Give your top three special teams plays from 2011.
1) Andre Heidari tackle on De'Anthony Thomas kickoff return vs. Oregon
The score was 24-7 in favor of the Trojans early in the third quarter when Heidari kicked off to the one-time USC verbal commit Thomas. USC fans knew all too well how explosive Thomas could be, and when he took the ball and got past the first line of coverage it looked like he could take it to the house. But Heidari made an athletic play to dive and trip him up at the USC 43. It took the Ducks only 1:10 to score a touchdown after that, but it was a critical minute taken off the clock as Oregon would have liked that extra time at the end of the game when the Ducks were going for a potential game-tying (or winning) score.
2) Kyle Negrete fake punt and run vs. Washington
The Trojans led 7-3 early in the second quarter against a Huskies team that had defeated them two years in a row. Washington had stopped USC at its 45 line when Negrete lined up for the punt. A well-timed fake was executed to perfection and Negrete rambled 35 yards for the first down on the way to a Trojans touchdown. It wasn’t just the first down, however, it was the style points for Negrete at the end of the play that really resonated with the team and the Coliseum crowd. Negrete didn’t slide or allow himself to go down with an easy tackle as the play ended. He put his shoulder down and punished the defender with a physical play that saw his teammates erupt on the sidelines.
3) Matt Kalil blocked field goal vs Minnesota
It was the very first possession of the 2011 season and the Gophers had driven the ball to the USC 34 before the drive stalled and they came out to attempt a 51-yard field goal. Kalil blocked the kick (the first of four kicks he would block during the season), and the Trojans were able to take the ball and drive down for a score of their own. What made the block so important was the final score: The Trojans won the game 19-17, which means a successful field goal in that situation could have changed the outcome of that game and -- quite possibly -- the entire 2011 season.
1. Matt Kalil blocked a Utah field goal attempt at the end of the game in the Coliseum to preserve the September Pac-12 South win while Torin Harris picked up the blocked attempt and raced all the way into the Utes end zone as times expired. The actual final score, 23-14, was not determined till well after the teams were in their locker rooms.
2. Placekicker Andre Heidari hit on all three field goals (41, 29, 33) and a PAT in a losing effort at Arizona State. In a game that was a true showdown in the Pac-12 South, which also included some very hostile evening weather in Sun Devils Stadium, Heidari confirmed that he was going to be a very special freshman placekicker.
3. In helping crush Washington in the Coliseum in November, punter Kyle Negrete stunned a Coliseum gathering and the Huskies with a 35-yards dash out of punt formation. Negrete’s run, aided by a key block downfield by Rhett Ellison, ignited the crowd and his team and helped the Trojans cruise to the victory.
1. Kalil saves the day
Utah's 41-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation wouldn't have won the game for the Utes, but overtime momentum sure would have been on Utah's sideline. Kalil rendered that conversation moot, however, as he blocked the kick with his forearm, and Torin Harris returned the loose ball for a touchdown. The Trojans wouldn't begin clicking in all phases of the game until several weeks later, but that play and the resulting sideline eruption was the first sign of life under head coach Lane Kiffin.
2. A special night
In USC's season finale against UCLA, a short field goal attempt turned into a touchdown as the Trojans never shifted away from their two-point conversion look. The pass from Matt Barkley to Rhett Ellison made the score 29-0, as the Trojans went on to hang 50 on the Bruins.
3. Andre Heidari trips up De'Anthony Thomas
Thomas had a phenomenal performance against the Trojans, scoring two touchdowns, including a long kickoff return. But it was a kickoff return cut short by a diving Heidari tackle that makes this list. The play didn't mean much in terms of the final score, as the Ducks went on to punch the drive in for a touchdown. But Heidari's shoestring stop was a perfect example that the Trojans weren't going to simply roll over for the Ducks after two consecutive blowouts.