USC’s late touchdown vs. UCLA: fair or foul?

From ESPN:

When Matt Barkley kneeled down to end Southern California’s (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) victory in the final minute, UCLA defiantly stopped the clock with a timeout.

So the Trojans let ‘er rip, throwing a long touchdown pass and then celebrating it with a taunting ferocity that brought the Bruins onto the field on the verge of a brawl.

The last 90 seconds of Los Angeles’ 79th crosstown showdown had more action than the first 58 1/2 minutes, even if it was just a few extra fireworks at the close of USC’s workmanlike 28-7 victory Saturday night.

See for yourself the setting:

So the question is: Was that cool for Pete Carroll to do? Was it cool for Neuheisel to call the timeouts? What is the proper response?

  • http://www.shakinthesouthland.com DrB

    Not Pete’s job to stop Pete’s offense, and for your rivals? I’d do it too.

  • Mr. T

    It’s cool if Petey does it. It’s uncool if anyone else does it. It’s a tragedy if it happens to Petey. If Jim Harbaugh did it to Petey, it’s blatant, classless bullying.

    Did I get that right? I’ve been watching a lot of ESPN lately so that I can worship Pete Carrol and Tim Tebow in the most fashionable manner.

  • gigem03

    If UCLA is trying to extend the game to get another chance at scoring, then don’t be upset when the other team also tries to score.

  • Zach Havenor

    I think if UCLA is calling time outs then USC has every right to throw the pass. I also think Stanford was ok for going for two. Woody Hayes went for two against Michigan when they were up by about 40 and when asked at the end of the game why, he said “Because I could not go for 3.”

  • Alex

    It isn’t as if USC was 11-0 going into this game. They’ve had their share of struggles. I’m not a USC fan, and I enjoy when they lose, but it is nice for their players to be able to put together a convincing win to end the season.

    Too much is made of playing “nice” in college football.

  • Matt

    21-7… games not over, games not a blow out! UCLA was trying to get back in the game, so USC made sure they couldn’t

  • Stephen

    Was Stanford classless? Probably not, but then when they ran up the score USC was just trying to end the game. They’d conceded defeat and wanted to get off the field as quickly as possible. Having Nieuheisel call a time out to prolong the game is saying “Hey, I want to keep playing” to which Pete Carroll responded by continuing to play.

    @ Mr. T: if USC had been calling time outs against Stanford to prolong the game, then USC is inviting Stanford to keep scoring. They weren’t. While I don’t care if a team runs up the score, that’s the difference to the pundits. USC conceded the match and Stanford kept pounding anyway. UCLA didn’t, so USC took that as an indication to keep playing.

  • Keith

    I’ve always felt that if the losing team doesn’t give up then the winning team shouldn’t. UCLA called the timeout to get the ball back, thus they are still trying to win, thus USC can score. When Harbaugh (who I love as a coach) and Woody Hayes (who was a drunk SOB) go for 2 up 20 plus points (and up more than that for Hayes) then that’s just being first class douches.

    I hate, hate, hate, hate USC but I feel they didn’t do anything out of bounds here. UCLA was down 14 with 1 minute left and they had to call a TO. If they called a TO and put in all their Seniors who are 3rd depth chart wise that’s fine, but I don’t think that was UCLA’s intent.

  • Kent

    I have no problem with the play call. As others have said, UCLA hadn’t conceded the game, why should USC? I think the problem was caused by the over-the-top celebration. Pete Carroll’s running around like he’s just won the BCS. I understand it’s a big play in a heated rivalry, but show a little class.

  • http://anotherdavid.blogspot.com Another David

    Yeah, he had a right to do it the same way Harbaugh had a right to go for two. Carroll had it coming two weeks go – after years of running the score up on Stanford, they finally got their shot in. This week, Neuheisel had it coming when he decided the game wasn’t over when it, in fact, was. Don’t start a fight you’re not prepared to finish, eh?

