Switching some numbers around

LOS ANGELES -- Despite the controversy created by his jersey number switching scheme from last weekend's win over Colorado, USC coach Lane Kiffin left open the possibility this week of more moves like it in the future.

Kiffin and special teams coach John Baxter orchestrated an unusual swap for the Colorado game, having backup quarterback Cody Kessler wear No. 35 for the first half and switch back to his traditional No. 6 for the second half.

Why? So that he could come in as a holder on a point-after play and run a two-point play undetected. Kessler did that and scored against the Buffs, only to have the play called back on a penalty.

The usual No. 35, punter Kyle Negrete, is the third-string holder, behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

"Well, we change jerseys all the time," Kiffin said this week when asked about the move. "We'll change some more this week. Everything is within college rules."

He's correct. Kessler switching from No. 35 to No. 6 mid-game did not expressly violate any NCAA rules.

It did, however, qualify as an unethical practice, according to the official NCAA rulebook, which lists "changing numbers during the game to deceive the opponent" first in a list of eight such practices.

By dressing Kessler in a different number than normal, USC was attempting to deceive Colorado -- and, perhaps more important, its future opponents, who now have to prepare for all sorts of potential two-point plays.

Kessler first began holding for the Trojans earlier this month against Utah. Barkley had previously fulfilled all holding duties for the team.

Interestingly, USC also this week switched the numbers of four players who primarily play on special teams.

Receiver De'Von Flournoy went from No. 10 to No. 80, cornerback Ryan Henderson from No. 15 to No. 14, fullback Hunter Simmons from No. 46 to No. 42 and running back Robert Mojica from No. 27 to No. 40.

All four of the players' previous numbers had been shared with more prominent players.