Going into overtime, it was no secret that the Trojans were going to have to find a way to stop Andrew Luck if they wanted to win the game. After driving down 76 yards to tie the game with 38 seconds to play, he was already showing signs of icy veins and a winning bravado, which conjures up a key question for the Trojans: should Lane Kiffin have opted to go for two points and the win in the first overtime?
It’s an interesting debate, and for the first time sees Kiffin on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of his infamous two-point conversion tactics (you know, because it’s not like special teams coach John Baxter has anything to do with those). But in short, the answer to the question is yes, Kiffin should have rolled the dice.
Let’s get real here, the Trojans were probably never going to stop Luck in overtime, and if they were going to, if would have been well after the Trojans slipped up first, as evident with the McNeal fumble. So with the score at 41-40 after the Barkley to Woods touchdown in the first overtime, the Trojans would have had little to lose (besides the game) going for two.
The Trojan defense was absolutely gassed, as they had been on the field for 32 of the previous 44 plays, going back to the 13 minute mark of the fourth quarter. On those five Stanford possessions, the Cardinal had 17 points including two extremely stressful drives to tie the game at the end of regulation and take the first lead in overtime. So despite holding them to a field goal, a punt and intercepting Luck, the Trojans weren’t exactly stopping Luck when they absolutely needed to. And again, facing Luck, you expect that. He’s just that good.
So even though the Trojans had scored with ease in the first overtime, there was no guarantee that was going to remain the case. On the three drives before overtime, USC had two drives of no more than four plays, both ending in punts from Kyle Negrete. The only the time they moved the ball at the end of the fourth quarter was the final drive against a prevent defense from Stanford, and since Woods couldn’t stop the clock, the Trojans got nothing out of it.
So, why not take the chance and go for two to win the game? It was probably the best chance the Trojans had at winning the game directly, even more so than a potential Andre Heidari field goal as time expired. Plus, as USC radio broadcaster Pete Arbogast pointed out on the broadcast, going for two to win the game would have made Kiffin a hero for even attempting it and giving his team the chance to win, even if it failed.
It surely would be an easier loss to take for the Trojans. Much better than an anticlimactic fumble.