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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

A timeout, a TD pass -- and a rivalry taken to another level

What happened at the end of an otherwise dull, mistake-prone USC-UCLA game will reverberate until the schools meet next year at the Rose Bowl.

November 30, 2009|Chris Dufresne
  • USC Coach Pete Carroll and UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel have helped take the Trojans- Bruins rivalry to a new level with their late-game strategy on Saturday.
USC Coach Pete Carroll and UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel have helped take the… (Photos by Wally Skalij /…)

UCLA versus USC, in the wee small hours of the morning, a postscript:

Anyone still think kicking off after dinner was a good idea? How many times have you heard your parents say that nothing good ever happens after midnight (on Prime Ticket in Eastern cable outlets)?

The most mesmerizing moments of an otherwise dull, mistake-prone and offensively challenged game came near the end with USC ahead comfortably, 21-7 (yet not comfortable enough for Pete Carroll).

Two weeks after asking "What's your deal?" after Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh sullied the name of sportsmanship with an attempted two-point conversion while leading 48-21, Carroll was upgraded to gold status in the run-it-up club when he requisitioned a touchdown bomb to stick it in UCLA's ear hole.

Pete, what's your deal?

The teams nearly came to blows at the Coliseum, ignited by Rick Neuheisel's rueful decision to call time to prolong a game that was already decided.

Quotes that coaches may be best remembered for:

Vince Lombardi: "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."

Joe Paterno: "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish. It will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good."

John Wooden: "Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

Rick Neuheisel: "Timeout!"

Pete Carroll: "Throw it deep!"

What an extraordinary display of petulance by men locked in a lopsided but highly contentious football turf war. And this is only going to get better -- or worse.

Just think if Saturday's game had Rose Bowl implications.

The pivot point came about 1:30 a.m. on the Eastern seaboard. Stewart Mandel, the college football writer for SportsIllustrated.com, was sawing logs. Mandel reported that he fell asleep and missed the ending, later tweeting, "If anyone has a video, please share."

Neuheisel and Carroll deserve each other, but next time let's make it at high noon.

The sophomore UCLA coach should not have called timeout to extend the game, but what Carroll did could only have been worse had he incited a riot that resulted in black eyes and arrests.

Luckily, the black eyes were only metaphors involving the programs.

Neuheisel was the guy who yelled "fire!" in a crowded theater, but Carroll actually had the gasoline and matches.

This rivalry is never going to be the same. What happened is going to reverberate until the schools meet next year at the Rose Bowl.

The incident is going to be used, by both sides, in the homes of recruits.

UCLA and USC athletes compete annually for a trophy called the "Gauntlet," which has now officially been thrown down.

This isn't a Monopoly game anymore -- it's paint ball.

Saturday was so different from the 13-9 classic of 2006, at the Rose Bowl. In between the third and fourth quarters of that game, in a display of pure competitive exuberance, UCLA and USC players stared each other down from across the field, jumping up and down in a frenzied stadium that became static with electricity.

That was as good as a rivalry gets -- and it was during the day.

Saturday's ending, like Adam Lambert's, should have been preempted for anyone under 18.

Neuheisel could use a lesson in defeat management. In 2007, North Texas lost a game at Oklahoma, 79-10, in part because Todd Dodge, the North Texas coach, kept passing the ball.

"They had no plan for losing," former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer explained later. "When you can't win the game, you need to run the clock, don't let it stop, don't throw incomplete passes. Get on the bus and go home."

UCLA needed to get on the bus. Carroll, conversely, forfeited any more looks of dismay after the opposing team scores 55 on his team. Coaches talk about finding "teachable" moments in bad situations.

What happens when the teachers need teaching?

Weekend wrap

* The final score for Notre Dame this weekend at Stanford was 45-38. The final score for Charlie Weis appears to be 35-27, his five-year record.

* Stat of the weekend: Houston had more touchdowns (eight) than Rice had first downs (five) in jumping to a 59-0 halftime lead. Houston won, 73-14, and will play East Carolina next week for the Conference USA title.

* Say what? Penn State (10-2) is No. 9 in the coaches' poll, one spot ahead of 10-2 Iowa, a team it lost to at home. The AP poll has it right: Iowa, at No. 9, ahead of Penn State

* The Civil War keeps getting better: Oregon and Oregon State, playing for a Rose Bowl berth on Thursday in Eugene, now will pit No. 7 against No. 13. The Ducks and Beavers, who didn't play this weekend, each moved up three spots in the AP rankings.

* The Pac-10 has five teams in the AP top 25 but is a lock to be denied a second at-large BCS pick. The problem here is too many three-loss teams. Since 1998, the Pac-10 has sent a second team to the BCS only twice: Oregon State (Fiesta) after the 2000 season and USC (Orange) after 2002.

The Pac-10 missed two other opportunities. In 2004, when USC advanced to the BCS title game, California had a shot at the Rose Bowl but was edged out in the BCS standings by Texas. In 2005, Oregon was a Fiesta Bowl candidate until the Ducks were knocked out by a BCS rule book (Page 7) that demanded No. 4 Ohio State and No. 6 Notre Dame receive automatic bids.

* A win over Arizona on Saturday will probably land USC (which would end up 9-3, 6-3) in the Holiday Bowl. Pac-10-affiliated bowls must choose schools in order of conference finish but have selection discretion in the case of ties. If Oregon beats Oregon State and Cal wins at Washington, then USC, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal will be tied for second at 6-3.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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