LOS ANGELES -- At first glance, this bit of epic college football poetry that was Stanford's 56-48 triple-overtime victory over USC ended with an inglorious thud. Trojans tailback Curtis McNeal fumbled on first-and-goal from the Cardinal 4-yard line. Stanford linebacker A.J. Tarpley picked up the ball. Game over. Four hours of tumultuous, thrilling football, and it ended with a sloppy miscue.
It was like someone painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Or dumped a dollop of Miracle Whip on a beautiful rib eye. Or changed the ending of "The Usual Suspects," having agent Dave Kujan tell Verbal Kint, "Hey, I figured it out. You're Keyser Söze. You're under arrest." Roll credits.
That's the first glance, but the more measured view sees perfection in an artless ending. Sure, it would be nice to storyboard every game so it plays out like, "Miracle on Ice," but the reality is the process of winning a national championship includes plenty of sausage making. It includes ugly wins, strange plays, favorable officiating and good fortune. It includes moments when your team looks imminently beatable.
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