Before the game, a couple of friends and I called Norm Chow over to us as we stood on the USC sideline. When he came over, the USC student section burst into a loud applause. When Pete Carroll sought Chow out during warmups, the crowd’s reaction seemed mixed. Any theories?
If you watch the last 40 seconds of this video, you will see Cade McNown fake a pitch and run a bootleg at the end of the 1998 USC-UCLA game. I can still remember how angry Paul Hackett was over that play after the game.
The last touchdown of the game erased the fact this was a downright mediocre offensive game plan against UCLA.
But the justification of “competing” on that last score also defies the idea of playing smart football.
An incomplete pass on that play stops the clock and allows UCLA to save a timeout.
An interception gives them the ball back without wasting any more of their timeouts. What if the interception were returned for a touchdown? Then UCLA’s ridiculous offense, which had no chance to score 14 points in the final minute, might be asked to score just once if the Bruins recovered an on-side kick.
The point is even if something bad happens only 1 in 1,000 times by calling that play-action pass, if you down the football three times, nothing bad happens in 1,000 times.
And we saw for nearly four quarters how risk-averse Jeremy Bates and Co. were.
But since that play gives fans a taunting opportunity over an arch-rival, no one will care that playing smart got thrown out the window.
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One thing I did not like about the whole decision to go for the controversial touchdown at the end of the game was the bad blood it created afterward and the decision by USC to send its players toward the corner of the field and not shake hands with UCLA.
This reinforces an image of poor sportsmanship, when you throw in the 2007 loss to Stanford, when USC players marched off the field without shaking hands with the Cardinal.