Kiffin uses trickery on special teams

Published Oct. 22, 2012 6:49 p.m. ET

LOS ANGELES — Looks can often be deceiving and they certainly were on Saturday at the Coliseum when No. 9 USC defeated Colorado, 50-6.

After scoring their second touchdown of the game, the Trojans attempted to go for a two-point conversion.

The designated holder on the play, wearing jersey No. 35, ran in the conversion but it was called back because of a holding penalty. Punter Kyle Negrete is listed as No. 35 on the USC roster. The fact that "Negrete" was holding sparked interest because it would make the third different holder the Trojans have had this season.

Matt Barkley began the season as the holder, before third-string quarterback Cody Kessler took over as the new holder.

However, in the play-by-play from Saturday's game, Kessler is listed as the runner on the two-point try and not Negrete.

And this was not a typo.

When asked if Negrete would be the new holder going forward, USC head coach Lane Kiffin offered not to discuss it.

"I'd really rather not get into that at this time for certain reasons," Kiffin said during his weekly Sunday evening conference call. 

Kessler wore No. 35 during the first half of the game on Saturday before switching back to the normal No. 6 he wore when he completed the first two pass attempts of his career in the fourth quarter.

Negrete's lone punt in the game came in the third quarter. He was back in his regular No. 35 when he boomed a 64-yard punt, his fifth punt of the season to go over 50 yards.

According to "The 2011 and 2012 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations" under Coaching Ethics, changing numbers during the game to deceive the opponent is considered an "unethical practice," though it is not illegal.

Was Kiffin purposely trying to deceive? That remains unclear.

What's clear is this isn't the first time this season a USC player has worn a different number. Kicker Alex Wood, listed at No. 39 on the USC roster, has worn No. 48, No. 6 and No. 8 this season. However, in none of those games did Andre Heidari, Kessler, or George Farmer, respectively make an appearance.