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USC's Kiffin fined; S McDonald suspended half-game

By Greg Beacham
AP Sports Writer / November 1, 2011

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LOS ANGELES—Southern California coach Lane Kiffin was reprimanded and fined $10,000 by the Pac-12 on Monday night for criticizing the officiating in the 21st-ranked Trojans' triple-overtime loss to Stanford last weekend.

USC safety T.J. McDonald also was suspended for the first half of Friday's game at Colorado for a late hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu in the fourth quarter of the Trojans' 56-48 defeat.

Kiffin emerged from the epic game last Saturday night with numerous complaints about referee Michael Batlan's crew after USC (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) fell agonizingly short of ending the fourth-ranked Cardinal's 16-game winning streak.

Kiffin primarily was furious after officials declined to award him a timeout in the final second of regulation when receiver Robert Woods went to the ground on the opposite sideline at the Stanford 33 with 1 second left.

Kiffin criticized the officials after the game and again on Sunday, saying he told another Pac-12 official that he "was basically lied to."

"After numerous conversations with the conference office, we have agreed to disagree," Kiffin said. "As I have been saying the past two days, we have moved on from last week's game and we are preparing for a very challenging conference game this Friday at Colorado."

Kiffin claimed he had informed the side judge he wanted a timeout when the play ended, but after video review, the officials ruled Woods didn't get down to the ground in time to stop play for a long field-goal attempt. Woods inexplicably chewed up 8 seconds on that final play by running to the far sideline, but Kiffin still blamed the officials.

Kiffin also was angry about the targeting penalty on McDonald's hit, a taunting call against receiver Marqise Lee as he crossed the goal line with a second-half touchdown, and an apparently incorrect ball spot after a holding penalty against Stanford in the second overtime. He mentioned all four plays over the past two days, even saying his 2-year-old son, Knox, had been able to figure out where the ball should have been spotted after the holding penalty.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced Kiffin's fine and reprimand in a news release, saying the coach violated the rules about making public comments about the officiating.

"This prohibition specifically includes comments that create doubts about the credibility of the conference's officiating program," Scott said.

Kiffin gained a reputation for impulsive statements and perceived arrogant behavior during his previous head coaching stops with the Oakland Raiders and the University of Tennessee, but he had largely curbed his appetite for headlines since returning to USC before last season.

McDonald's suspension will be a bigger deal than Kiffin's fine to the Trojans when they visit Boulder for a nationally televised game this week.

McDonald's hit was on the borderline of legality, coming on what Kiffin described as "a bang-bang play" near midfield during Stanford's final drive of regulation.

Owusu wouldn't have made the catch on Andrew Luck's pass, and McDonald's personal foul cost the Trojans dearly, giving a 15-yard gain and a first down to the Cardinal, who eventually scored the tying touchdown with 38 seconds left.

"We respectfully disagree with the suspension imposed on T.J. McDonald," Kiffin said. "His intent was not to hurt the receiver or launch his body at the receiver or lead with his helmet. If you watch the hit in real time, we feel it is impossible to competitively play that play any differently. T.J. is a tremendous player and leader for our team, and he has our full support. I know he felt badly about being penalized and the impact it had in the game."

McDonald, the Trojans' leading tackler last season, is the heir to the Trojans' long lineage of hard-hitting safeties including Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu and Taylor Mays. He was suspended because he "had been previously warned about illegal hits above the shoulders on defenseless opponents," Scott said.

McDonald, who has 39 tackles this season, wasn't ejected from the game for a hit in the neck-head area of a defenseless opponent, but the conference made the suspension after video review.

"I accept my penalty and I apologize to my teammates, to our Trojan fans and to the Stanford team," McDonald said in a statement. "I was not purposefully trying to hurt the receiver. As I said after the game, I will figure out a way to play physically and still stay within the rules."