USC Coach Lane Kiffin's Hot Seat Goes from Tepid to Scorching
USC's 2012 destiny in the Pac-12 was settled on the very first play of the game, as quarterback Matt Barkley threw a perfect pass to Aaron Hester from his own 25-yard line.
Hester plays for UCLA.
UCLA would then reel off 24 unanswered points before the Trojans finally decided that this whole rout thing wasn't going to happen. But for awhile, the rout was on. And Lane Kiffin's bizarre play-calling was part of the reason why.
The most inexplicable things happened in the first half at the Rose Bowl.
For instance, why was Matt Barkley continually throwing the ball to Marqise Lee? UCLA was dropping eight players into pass coverage, and Lee was being triple-teamed—why throw to him?
Why was Robert Woods continually getting ignored? Woods is a school record-holder in both single-game and career touchdown passes and receptions. Yes, Lee is a Biletnikoff semifinalist and a legitimate Heisman candidate, but if he's covered, maybe go throw the ball to that "other guy."
Why, on a critical 3rd-and-4, down 17-0 early in the second quarter, did Kiffin call for a running sweep play?
Why, on the ensuing 4th-and-2, did Barkley attempt a pass in the flat to a freshman fullback who has never caught a pass in his brief collegiate career?
Why are the fundamentals, such as tackling, so readily non-apparent from a Monte Kiffin defense?
On one particular play in the second quarter, Bruins running back Johnathan Franklin broke free from at least four different Trojans tacklers, prompting FOXSports play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson to pronounce the whole ugly defensive effort as "shoddy tackling."
Johnson was being too complimentary—there wasn't any evidence of tackling on that play.
Lane Kiffin must have finally figured out that Woods was open, because Barkley started hitting an open Woods. USC would pull to within 10 points, down 24-14 at the half.
But then Kiffin reverted back to his old ways in the third quarter. Two consecutive long passes to a very well-covered Marqise Lee resulted in incomplete passes.
What does USC do at the end of the season?
USC appeared to have changed the game's momentum after a Brett Hundley fumble was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by George Uko—the Trojans were only down 24-20 early in the third quarter after Andre Heidari missed the PAT.
UCLA would stall in its ensuing drive, but USC went 3-and-out on three consecutive pass plays in the next series. And the game's momentum changed again after UCLA's Eric Kendricks blocked a Kyle Negrete punt. Hundley danced his way into the end zone a few plays later, and the Bruins were leading the Trojans, 31-20.
And then the rain came down in Pasadena. Matt Barkley then threw another interception, this time a laser to Eric Kendricks, thereby nullifying a 60-yard drive from his own 4-yard line.
But USC wasn't finished. A Barkley-to-Lee 14-yard touchdown pass and a spectacular Barkley-to-Woods two-point conversion made the score 31-28 UCLA, with 7:22 left in the game.
On a 3rd-and-13, Brett Hundley connected with Joseph Fauria to keep its drive alive in USC's territory. And then USC's defense did its thang and ushered in, with open arms, Johnathan Franklin to its end zone for a touchdown to make the score 38-28.
Matt Barkley left the game with less than five minutes to go after getting sacked, and Max Wittek, the future USC quarterback, filled in for him.
Andre Heidari's attempt at a field goal late in the fourth was blocked by Sheldon Price, and the game's outcome was no longer in doubt. UCLA is the South's champ after beating USC 38-28.
The monopoly is now officially over in Los Angeles—and maybe Kiffin and Co. as well.
USC's defense has been a mixed bag all season, looking ferocious in the pass rush but soft in pass coverage. The Trojans zone coverage—exposed by a few teams this year—was exposed again by Brett Hundley.
The Trojans defense, specifically the secondary, gave the Bruins receivers too big of a cushion off the line. Tight end Jeff Fauria, a John Mackey Award semifinalist, towered over linebacker Tony Burnett during one mismatch of a play.
The defensive line did play very well putting constant pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley, as the dual-threat quarterback was sacked five times by the Trojans defense.
But that's as far it goes for Monte Kiffin. And, perhaps, his son Lane.
From former Trojans linebacker Chris Galippo on Twitter:
If Lane doesn't walk up to that podium and take 150% blame for this entire season he should be fired before next weeks game.— Chris Galippo (@ChrisGalippo) November 17, 2012
Lane Kiffin has done an outstanding job in getting the recruits to sign with USC, but it's what you do with those players that counts. Recognizing and developing talent is crucial to a coach's and team's successes.
Recognizing talent? Check. Developing that talent?
Uhh... One out of two ain't bad.
The LA Times' Gary Klein tweeted this after the game:
#USC Lane Kiffin said he has been assured he will be back next season.— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) November 18, 2012
The fact that Lane Kiffin is addressing his job status means his hot seat is scorching.
Notre Dame looms next Saturday.
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