Saxon: In the end, Wittek is USC bright spot

Things haven't been ending well for USC quarterbacks lately.

Max Wittek's career began somewhat like Matt Leinart's ended, squeezed by the extraordinary frustration of not being able to pick up a few inches on fourth down.

That was an improvement over how things may have wrapped up for Matt Barkley, who walked down the tunnel for the last time at the Coliseum -- in the most electric atmosphere this season -- without a helmet. He had walked up it a few hours later in a sweatsuit, struggling to keep his gear bag from slipping off his injured right shoulder.

What do the three Trojans quarterbacks have in common, aside from having attended the same Orange County high school? For much of their college careers, they relied on Lane Kiffin to call plays for them. And USC fans will be howling about the way Kiffin handled the end of Saturday's epic opportunity against top-ranked Notre Dame.

On first and goal from the 1, Kiffin tried to sneak Wittek in. He got nowhere.

He tried the same thing again on second down. He got nowhere.

After burning a timeout, he tried giving the ball to Curtis McNeal, who got -- yes, that’s right -- nowhere.

Finally, eschewing a field-goal try that likely would have made it a one-score game, he allowed Wittek to attempt a forward pass. The redshirt freshman with the big arm got a bit flustered, throwing it a little too low, a little too firmly, to fullback Soma Vainuku. It was incomplete ... and a disappointing season got just a little more disappointing.

For Mark Saxon's full ESPNLosAngeles.com column, click here.