  • Hayes

    I agree that USC had a good excuse to go ahead and try to score because of the UCLA timeout. But really, was it necessary? I was raised to believe that being the bigger person and passing on a chance to pound out a few more points here and there was really an indication of the quality of your character. Over the past month we’ve really had a chance to take a look inside the psyche of some PAC-10 coaches, particularly Carroll. They haven’t looked too good.

    Two things are clear, 1) other teams in the PAC-10 remember how they’ve been treated over the past 7 years and are going to make a weakened USC pay for it any chance they get, 2) none of these coaches (Nieuheisel,Carroll, Harbaugh) are the type of leaders you’d want doing anything other than coaching football. Could you imagine a world where grown men react to the flimsiest of slights in such an over-the-top manner?

  • http://www.bringitonsports.com.au Paul

    Why does everyone worry about this stuff? i think it is unsportsmanlike to not keep playing until the game is over…

  • GS

    Best play of the year. UCLA should’ve eaten it. Instead they wanted to keep playing. Best moment of the year in college football, especially the near fight afterwards.

  • endersgame

    In my experience, the coaches who encourage never giving up and proclaim “the game isn’t over until it’s over” always seem to be the first to cry over teams “running up the score.” O hypocrites!

    If you can score at will, do it. When I start coaching I won’t mind the other team “running up” the score on me and my team, and I identify more as a defensie guy than an offensive guru! If we’re that bad to get pounded on in the fourth quarter, I’m not doing MY job working with the defense, and the offensive coach is showing the world he obviously is. Kudos to him, I’m all for it.

  • endersgame

    *defensive

  • Mr.Murder

    WWJWD? What Would John Wooden Do?

  • Dupes

    I was pissed 1 because I turned it off and went to bed after USC scored to go up by 14…but then I saw what USC did and I was pissed because after bitching about Stanford, there’s no point. But, when I saw UCLA took a timeout on a knee…they kind of asked for it. It was not classy, but you call a timeout down by 14 and less than a minute left when the other team is kneeling…it looked like something that would happen in a middle school or high school game, but if UCLA just let the Trojans kneel down, then take your loss. Of course USC would rub it in their face afterwards, they are ranked 20 and got blown up and out (at home) by STANFORD. That’s how Pete rolls and that’s why his teams show up and knock people out. And, there is always the “if you don’t like it then stop it” view, but UCLA should have not called the timeout. It was classless to go deep, but it fit the last few minutes of a rivalry on the West Coast. Way to make a statement by both teams. Not really.

  • Mike

    To me it seems like these coaches think it’s all about them. So what if UCLA called a timeout they were losing. Of course they are going to call it. But if you are USC why subject your players to another chance to get hurt? Because you want to teach the other coach a lesson? Narcisistic if you ask me. Needs to be a little less about you coach and a little more about your players.

    I am interested in why running up the score is the RIGHT move from all the people who support it.

  • Mike

    EDIT:
    If the below description is true, and they had to get a first down to ice the game and just ended up with a TD I don’t have a problem with it. If they could have iced the game w/o a first then I stand behind my first comment.

    “If Pete Carrol hadn’t thrown for a first down or a touchdown then UCLA would have called 2 more timouts and USC woud have been forced to punt it a away with about 55 seconds left… UCLA and USC both did what they had to do to do their best to stay in the game………….. this was completely different from the stanford 2pt conversion…………The only un-sportsman like display occurred after the play in the almost brawl”

  • JP – Chicago

    UCLA in a game over situation gives USC the right to go deep.

    UCLA & Neuheisel whats the problem? UCLA going to midfield shows an undisciplined team. Nueheisel not being able to keep his players on the sidelines shows he is NOT in control of that team. UCLA is not looking good on so many fronts.

  • jgordon1

    What I found interesting was that as soon as the TD was thrown Coach Carroll didn’t congratulate a player but went over and hugged a coach…are they playing the game for themselves or for the kids..as he always professes…My thought was that he was truly happy for himself and not the kids

  • Mr. T

    I stand corrected. If Petey does it, we justify it with cliches, old tropes and “nuance.” If anyone else does it, it’s classless.

