C.J. Spiller beat the referee to the signal, motioning for an offside penalty that nullified USC's successful coverage of his 20-yard kickoff return to open the game.
Spiller gratefully accepted the mulligan and drilled a hole in one, leaving him second-to-none among returners.
Clemson's senior running back raced untouched for an 88-yard return touchdown, setting the NCAA record with his seventh career kickoff score. After fielding the first kick by the field numbers to his left, he took the second from the right hash, cut to the left and turned the corner into open daylight, making one juke inside to elude kicker Adam Yates.
"They said all week they were going to kick it to us, and (the) kickoff return (team) took that to heart," Spiller said. "When you go in the paper and call us out, we're going to do the best we can to execute."
Trouble was, Spiller wasn't on the field for many returns after that.
He sat out the next two kickoffs because a stomach ailment and was given one more shot at a kickoff return, running back a sky-kick 14 yards to the Clemson 36 midway through the fourth quarter.
The touchdown return was Spiller's fourth this season and pushed him past 7,000 career all-purpose yards, making him the fifth player in NCAA history to reach the milestone.
- Paul Strelow