Lane Kiffin Says Refs Lied to Him, But He Made Risky Play Call and Paid

Lane Kiffin is upset with the Pac-12 referees for “lying” to him about a call at the end of regulation between USC and Stanford Saturday, but does he have a case? The play in question was the last play of regulation. The Trojans threw a screen to Robert Woods on 2nd and 10 with nine seconds left and two timeouts. The plan was to use one of the timeouts if Woods got tackled in bounds. Here’s the play:

Woods was ruled down in bounds with one second still showing on the clock. Lane Kiffin said he had an agreement with one of the officials that a timeout would have been called if they ruled Woods was tackled in bounds. The problem is there was less than a second left when Woods went down, and that really wasn’t enough time to get the referee’s attention and have them call timeout. Timeouts are not enforced when a coach wanted it to be called, but when the referee actually calls it.

Instead of being mad at an official for not calling the timeout, Kiffin should be upset with Robert Woods for running across the entire field instead of going down immediately and calling a timeout. It was a poor decision by Woods — one that wasted five seconds. It was also a risky play call by Kiffin because it relied on his players to manage the time properly. But Kiffin does have legitimate complaints about two other calls from the game.

The referees cost USC eight yards with a wrong spot on a holding call in the second overtime. With a 2nd and 5 at the 20, Stanford had an eight yard gain but there was a holding call at the line of scrimmage. The referees wrongfully enforced the penalty from the end of the run, instead of from the line of scrimmage. It should have been a 2nd and 15 at the 30 instead of a 2nd and 7 at the 22.

The personal foul call on Stanford’s final drive of regulation to tie the game also was a bad one. USC’s defensive back T.J. McDonald was moving at full speed and had no way of slowing down to avoid making a hit. If you look at it within the context of the full play and by watching at full speed, there should not have been a flag.

USC had the game in their hands and should not be blaming the referees for losing it. More importantly, Kiffin should be working with Robert Woods on making smart plays instead of dumb ones rather than getting pissed at a referee for not calling his timeout with a few tenths of a second left.

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  • Josh Rupiper

    The Pac-12 probably won’t comment because there is no standard for this situation. Video evidence clearly shows Kiffin trying to call timeout. It also shows the ref mouthing that “he was out of bounds” and therefore didn’t need the timeout to stop the clock. The ref signaled the play as out of bounds. This leads to two questions of which I don’t really know the answer to either. For this game, the replay booth decided yes for 1 and the head ref decided to cover his back and avoid answering 2:
    1) Can you overturn the in-bounds or out-of-bounds signal from the referee in regards to stopping the clock (I’m guessing yes, but I doubt you’ll here that as definitively true!)
    2) Can a timeout take 0 seconds off the clock when called preemptively? (I’m guessing no, based on countless situations where it wasn’t allowed in the past, definitely won’t here an answer here)