  • BHW

    Well, it’s pretty typical to see a team call timeouts after their opponent takes a knee, even when the chances of a comeback (14 points in 54 seconds) are essentially nil.

    What I have never, ever seen is the team that had been taking a knee throwing deep, celebrating like they had won Game 7 of the World Series and the Super Bowl combined, jump around, go on the field, and point at the opponent’s bench.

  • Wondering

    @ Mr. T

    Who, exactly, has done something similar and been called “classless” for it? The game wasn’t over, Carroll’s team had to keep playing, so they did. They called a play and it worked. What’s the problem?

    More importantly, what’s the alternative? Take two more knees and risk a punt? Run some poor back into the teeth of a hungry defense and risk fumbles and injuries in a pileup?

    Suppose they had run the ball instead and it had turned into a long run and a TD, are we even still having this conversation?

    I also wonder about your complaint about double standards. College football is full of far worse sportsmanship than whatever this was. Every week you see powerhouse teams beating sacrificial lambs by 50, 60, even 70 points, and no one bats an eye. Several times a year, guys like Tebow and McCoy run up their Heisman stats against glorified high school teams and this is supposed to be proof of how great they are. USC plays football against their most hated rival and this makes them classless?

  • jakester

    USC did not need to score to win, UCLA did….UCLA had every right to call time outs but they still weren’t getting the ball back if USC had it

  • BHW

    Remember, Carroll is a bastion of pettiness, particularly where the rivalry is concerned. This offseason, Rick Neuheisel wanted to amend the Pac-10 rule against having minors on the sidelines so as to allow children of coaches to be there. Pac-10 coaches approved the recommendation 9-1 — only Carroll opposed. (Naturally, the Pac-10 sided with Carroll and against the other 9 coaches.)

    Before the game, Carroll actively avoided shaking Neuheisel’s hand until Neuheisel basically forced the issue, after which Carroll exited as quickly as possible (this was reported in the LA Times).

    Carroll isn’t really big on showing class toward his opponents, and both the playcall last night and in particular Carroll’s and his players’ reactions afterward are just part of that pattern.

  • BHW

    @ Wondering

    “Who, exactly, has done something similar and been called “classless” for it?”

    No one, as I don’t ever remember this having been done before.

  • Dupes

    When you are up by two scores with a minute to go with a far superior team and take a knee, you are telling the other team, “Ok, it is over. We are taking a knee instead of running it up the middle. If you take a timeout, then we will play. If not, we’ll continue to take a knee and walk across the field.” As the defeated team (the game was over), you can either “fight until the end of the game” and call a timeout and play, or concede and tell your team, today was not our day, we had numerous turn overs and the game is over. We’ll shake hands and walk back to the locker room.
    UCLA called a timeout when the game was over and so USC had a few options. 1-Kneel down. 2-Run the ball up the middle (something Tressel would do, along with just about every other coach) or 3-Go deep with a freshmen qb (something Spurrier would do at Florida) to send a message saying “we gave you a chance to take your loss but you want to stop the clock…then stop us”…very classless, especially after the whole Stanford bullcrap…but his team responded and that may get some recruits (like they need it)…should be an interesting offseason/game next year…if only USC could beat Washington and Stanford, or show up against Oregon.

    UCLA got into this mess and deserves what ever happens but USC should not celebrate like that…way to teach young men haha whatever…at least Tebow wasn’t mentioned

  • GoDawg

    I’m not the greatest fan of Neuheisel. But what he did, taking the timeout, is exactly what he’s supposed to do. He’s saying to his players that we will not give up even if we’re down by 14 points with a minute left. That’s what every team does in that situation.

    What USC is supposed to do is run the ball and get another first down to run out the clock.

    But, Carroll is classless. There is no way in God’s green earth I would ever let my child play for him. It’s not that they scored, but that he was trying to embarrass the other team. Let your team celebrate, but show some class. He runs around like he just won the world series. He’s just showing what class he has….NONE.

