As tempers have cooled and UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel has had some time to think about the end of Saturday’s 28-7 loss, he still maintains he made the right call.
Down by 14 with 52 seconds left and three timeouts remaining, Neuheisel called a timeout. On the ensuing play, USC called a play-action pass, and freshman quarterback Matt Barkley found a streaking Damien Williams for a 48-yard touchdown.
“You don’t keep trying until that final whistle,” Neuheisel said in his Sunday night conference call with reporters. “Had there been 15 seconds left, I can understand. There were 50! There’s a chance for a fumble. I just don’t understand why people don’t see why you keep trying. If (Carroll) took offense, then certainly I send apologies over.”
The Trojans certainly appeared upset after the game.
Running into the locker room, USC senior tight end Anthony McCoy said that the team wasn’t trying to send a message or show the Bruins up.
His expression said the opposite.
“We wanted to just kneel the ball down and they wanted to get cute and call a timeout, so we came at them with a play-action pass and caught them off-guard,” USC senior tight end Anthony McCoy said. “If they want to get mad about it, they can. We don’t really care what they do. It’s about us.”
Meanwhile, after a cooling-off period, the Bruins appeared more upset at themselves than the Trojans. UCLA committed four turnovers and had five penalties for 60 yards, while averaging just 4.4 yards per play.
“It wasn’t anything they did,” said senior running back Chane Moline, who had 15 yards on 12 rushes with a two-yard touchdown. “It was us shooting ourselves in the foot. We were driving on them all game long, but then we’d get a personal foul, a holding. We beat ourselves. They’re a good team, but they didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves.”
In assessing the season, Neuheisel broke it down succinctly, for both sides of the ball.
“We improved in pass protection, we did not improve enough in the running offense,” Neuheisel said. “I thought we were a pretty good pass defense, but we still need to go a ways in terms of tackling.”