Ex-NDer: Botched Penalty Walkoff That Cost USC

Sunday I noted the botched call by Pac-12 Referee Michael Batlan that likely cost USC an opportunity to attempt a game-winning field goal against Stanford in its eventual 56-48 triple-overtime loss to the Cardinal.

Former Notre Dame football player Rick DiBernardo botched penalty walkoff during USC-Stanford game in 2011

But as preposterous as that officiating error was, at least it involved a sliver of subjectivity.

You can’t say the same for the gross negligence shown by Batlan and a certain member of his officiating crew during a critical juncture in the second overtime.

Trailing USC 48-41 and in possession of the ball, Stanford was called for holding during a 2nd-and-5 play from the USC 20-yard line. The foul occurred at the line of scrimmage, which should’ve resulted in a 10-yard markoff against the Cardinal forcing Stanford’s offense into a 2nd-and-15 situation at the USC 30-yard line.

Strangely though, the ball was instead walked by Umpire Rick DiBernardo only back to the USC 22-yard line, somehow setting up a 2nd-and-7 play. So rather than penalize the potent Stanford offense - led by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Andrew Luck - 10 yards, the Cardinal was pushed back only two.

How could DiBernardo have made such an astonishing error?

Maybe his mind was wandering back to his days as a starting linebacker for Notre Dame during the ’80s.

UPDATE: For those wondering exactly where the holding penalty in question took place, here’s closeup video of what led to the epic, inexplicable blunder by game official - and former starting Notre Dame football player - Rick DiBernardo:

As the video shows, Stanford’s Geoff Meinken held USC’s Chris Galippo at the line of scrimmage from which Umpire DiBernardo should’ve walked off 10 yards to the USC 30-yard line.

Instead, DiBernardo spotted the ball at the 22-yard line, two yards behind the spot of the foul.

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Pac-12 Referee Who Kneeds Replacing: Part One

From the contents of the video below, it’s not unreasoonable to observe that there’s more than an insignificant chance that Pac-12 referee Michael Batlan affected the final outcome of the Stanford-USC game Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum.

As if the above, abject incompentence wasn’t enough, stay tuned for Part Two.

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Photos: USC Football Team Wears UCLA Jerseys

During the USC football team’s practice on Thursday, the Trojan scout team wore jerseys designed to resemble arch rival UCLA.

USC scout team wearing UCLA jerseys during practice

(Photos Credit: USC)

The powder blues were used during a scrimmage in which the scout team impersonated the offense and defense of USC’s opponent this Saturday.

USC scout team wearing UCLA jerseys during practice

That opponent? Minnesota.

Though USC doesn’t play UCLA until November 26, USC coach Lane Kiffin used the blue & gold ensemble to motivate players to escape scout team duties - while lightening the mood at practice.

Rick Neuheisel UCLA Monopoly Photoshop

So what’s Skippy’s excuse?

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Video Of USC AD: Kiffin’s Done ‘Sensational’ Job

When Pat Haden took over as USC Athletic Director on August 3, 2010, he was looked upon by Trojan faithful as a godsend. But motivation for the matchless enthusiasm for Haden hire came from two distinctly different places.

1) Haden’s unmatched qualifications for the job.
2) Outgoing AD Mike Garrett’s performance on the job the previous 17 years.

Though Haden was the absolute best candidate USC could’ve landed for the job, plenty of USC alumni, staff and students were just as happy to see Garrett depart the scene thanks to his notoriously arrogant attitude and indisputable incompetence.

The dynastic football program gave Garrett cover for many years, but once Pete Carroll’s loosely-overseen empire collapsed, the USC administration did what it had to do: Show Garrett the door. I’ve already written too much about Garrett over the years, so I won’t bog you down by once again chronicling his myriad workplace failures.

I’d rather talk about Haden, who I fully expect will do a spectacular job for his alma mater, but who also might be prone to getting a little loose with the superlatives.

In his first statement to USC alumni, students and staff, Haden wrote in an official letter:

Mike Garrett was a sensational athletic director. His 17-year body of work is about as good as it gets. Read more…

Video: Kiffin-Caused Fumble “Key” To USC Loss?

No one is suggesting USC could’ve outlasted Oregon in the track meet masquerading as a football game at the L.A. Coliseum Saturday. But in at least one instance, Trojan Coach Lane Kiffin cost his team a precious possession during USC’s 53-32 loss to the Ducks.

(Amateur video: You can hear Kiffin whistle that distracted Barkley)

With the Trojans leading 17-15 midway through the second quarter and quarterback Matt Barkley lined up in shotgun formation at midfield, USC center Kris O’Dowd snapped the ball past Barkley, allowing Oregon to recover the miscue.

Josh Jovanelly of the DAILY TROJAN described the play as it happened on the DT’s live blog:

The Trojans had momentum on their side when Barkley lined up in the shotgun. He lifted his foot to signal the snap, but was distracted by a whistle (apparently from a coach) coming from the USC sideline. He turned his head and the ball was snapped. 

Jovanelly nailed it. The distraction came when Kiffin, in trying to get Barkley’s attention during the snap count, whistled loudly in the direction of the QB. When Barkley turned his head to the sideline, the ball was snapped passed him.

