The USC Trojans underperformed against the Washington State Cougars because Lane Kiffin is coaching scared.
Cody Kessler and Max Wittek continue to underwhelm, despite having been groomed in the USC system for three years and performing well in fall camp, because Lane Kiffin is coaching scared.
Each time USC threw a bubble screen on 3rd-and-long, the Coliseum crowd poured down a cascade of boos because Lane Kiffin is coaching scared.
The Trojans are still struggling to find an identity on offense because, you guessed it, Lane Kiffin is coaching scared.
It's really hard to argue at this point. No more excuses can be made after losing 10-7 at home on Saturday.
When Kessler took the field in the first half, we expected to see more variance from him than we did against Hawaii. Instead, we saw more of the same from the Trojans: Run, run, run, bubble screen, bubble screen, bubble screen. This was an incredibly inept offensive performance.
To his credit, Kessler did get USC on the board with a four-yard touchdown run, but that was about the only bright spot of his performance.
He threw a pick-six right into the hands of Cougars defensive back Damante Horton, thanks largely to the fact that everyone and their mom had figured out 15 minutes into this game that USC would opt to throw it laterally instead of down the field.
When it was Wittek's turn, he got better plays, but he hardly did anything with those through the air.
In one defining moment, he held on to the ball in the pocket and bombed it to Marqise Lee, who was shrouded in coverage. He didn't see that he had two wide-open men downfield.
Wittek and Kessler surely struggled, but that's because the pressure of having to constantly look over their respective shoulders in fear of making a bad play weighed heavily on them.
Despite the incredible effort of running back Tre Madden (32 carries, 151 yards) and the increasingly formidable Trojans defense, USC lost its home opener to Washington State, which beat the Trojans the last time they lost a home opener, in 2000.
And the reason for all of this is simple: As Kiffin continues to shy away from his responsibilities as the head coach and leader of this team, the team itself is unable to reach its full potential.
Kiffin gets paid a small fortune every year to make decisions, yet he can't make up his mind at quarterback. That does nothing to build confidence in either signal-caller, and it is directly responsible for the poor performance the Trojans have put on in the opening two weeks.
Leadership starts with him, and he seems to be too afraid of his own shadow to do his job. USC has the talent on both sides of the ball to be in the Top 15, yet the Trojans are a former No. 25 team that got embarrassed out of the rankings.
All of this can be traced to Kiffin being too afraid to lead, too afraid to make a quarterback decision, too afraid of the expectations that come with being the the head coach at USC.
Neither Wittek nor Kessler can succeed without a vote of confidence from the head coach, and Kiffin refuses to give it.
There's still time for the team and coach to get their acts together. But if they don't, if the Trojans fail to regain a mentality of confidence, we will know why. As Julius Campbell told Gerry Bertier in Remember the Titans, "Attitude reflects leadership, captain."
Your move, Kiff.