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Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Top 10 moments, No. 3: The game-winning miss

By Pedro Moura

Our series of the top 10 moments of the 2011 USC football season continues, concluding Friday with No. 1. Catch up on moments Nos. 4-10 here, including more than one Robert Woods touchdown catch and an especially courageous fourth-down call from Lane Kiffin.

Here is moment No. 3: Alejandro Maldonado's missed field goal at the end of the Oregon game.

This was not the best or coolest play of the Trojans' season. And, for that, it's downgraded to the third spot on this list. But, in terms of sheer importance, it probably places as a 1a to our No. 1 moment, which we'll get to later, of course.

It was simple: All Maldonado had to do was make the 37-yard field goal and the game would be tied 38-38, heading into overtime at Autzen Stadium. The momentum would clearly favor the Ducks.

But he didn't make it. And there was a reason for that beyond simple error. As USC special teams coordinator John Baxter revealed in interviews the following week, one reason Maldonado missed -- and probably the main reason -- was that he was wary of USC's kick-blockers and thus tried to kick it through an alternate lane than he normally would.

Video of some of his other kicks from this season seems to support that. Either Maldonado miskicked it entirely, or he purposely shot it out much farther left than he normally would on an attempt from the middle of the field.

And, on the tape of the USC-Oregon game, you can see Matt Kalil surging right through the middle of the Ducks' line with both hands outstretched. It's hard to tell for sure, but it looks as if Kalil would have blocked a normal-looking ball off Maldonado's foot. Hayes Pullard also got up very high behind the line and could have also stopped it if Maldonado tried to laser it through in another manner.

The miss -- call it a forced miss, if you'd like -- gave the Trojans the win and really propelled them into an incredibly surprising finish to the 2011 season. They ended the year ranked No. 5 in the country by the Associated Press.

You can trace a lot of that back to this moment.

Check back Thursday for moment No. 2, from the Stanford game.