  • endersgame

    Why is everyone so concerned about class and sportsmanship? As one coach on Huey once wrote, why do people try and find morality [ethics and “truths” as well] through football?

  • cantcatchuf

    If any football player’s feelings are hurt by a better opponent running up the score, then perhaps they need to pursue a gentler past time.

    I propose we worry less about such fragile egos and ponder, instead, the incompetency of the UCLA defense.

  • endersgame

    I think you’re on to something there, cantcatchuf. Do players’ egos really get hurt if they get scored on one too many times? I doubt it. Surely it can get them angry and it hurts their pride, but that motivates them the next time they play. It makes them get BETTER. In Little League the kids know who won the game but most of them are playing for fun. In the higher levels of the game (college, NFL, etc.) the players take the game seriously but not personally.

    I don’t think there’s any truth to this widespread notion that kids are getting soft and their egos are incredibly fragile. If anything I think the blame lies on the parents today thinking they need to protect their children- they’ve essentially convinced themselves kids are fragile creatures and then turn around and blame the kids for any perceived weakness. Besides, haven’t past generations always seen the successive generation as weaker, more protected, etc.? It’s ironic how a society’s goal is to progress to ensure a better future for successive generations, and then blast the successive generation when that goal is achieved.

    Obviously I’m going off on a rant/tangent now. I’m gonna stop and go back to thinking about football.

  • BHW

    I don’t think the issue is the egos of the players. I don’t think the notion of sportsmanship is related to ego protection. “Sportsmanship” is a goal in and of itself. One can see it as a violation of sportsmanship to play the game so that the play on the field is secondary to the coaches trying to “stick it” to each other. And Carroll has a pattern of going out of his way to “stick it” to Neuheisel, and in a fashion to which Neuheisel has yet to respond in kind. This was just the first time Carroll chose to do so on the field. I really don’t think this incident can be approached in isolation, but has to be looked at in context of Carroll’s pattern of behavior in general and his absurd behavior toward Neuheisel in particular.

    In the long run, all that’s going to do is feed Neuheisel’s already considerable powers of inspiration. But from his handling of White Nation to his tantrum over Mark Sanchez leaving early, Carroll has done nothing more or less than act as a child whenever given the opportunity. There was nothing surprising about what happened last night.

  • Zach

    My main thought was about how much I hate Petros Papadakis and trying to desperately understand how this man has any kind of career as an announcer with such an annoying set of vocal chords. He’s like the vocal equivalent of a face for radio.

  • Mark

    USC was in no way at risk of losing this game had they handed UCLA the ball with all the time left on the clock them UCLA was trying to end on a good note. Pete aimed that shot right across the bow of UCLA’s new coach. The problem is Pete put a big target on his back and most of the teams in the Pac-10 smell blood in the water after this season.

    Personally I have no particular problem with it, I do think it classless but it is a rivalry game. The thing that I wished to happen didn’t and that is the players and the fans storm the field and Pete was trying to rub that one in with his actions and looking at the UCLA sideline. His poor judgement nearly caused an all out brawl, that is a lack of professionalism in my judgement. The call itself I don’t care one way or the other but Pete’s actions afterwards are a slap in the face to real coaches throughout the nation.

  • Brian

    I HATE when teams call timeouts when they have lost and their opponent is trying to knee the ball and end the game, which is the classy way to do it. Calling timeouts in that situation is just being a pest. Kudos to USC for cramming it down Slick Rick’s throat like that. Maybe next time he’ll just take his medicine and leave.

  • DoubleB

    UCLA wasn’t out of the game. I think that part needs to be stressed. With all 3 timeouts, they could block a punt and score, get the onside kick, and score a TD to tie (or win the game). Harvard-Yale 1969 should ring a few bells for those older posters on this site.

    If UCLA wants to call the timeouts to try to win the game, extend it, or just end on a positive note–there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you do that, you’re explicitly telling USC, “we’re still playing,” and USC decided to continue to play as well.

    This entire thing would be a non-issue among coaches and is a blown up affair among media and fans who just don’t understand.