Moments later Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas turned the USC turnover into six points with a 45-yard touchdown strike to Jeff Maehl, immediately erasing the Ducks’ deficit. Oregon scored again before halftime, taking a 29-17 lead to the break en route to its eventual three touchdown victory.

But was that Kiffin-wrought change of possession really crucial to the outcome of the game?

According to USC running Marc Tyler, yes.

Read more…

Hit By Bus? Coach USC? Just One Number To Call

USC football coach Lane Kiffin has quietly employed an extra point strategy this season that is, in college football’s modern era, unprecedented.

Lane Kiffin's number: 222-2222

Despite have a healthy, competent placekicker, Kiffin has attempted two-point conversions on half of the USC’s 14 touchdowns so far this season. The pattern of those attempts has been indiscriminate, as Kiffin leaves the decision up to backup quarterback Mitch Mustain. Mustain’s job is to read the defense before the conversion play and if he thinks the opposing formation is conducive for a two-point try, the Trojans attempt it.

So far the result has been a miserable success rate, with the Trojans converting on just two of those seven tries.

The quality of competition probably isn’t coincidental to Kiffin’s PAT approach. It’s a lot easier to make up for botched extra points against Hawaii, Virginia and Minnesota than future USC opponents Oregon and Stanford.

This week USC starts conference play against putrid Washington State and despite the alarmingly futile rate of two-point conversions, Kiffin said Wednesday that he has every intention of continuing his prolific albeit unconventional post-TD approach.

I’m all for blowing up standard coaching practice if it makes sense, but there’s a reason why no coach in recent memory has employed such a strategy when afforded a competent kicker: Of the limited statistical studies on the subject, there’s no evidence to suggest that going for two consistently gives a team a better chance to win.

Eight months ago Judy Battista of the NEW YORK TIMES had a piece on the subject, at least as it applied to NFL teams. Citing numbers from the stats geeks at FootballOutsiders.com, Battista noted: Read more…

Fulmer Finally Rips Into Kiffin: ‘Arrogant Attitude’

The man who Lane Kiffin replaced at Tennessee, Phil Fulmer, finally let loose with some criticism of the now-USC coach on CBS on Saturday:

Phil Fulmer

Tennessee is a very proud program as we all know with great traditions and the people of Tennessee felt betrayed to be honest with you. They were embarrassed, felt jilted with all the cost of the change there was. Kiffin, he left Tennessee with basically his hat in his hand and a bunch of NCAA compliance questions.

Many in our community are glad that he is gone. He never really embraced the traditions, the values of the program or the community for that matter. And often his arrogant attitude turned people off. The bigger question in my opinion is how does a guy like this end up with two jobs with historic football teams like Tennessee and USC.”

I wonder if the people who deal with Nick Saban inside the Alabama program think he’s arrogant? Or the people inside the UT program when Fulmer was there? (Yes and yes.)

Saban’s circumstances in leaving the Dolphins were every bit as indelicate as Kiffin’s in Knoxville, but I don’t hear anyone complaining in Tuscaloosa about Saban’s attitude. If there is any talk about it, it’s Alabama fans celebrating Saban’s gruff, intolerant nature.

Winning will do that.

Fulmer’s revisionist criticism, even if there is an underlying truth to it, is laughably hypocritical. If Kiffin had won at Tennessee he could’ve replace Smokey with the Taco Bell chihuahua and no one would’ve cared.

Fulmer also commented on the so-called new era of high-profile, mercenary coaches: Read more…

Kiffin: Two-Way Players For USC Will Be ‘Common’

Scott Wolf of the L.A. DAILY NEWS reports on how USC’s Barack Obama-inspired head football coach, Lane Kiffin, plans to combat massive, NCAA-directed scholarship losses in the coming seasons.

USC football media guide in black and white

(So THAT explains B&W media guide)

With scholarship cuts looming following NCAA sanctions, USC coach Lane Kiffin said Monday that two-way players could be common for the Trojans the next few years.

“That’s really something I’ve talked about a lot,” Kiffin said. “Especially three or four years from now. We need to figure this team out … We talk about (the lack of depth) all the time. We have to plan for injuries this season.”

USC is facing a whopping loss of a 30 scholarships over the next three seasons if the school’s appeal of NCAA sanctions is unsuccessful.

One Trojan excited about multi-use is freshman wide receiver Robert Woods. Wolf: Read more…

Kiffin: Obama Is My ‘Model’ For Dealing With Crisis

The KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL reports this week that Lane Kiffin recently revealed his inspiration for dealing with a crisis.

Kiffin: Obama his inspiration for dealing with crisis

“I could sit here and say, ‘Why did Oakland happen? Why did leaving Tennessee cause the trouble it did?’ Those things happened to prep me for this, to be a stable manager in a crisis. My model was Obama and his coolness under fire, the confidence he projects during disaster.”

Only place I would characterize Kiffin as a “stable manager” would be Santa Anita.

Photo: Kiffin Makes Pac-10 Debut Off Broadway

Delightful photo - sent in by an intrepid reader - of Pac-10 football coaches and their wives taken this week in Times Square:

Lane Kiffin in New York City

Apparently Layla couldn’t be dragged away from the Naked Cowboy.