Yesterday we reported that USC’s kicker Andre Heidari recently had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss the next three weeks. Over that course, USC plays Stanford, Cal, and Utah, conference games that will likely require a field goal attempt here and there along the way. Without their seasoned kicker, the Trojans find themselves going into Palo Alto in the same situation they were in against Syracuse: go for it on 4th down or try for a field goal?
Against the Orange, Kiffin opted to go for it and try for another set of downs, and the reason was obvious: this was walk-on Alex Wood’s first time playing in a game and Kiffin was not confident in his ability to get the ball through the uprights. Of course, USC only converted on 4th down one of three times, and Wood nailed all of his PAT attempts. It’s impractical for USC to keep going for it on fourth down against better opponents, so what are their options?
Aside from Wood, USC has back-up kicker Craig McMahon, who we saw get some playing time against Hawaii. He played in Heidari’s place on seven kickoffs and had three touchbacks, averaging a pretty impressive 63.1 yards per kick. When it came time though to put it through the uprights after touchdowns, USC went for two instead. McMahon handled his kickoffs well, and it would suggest that he can be the guy to handle some of the farther field goals. We haven’t seen much of Wood other than the PATs, but he could be easily serve as the short-range guy. Obviously, they aren’t Heidari, but if both are put in opportunities that cater to their respective strengths as kickers, they could serve as a remedy to USC’s kicking woes.
On Saturday, Lane Kiffin will tasked with putting his faith in them seeing how it goes, or keeping the offense on the field instead. But based on the way the games have gone in the past few years, a field goal could be all the difference in the world against Stanford.