Well, that happened. USC went from preseason No. 1 to unranked and 7-5 in the space of three months.
This is not another anti-Kiffin rant. Or, at least, it isn’t meant to be. However, you cannot ignore the importance of coaching. Look at Ohio State for instance. An Urban Meyer-coached Ohio State team with nothing to play for while postseason ineligible just went undefeated.
So don’t tell me or any other USC fan that coaching doesn’t matter.
Lane Kiffin called another craptastic offensive game last night and the Trojans fell to the top-ranked Irish 22-13.
The offensive play-calling was boring and ineffectual.
The defense was ill prepared.
And yet, you cannot say that USC didn’t have chances or that, at times, they weren’t in the game. Kiffin’s ineffectual and idiotic coaching hobbled this team, and sent this senior class out on a sour note. Again, Kiffin does a disservice to the entire USC football program.
QB Max Wittek played encouragingly in his first start, signaling the start of the post-Matt Barkley era at USC. Wittek was 14-of-23 for 186 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Notre Dame’s fierce defense showed why the Irish are undefeated, holding Marqise Lee to very little production through most of the game.
This game was a culmination of the issues that have defined this season for Lane Kiffin and his Trojans. Starting the season at No. 1, USC now becomes just the second team in the history of the polls to end the season unranked.
Clock management issues, atrocious play-calling, turnovers, interceptions, penalties, a defense so porous I am fairly certain my high school alma mater (Bishop Gorman) could move the ball at will on them—in the end, it was too much for USC to overcome.
In the end, it was too much for Lane Kiffin to control. When is the football world going to get it—Lane Kiffin is a terrible head coach. He is a monster recruiter and—make no mistake—for at least the 2013 season, USC needs Lane. And yes, I vomited a bit in my mouth as I typed that.
If we have to point to one thing that was truly indefensible about yesterday’s game, it was Lane Kiffin’s fourth-quarter play-calling. Calling consecutive running plays against a defense that hadn’t given up much the entire season was, frankly, asinine.
Down by nine, 4th-and-goal with two minutes to go, and Kiffin goes for it rather than taking the nearly guaranteed three points. A field goal would have made it a one-score lead for the Irish and given the Trojans at least the faintest of hopes of pulling out a miraculous upset.
But no, Kiffin gave up on this team long before the clock ran out Saturday night. He gave up on this team winning games long before the sun rose on Saturday morning. Lane Kiffin cannot manage the details of the game, and that is what sets the Irish (and Bruins, and Wildcats, and Ducks, and Cardinal) apart from the Trojans.
Brian Kelly, like Lane Kiffin, is in his third season at Notre Dame. One school is playing for the national title, and the other is left licking its wounds wondering how it fell so far, so fast.