USC’s 16 penalties against Washington last night “was not a school record, it just felt like one,” Scott Wolf points out. Well, yeah — I could have told you that. I remember vividly when USC set its school record for penalties, which was also the Pac-10 record for penalties: 21 of ‘em. It was September 25, 1999, and the #16-ranked Trojans lost to upstart Oregon, 33-30 in the first conference game of my freshman year. The Trojans would ultimately finish the season 6-6, 3-5 in conference, though head coach Paul Hackett would save his job for one more year by beating UCLA for the first time in nine tries (despite committing 16 penalties in that game as well). Only after following up that season with a 5-7 mark in 2000 (after again starting the season in the Top 25, #15 to be exact) did Hackett finally get canned.
I mention the 1999 Oregon game because you might recall me referencing it a week-and-a-half ago in my post “On being an Irish fan,” as an example of me mocking the Trojans back when they were laughably bad:
[I]f I dig through my old photos…I believe I’d find a picture from the fall of 1999 of my dorm-room whiteboard after a USC-Oregon contest in which Paul Hackett’s Trojans set a new Pac-10 record for penalties in a game. My reaction wasn’t to wail and scream and gnash my teeth and wring my hands; I don’t do teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing; it’s not my thing. Instead, my reaction was mockery. I don’t remember exactly what the whiteboard said, but it was something along the lines of congratulating the Trojans for their glorious Pac-10 record.
I found that photo, BTW:
Anyway… back to last night. What to make of USC’s performance? Boi From Troy is happy because pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and the Trojans still won. This sentiment was expressed last night at the college-football blog 100% Injury Rate:
The only team that can beat USC is USC. And let me tell you why. Quite simply, there is no team in college that can go on the road, commit three turnovers, have a punt blocked, commit 16 penalties for 160+ yards, and lose two great O-linemen - all against a decent opponent - and win. No one. LSU can’t do that, Cal can’t do that, Ohio State can’t do that. USC played one of those games where they literally did everything they could to keep shooting themselves in the foot and still beat a decent Washington team. That is incredibly impressive. Of course, if USC plays like they did on Saturday against LSU, Cal or Ohio St. they’d be crushed. But the fact remains, they did everything wrong on Saturday against Washington and still won. That’s pretty remarkable. USC is the only team that can stop USC. And they almost did it on Saturday.
On the list of things that went wrong, in Boi’s view, was the officiating:
USC had sixteen penalties called against them. It seemed that the officiating crew was hostile to the TrojansÃ¢â‚¬â€œand I hope the Pac Ten will review their conduct. Twice, USC received personal fouls for knocking a Washington player out of bounds. Were the player actually out of bounds I could understand the penalty, but THEY WERE INBOUNDS when they were hit! The officials also did not call a number of fouls against WashingtonÃ¢â‚¬â€œmost notable being a pass interference covering Joe McKnightÃ¢â‚¬â€œa fact even Tyrone Willingham could not ignore.
I’m not sure if the crew was “hostile” or just incompetent, but I certainly agree that the refs were wretchedly horrible. Although the Trojans played a very sloppy game, and are legitimately responsible for most of those 16 penalties — there’s no excuse, for instance, for all the delay-of-game penalties, which reminded me of the Hackett era — I too was incensed by several of the personal-foul calls, as I noted in comments here and here:
WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH THESE REFS??? Is everything USC does a personal foul?!? How the hell is the defender supposed to know — for sure — while moving in real time, at full speed, that the wide receiver dropped the ball? And that it was a dropped pass, not a fumble? And then immediately stop his forward motion so suddenly that he is able to completely reverse his momentum? FOOTBALL IS A CONTACT SPORT!!! Good grief! These refs are horrible! Let the players play the game!
Note to Brent Musberger: yeah, it looked like a penalty on the slow-motion instant replay, but football is not actually played in slow motion! The players can’t make instant judgments about whether or not to continue tackling in slow motion! And given that your fundamental job as a defensive players is to TACKLE THE OTHER TEAMS’ PLAYERS, shouldn’t the tacklers get a tiny bit of a margin of error?? …
[There was also] the play where Jake Locker decided to go for the first down instead of sliding out of bounds three yards early to avoid the tackle — a decision which clearly opens him up to being clobbered, without any “protect the quarterback” nonsense — and then, about 0.1 seconds after he had gotten the first down and finally turned right and stepped out of bounds, he was hit by a USC defender who had jumped toward him to tackle him while he was still in bounds.
It’s like these refs just don’t understand the concept of momentum at all.
I hope I won’t see officiating that bad again this season, either for or against my team. It’s awful when refs dictate the course of game as much as they did last night.