Lane Kiffin Silences Critics with USC's Performance Against Boston College

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2013

For USC's head coach, Lane Kiffin, the Boston College game was about more than just the 35-7 win the Trojans took home. It was about more than just the 521 yards of offense the team produced and getting Marqise Lee into the end zone. 

This was a game that allowed Kiffin to remind folks why he rose in the coaching ranks in the first place.

No, not simply because of his daddy, Monte Kiffin, but because he has the ability to call dynamic plays and create a game plan that works.

Following the Washington State loss, a game in which Kiffin was clearly trying to get by with an ultra-conservative offense and quality defense, the detractors were calling for his head.

After his strict adherence to playing it close to the vest against Wazzu, the screams that Kiffin could not coach grew deafening a week ago.

Then, on Saturday, after a week of controversy surrounding a players-only meeting that did or did not happen, Kiffin got the opportunity to prove his critics wrong.

As the game plan revealed, Kiffin clearly realizes what he has with his team and recognizes that he is going to have to take a different type of approach to win this year.

That meant not merely the "throw it deep" game plan that many USC fans and Kiffin critics were calling for. Rather, the coach needed to start scheming alternative ways to be successful, working formations and play-calling to generate positive gains.

While Rich Hammond of The Orange County Register reported that Kiffin himself talked about the first play—a deep ball downfield—the real beauty would come as the game unfolded.

Kiffin used bunch formations with double tight ends. He ran both Tre Madden and Justin Davis on zones to the strong and weak sides.

The head coach employed tight formations with cut splits to draw the defense in tight, then work routes to the edges to expand the defense. The Trojans also used those cut splits to work roll outs with routes going to the edge and across the defense.

Kiffin had his team run the ball out of the shotgun. The Trojans ran from under center as well.

He essentially worked formations, largely out of 12 personnel, to keep Boston College guessing as USC ran and threw out of similar sets.

At one point, up 14-0, the Trojans had lined up in shotgun seven times, throwing three times and running the other four. When the opponent is not sure whether a team is going to run or pass, it is quite difficult to get a read on either.

And USC worked that point tremendously. Kiffin's team ran power, inside zone and the stretch zone out of the same formations and personnel groupings that saw his quarterback, Cody Kessler, throw roll out passes, intermediate routes and the quick hitters.

Going 15-of-17 for 237 yards and letting his playmakers make plays was just what Kiffin needed from Kessler.

The tight ends had a big showing as well, accounting for four of Kessler's 15 completions. As this offense grows into itself, gets more rooted in formations and keeps opponents guessing, the tight ends will become even bigger threats.

As teams focus on shutting down the run and not letting Lee beat them deep, Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer, two players USC is extremely confident in, will find themselves open behind linebackers.

USC's offense does not have a star quarterback, but with the weapons on this roster, a game manager can certainly find success provided he believes in the plan.

Saturday went a long way toward building more confidence in Kessler. Not only with the quarterback believing in his own abilities, but in that locker room believing he can get the job done.

It was just Boston College, but Kiffin and USC needed this rebound in a big way.

For the time being, heading into the Utah State game, Kiffin has answered the bell by coaching his team to a victory.


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