Trojans fans happy to find out a couple hours later,” Kiffin said Sunday. “I hope they didn’t throw away their tickets.”
USC’s Matt Kalil ensured victory by blocking a field-goal try in the final seconds. Cornerback Torin Harris picked up the bouncing ball and returned it 68 yards to the end zone, where he was mobbed by teammates, including dozens who left the bench and ran onto the field before Harris reached the goal line.
Confusion ensued Saturday night because a field official threw a penalty flag and none of the field officials appeared to clearly signal touchdown. In announcing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against USC, the officials also did not communicate over the public-address system or to game officials in the press box that the touchdown counted.
Players and coaches, along with spectators at the Coliseum and millions watching on TV, listening on radio and following the game on the Internet, thought the game ended with USC winning, 17-14.
But on Sunday, the Pac-12 issued a statement from Tony Corrente, the conference’s coordinator of football officiating.
“The final play of the game between USC and Utah was ruled properly and the touchdown did stand,” Corrente said. “There was a miscommunication between the officials and the press box that led to the confusion about the final score. We will make the appropriate adjustments to improve communication between on field officials and press box personnel so that we avoid any scoring issues in the future.”
Mike Pereira, the Pac-12’s officiating consultant, initiated the review after seeing the ending and calling the field officials after the game, a Pac-12 spokesman said.
About two hours after time on the game clock expired, a USC official informed the media that the conference had ruled that the touchdown should have been counted.
In a statement released late Saturday, Pereira said: “The new Unsportsmanlike Conduct rule is Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1. It states that Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls by players are administered as either live ball or dead ball fouls depending on when they occur. The rule does not apply to substitutes. All Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls by substitutes are enforced as dead ball fouls. Since the game was over, the penalty could not be enforced and the referee stated it was declined by rule. The officials did rule it a touchdown making the final score 23-14.”
Despite his 113-yard rushing effort against Utah, the depth chart lists Marc Tyler as a co-starter at tailback with D.J. Morgan, Curtis McNeal and Dillon Baxter. But Kiffin acknowledged that “It’s one of those situations where everyone can’t be happy. You can’t share the ball amongst four guys.” …Senior Martin Coleman, who started at left guard, will have a shoulder injury evaluated this week.