Game one wrap-up: Two points for consideration
This occurs when past expectations meet present change. It wasn’t long ago that USC was beating Big Ten opponents by an average of thirty-plus points. It was beating the upper echelon of the conference, meeting them in Rose Bowls or battling them as top ranked teams. That average margin has narrowed since 2008. 30-point victories became a 3-point triumph over #8 Ohio State in 2009. It became an 11-point victory over the unranked Gophers a year ago, and now a 2-point survival in their own house.
Pete Carroll not only rebuilt a program, he also changed the culture. A 2-point victory over Minnesota or any unranked program is acceptable and celebrated in 2001, yet somehow taboo today. It’s hardly fair to a group of kids already penalized by the NCAA for acts they did not commit. We then criticize them in victory, punishing the group a second time for past achievements—Think about it.
2-points for consideration
There’s only one situation that will allow a coach to choose a 2-point conversion over an extra point attempt without receiving any backlash, and that’s when his team is playing catch up late in a ballgame. Be it success or failure, it was the right call, and no one will question the decision. Utilizing that option at any other point is an invitation to scrutiny, even if he avoids defeat.
If a team with a sizable lead attempts a 2-point conversion late in a ballgame, the coach is an asshole running up the score. Attempt it early in a tie game or with the lead, and he’s greedy and taking a risk. If the attempt fails, then regardless of what happens throughout the game, it will be the reason for a team’s loss or not winning by enough.
USC failed twice on 2-point conversions in the first half of Saturday’s game. And though the Trojans were victorious, it’s those two points that are the topic of discussion, as if a 21-17 final would make the victory bigger for a team that was favored by three touchdowns. Come Sunday, no one was asking Jerry Kill, the loser, why he didn’t go for two with his team trailing. The questions were for the Lane Kiffin, the winner, for setting a situation where a Gopher field goal could have changed the outcome.
I have a problem with Kiffin’s choice, but not because the victory was more narrow than it should have been. Kiffin pulled one of the best special teams coaches from Fresno State to USC last year. He then recruited and gained a commitment from one of the top kicking prospects and handed him a scholarship. But with the table set, we chose to eat from the floor, leaving Andre Heidari’s foot planted after touchdowns, and opting to go on 4th, instead of springing his big leg into action.
My philosophy is to take what a defense gives you, especially with the lead. But we can also look back a year ago, where the difference between Oregon being qualified or disqualified for a national title shot was a 2-point conversion made early in a game, which allowed the Ducks to hold on for a 15-13 victory over Cal.