  • Gertie

    Back in the 80’s, the SC coaches were razzed about NOT running up the scoreboard, because it hurt our bowl standing points, although it was a classy move to show mercy.

    It was the offense’s prerogative to take a knee, it was also UCLA’s prerogative to pee on the kids’ victory by taking a timeout. So, Coach Carrol let the kids try to take their victory back and they did. Whereas, UCLA’s coaches allowed their kids to storm the field, challenging the winners, with 44 seconds left in the game.

    I admire USC’s team for showing restraint. They are being taught more than just winning, which is real training for Life.

  • JT

    To all the people who are wrongly claiming that the Trojans bitched about Stanford going for 2: PC didn’t even complain when asked about it in the post game interview on the field. He actually said, “I don’t know what they were thinking with that, but in that situation, they get to do whatever they want.”

    And for the record, the comments from the UCLA football program are similar.

    People really need to shut up about class when they lose. Losing with class is congratulating the other team and addressing your own mistakes. Not complaining about the refs, threatening to rumble at midfield and whining about how the other team doesn’t win with class.

  • BHW

    “I admire USC’s team for showing restraint. They are being taught more than just winning, which is real training for Life.”

    Restraint? They were the ones who started the barking and went on the field first.

  • http://www.davidgagne.net/ dvg

    Here are a few of my (disjointed) thoughts on the whole thing:

    (1) I live in Los Angeles and — even with DirecTV — could only watch the game on a Pittsburgh satellite feed. This city is *not* a football town and anyone ridiculous enough to think it is has never lived in an actual football town.

    (2) After the Notre Dame @ Stanford game ended, I switched over and watched almost the entire UCLA @ USC game.

    (3) This game was a pathetic display of *everything*. The “unsportsmanlike” decision for Pete to go for the kill — and it’s a stretch to call it unsportsmanlike because, after all, Rick called the time out — is only making a big splash in the media because there was *nothing* else in this game that even remotely resembled the caliber of football played by the other 300 teams that played throughout the holiday weekend. At one point I remember there were *fifteen* penalties and *fourteen* punts in this game. There were *five* turnovers, and not a single one of them was because of an awesome display of athletic ability; they were all caused by poor coaching and ineptitude. USC had a pick-six early in the game but otherwise there was no scoring … and not because of power defense. Nobody scored because it looked like a pair of Keystone Kop offenses.

    (4) At the end of the game, out of seemingly nowhere, UCLA started playing and made it an actual contest. At that point apparently USC woke up and tossed on a few touchdowns, but late, late in the game it was a close 14-7. If you didn’t actually *watch* the game, don’t let the final score fool you. This was a very close game for 54 minutes.

    (5) But it was a very close game between two teams that looked horrible, so … who cares?

  • BHW

    You know, going back to my most recent post, I regret that, because the he-said-he-said on “who started it” with the taunting won’t get us anywhere (especially as we’re only going off of biased reports from people who were there, anyway, at best). Suffice to say that neither team demonstrated restraint as the situation escalated. Whichever team did the “most” prodding, the other should have risen above it. I do, however, believe that Carroll’s playcall and behavior afterward were what incited the incident.

  • sycasey

    Some VERY disappointing responses in here, particularly those that attempt to make the point of “USC did nothing wrong.” Really? So because UCLA called a timeout, the Trojans just HAD to throw a bomb to the end zone and then dance around like they had just won the Super Bowl? Just no way of avoiding it?

    Please. Neuheisel was stupid to call a timeout when USC was just kneeling down to end the game, but that doesn’t excuse Carroll’s behavior afterward. The way he celebrated the TD and watched as his players jeered at the UCLA sideline gave away his motives; it wasn’t just “game on,” it was a deliberate attempt to humiliate the opposition in a way totally unnecessary to winning the game. That’s unsportsmanlike, anytime or anywhere. What a ridiculous display of Jr. High School behavior by both teams.

