USC Football: Grading Lane Kiffin's Debut Win Over Hawaii

Bailey Brautigan@BBrautiganFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2010

USC Football: Grading Lane Kiffin's Debut Win Over Hawaii

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    With all of the controversy surrounding USC and its recruiting practices, Lane Kiffin and the Trojans finally got a chance to quiet the critics. A win over Hawaii is a step in the right direction, but did this game give us glimpses into a winning season for USC?

    Or did this game show us just how much USC needs to improve to get back to the Trojans of old?

    Here, we'll break down the game and evaluate Kiffin's debut.

    Will USC be back on top?

    Or do the Trojans have their work cut out for them?

First Quarter

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    USC seemed to be off to a good start, scoring on both of their first two possessions, but the attempt at a two point conversion after their first touchdown was a questionable play—especially because Mitch Mustain's pass was incomplete.

    We get that it's the first game of the season, and you guys are pumped. But it's your first possession of the game! Just pick up the extra point, and move on.

    USC's defense didn't look too shabby. Neither team seems to have figured out how to tackle, but it's only the first quarter. Hawaii pushed all the way to USC's third lard line, but the Trojans held.

    On USC's second possession, they tried again for the two point conversion—only this time it was good.

    Score at the end of the first: 14-3, Trojans.

Second Quarter

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    Third possession for USC equals...You guessed it! A third touchdown! But another two point conversion attempt failed. Going for two only works when you can actually get it done.

    Quarterback Matt Barkley looked really good, going 9 for 10 in passing and scoring three touchdowns on his first three possessions.

    By the end of the first half, mistakes on both sides of the ball made for some crazy football. USC's tackling is seemingly absent, and safety Jawanza Starling has been called twice for pass interference.

    During a halftime interview, Lane Kiffin said that he was "embarrassed" by the way the Trojans were playing. That may be taking it a little too far. It's the first game of the season, and when you don't tackle in practice, how do you expect to be any good at it?

Third Quarter

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    Ronald Johnson is having one heck of a game, with three touchdowns by the third quarter. His third touchdown came from a ridiculous 89-yard punt return.

    With the score 42-23 in favor of the Trojans near the end of the third quarter, Hawaii was able to run the ball 74 yards on a single drive. And this was after Hawaii's quarterback was knocked unconscious by linebacker Mike Morgan.

    The game looks more like a tennis match than a football game. Every time Hawaii closes the gap, USC answers.

    And Ronald Johnson can take most of the credit.

    Score after the third:

    Hawaii 23, USC 42.

Fourth Quarter

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    USC is having trouble defending against Hawaii's third-string quarterback, but the Trojans' offense always answers.

    Back to the ping-pong again. Hawaii scores, closing the gap with the hope of catching the Trojans...and then USC scores again.

    It's been like this all game, and it poses the question:

    Is Hawaii's offense really good?

    Or is USC's defense just really bad?

The Good

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    USC's Ronald Johnson had an amazing game. With three touchdowns, the man seemed unstoppable. And it's refreshing to see Johnson back in fighting shape after missing five games (including the season opener) last season due to a broken collarbone.

    While Hawaii's defense barely showed up for this game, it's hard to argue with Johnson's abilities.

The Bad

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    Say it with me: "Defense!"

    We realize that this is the first game of the season, and you had to travel to a different timezone. But get it together on D.

    Hawaii passed for 459 yards last night (more than USC), and USC's secondary was having a horrible time making tackles.

Underestimating Hawaii?

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    While Hawaii isn't exactly known as a "powerhouse," it seems like Lane Kiffin wasn't taking the game very seriously.

    For example: Going for two on your first three touchdowns? If you were trying to psych out Hawaii, it didn't work.

    No matter what, Kiffin should be treating every game like everything is in the line. The second you start underestimating your opponent, you'll be in trouble.

    Kiffin got the win, but USC should be beating Hawaii by more than that.


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    Even though the Trojans were able to pull out the win over Hawaii, they gave up some serious yardage with penalties.

    11 penalties to be exact.

    11 penalties resulting in 100 yards against the Trojans.

    Lane Kiffin was not impressed with his team as he said, "I’m really disappointed with everything in general, but more important than anything was the (lack of) discipline."


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    Hawaii coach, Greg McMackin, thought that rotating in fresh players from his bench would give his team an advantage over a USC team that had to be exhausted.

    But it takes more than a trip to Hawaii and a home opener to tire out the Trojans.

    USC demonstrated excellent endurance, and this will give them a great advantage in games to come. Athleticism comes from being in shape, and the Trojans looked great out there.

Grading Kiffin

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    USC is the kind of organization that people either love or hate. There really is no in-between when it comes to the Trojans.

    It is very fitting that USC now has Lane Kiffin as their head coach. He has become the coach that many love to hate, and this season gives him the chance to show the country that he can breath some life back into USC football.

    USC offense: Great. Since this is the first game of the season, they'll start out with an A-.

    USC defense: Fair. Again, this is the first game of the season (and many defensive players are young), so they get a C+.

    Lane Kiffin's average score: B.


    Here's hoping Kiffin can earn some extra credit throughout the season!