  • http://www.spreadoffense.com Spread Offense

    These pro style ‘conventional’ offenses have an inferiority complex and this is how they blow off steam stemming from their jealousy of the spread offense teams with all the higher BCS rankings {LOL… I couldn’t resist}

    Just keep spreading u’m!

  • Oz

    a few thoughts of mine…..

    1. time out = bad call
    2. long bomb = bad call
    3. excessive celebration by USC = bad call
    4. walking onto field by UCLA bitching and moaning about score = bad call
    5. all the bitching and moaning by everyone else about it = bad call
    6. loving the game of football = good call!
    Period

  • http://whencarcajousattack.blogspot.com/ Markusr2007

    The touchdown bomb with less than a minute to play is not a big deal. I mean, in the modern game of college football, can anyone feel safe with a 14 point lead? I suggest that no coach can. There are hundreds of examples to draw from, and Northwestern football in the Big Ten is probably involved in at least 10 of them. So I don’t fault Carroll for heaving it. I don’t think he expected a freaking touchdown grab anyway, but UCLA’s secondary has been a carbon copy of Michigan’s all year. Besides, if the shoe would have been on the other foot, I highly doubt that a character of Neuheisel would have shown any restraint. In college football, you go for the jugular and try to win games decisively because you never freaking know what’s going to happen on the next possession.

    What I didn’t like to see, and never liked seeing, is this player and team-to-team taunting. I’m ok with celebration with your fans and your team. That’s cool. But the “in yo’ face” gestures and “whatayathinkathat!?” flailing about crap is just ridiculous and unsportsmanlike.

    Despite the Lamar Thomas-induced rules in place at the NCAA level now, the hot-dogging appears to be only getting worse. This reflects poorly on high school level coaches around the country, in my opinion, who either condone, or encourage this kind of player lack of respect for opponents. I realize that it’s now becoming mainstream in American teenage culture to behave like this, but coaches have a responsibility to teach athletes in their charge a lesson about this.

    By disrespecting UCLA in this way, USC didn’t inflate their victory Saturday. They cheapened it. They also disrespected themselves in the process.

    But no, “respect is earned!” will be what many will say. Andd until it is earned, we have a right to kick the horse while it’s down, and proceed to thump our chests until someone comes along and kicks our own heads in on national TV (Oregon).

    Above all, it’s boring. It was novel back in the 1980s with Miami(FL) football. Now it’s just stupid.

    Why no show opponents a fraction of respect whether you win 17-14 or 56-0? Keep the helmets on and let the scoreboard and the great plays speak for themselves.

  • Wide Tackle Six

    Did UCLA have anymore timeouts? If they did not then Carroll and Co should have taken another knee.

    While everyone is talking about this did anyone notice Carroll’s APB for a defense turned up something.

  • Homyrrh

    Heh, just like playing Madden with middle schoolers…

  • OldBaller

    There are two things here that I don’t get…

    Why is USC taking a knee when UCLA has 3 timeouts left? UCLA has every right to try and get the ball back and score and then for an onside kick. It’s pretty unlikely, but stranger things have happened and no team is expected to give up in that situation. The appropriate strategy in that situation is to run the ball and try to get a first down, icing the game. At the very least, having decided to not even risk running the ball, why should they be surprised or angry that UCLA is using their timeouts? They are mad because UCLA didn’t roll over for them when given the opportunity? How dare they!

    Also, why are they throwing a long pass? Dropping back to pass seems like an unnecessarily risky play, done just for the sake of humiliating UCLA. They don’t need the points to win. All they need is a first down.

    To call for that play and celebrate it’s success like it was a game-winner is pretty bush league. To me, Carroll comes off pretty poorly.

  • Gus M

    “Well, it’s pretty typical to see a team call timeouts after their opponent takes a knee, even when the chances of a comeback (14 points in 54 seconds) are essentially nil.”

    It’s not typical at all. The typical response is to accept that is happening and let the clock run out. By calling TO UCLA opens itself to this play. USC wanted to end the game at 21-7. UCLA didn’t. So USC complied.

    This is NOTHING like what Stanford did.