Tag:Lane Kiffin
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes

In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.

LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy

Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).

WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas

The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.

LOSER: Zach Maynard

California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

WINNER: Barking for Sark

There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'

LOSER: Colorado

Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.

WINNER: Utah

It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.

WINNER: USC


There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: October 30, 2011 2:46 am
 

QUICK HITS: Stanford 56, USC 48 (3OT)

Posted by Bryan Fischer

LOS ANGELES -- Stanford had heard from just about everyone that they hadn't been tested this season.

They played their first ranked team last week, Washington, and promptly ran for school-record 446 yards. It was their 10th straight win by 25 points or more, the first time ever that had been accomplished since 1936. Apparently they weren't tested.

They were tested Saturday night; escaping LA with a 56-48 victory after three overtimes in front of a sold-out Coliseum crowd that was rocking like it was in the glory days.

The Heisman front-runner, Andrew Luck, gave voters a game to remember with crisp, efficient passes to 10 different targets to finish 29-for-40, 330 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on the night.

"The stats aren't going to show the plays he made, but he's a really special pocket passer and makes plays with his feet," Lane Kiffin said. "It's why he'll be the first pick in the draft."

The grizzly-bearded Luck nearly gave the game away, throwing a late pick-six that was returned by Nickell Robey for a touchdown to put USC on top 34-27 with just over three minutes remaining.

"Throughout the game he was looking off receivers a lot, that's what he does (so well)," Robey said. "I knew when he looked off he was going to come back to Chris (Owusu). My coach always says trust and believe. When I saw him sit down I just went for it. Luck is a great player, he did a lot of things that wasn't normal in the passing game. He came at us at every angle."

Not only had Stanford trailed for the first time all season after Curtis McNeal sprinted up the sidelines for a 61-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but it was also the first time the Cardinal offense were tested late in the game. The pick-six put the team down seven late in the game. That was no problem for Luck, who led an efficient, game-tying 10 play, 61-yard drive to send the game into overtime.

"I was very disappointed in myself," Luck said of the interception. "There were a couple of seconds there when I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself. But the guys believed in me. I was happy there was still some time on the clock to go down there again."

"One thing you can't forget about Andrew is that he is the most competitive guy on our team," David Shaw said. "When a bad play happens he goes completely down in the dumps. He's so mad, he's so upset, he's furious. Then it's like a toilet, he flushes it. It's like it never happened and he moves on even more determined.

"He was so mad at himself, he was not going to let that play lose the game for us."

The Trojans came close to pulling off the upset thanks in large part to one of the smallest players on the USC roster in McNeal, who rushed for a career-high 145 yards and two touchdowns. He ended up the goat however, fumbling the ball into the end zone after USC had the ball on the four yard line looking to match the Cardinal's touchdown and two-point conversion to lead off the third overtime. Terrence Stephens punched it out of McNeal as he took a draw up the middle, preserving the win.

Despite coming close to seeing their perfect record blemished, the scoreboard still showed the Cardinal had rang up 56 points. The amount was the most ever scored on USC in the program's illustrious history.

"We just needed one stop, that's all," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "Then we'd all be celebrating right now."

"I didn't know that but I would probably figure out it was close if it wasn't the record. I can't believe anybody would give up that many points. Of course, overtime and (Luck) ended up with a short field now too."

Even Luck's incompletions were things of beauty that every one of the 93,607 fans appreciated - regardless of the shade of red they were wearing. On one play early in the game, Luck was flushed out of the pocket to his left, but still managed to throw a bullet with perfect form to the back of the end zone - while being tackled - that glanced off the hands of his target. It went down in the box score as an incompletion but was nevertheless impressive.

How special is the 6-foot-4, 237-pound signal-caller? He's led an offense that has scored the most points against USC ever - twice - after scoring 55 against the Trojans in 2009. By the way, he managed to so against defenses run by Pete Carroll and Monte Kiffin, who happens to have 45 years of coaching experience. It was also USC's only overtime loss at the Coliseum ever.

"I tip my hat off to him, he's a special player. Whatever grade he's in, I'm glad he's not going to be here next year." USC linebackers coach Joe Berry said. "He's one of those guys that comes along every 15 or 20 years. There's always first round draft pick quarterbacks in every draft but this guy? He's special."

Fourth-ranked Stanford escaped Los Angeles and kept their Pac-12 championship - and national title - hopes alive. Better (Andrew) Lucky than good for one night in October.

Posted on: October 25, 2011 5:20 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Stanford at USC

Posted by Chip Patterson

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: They can lock down defense on Robert Woods and shut down the Trojans' passing attack. The Barkley to Woods connection has been phenomenal all season, and the Trojans' rushing attack has not demonstrated enough consistency to really be a threat. Stanford's offense showed off the ground attack in the rout of Washington last week, and as long as the defense can neutralize Barkley they should avoid an upset on the road. The streak of beating their last 10 opponents by at least 25 points may come to a halt against the Trojans, but if the defense can limit USC to less than three touchdowns Andrew Luck and Co. should have no trouble taking care of the rest.

USC WILL WIN IF: They can force Stanford to commit turnovers and claim an early lead. With the NCAA sanctions preventing them from a Pac-12 title game appearance or bowl game, conference showdowns like this take a new level for the Trojans. USC has forced 10 turnovers in their last three contests, and nothing would fire up the Coliseum crowd quite like an interception of Andrew Luck. One thing Stanford has not been forced to do once this season is overcome a deficit on the road. Jumping out to an early lead would break the norm for the Cardinal. When trying to defeat a team in the midst of a 15-game winning streak, you would like to make the situation as abnormal as possible.

X-FACTOR: Robert Woods' health. Head coach Lane Kiffin says the star wide receiver has "a couple of injuries" and will miss some practice time this week. Woods is expected to play against the Cardinal on Saturday, but how effective he can be will play a huge role in USC's chances to pull the upset at home. Woods leads all Pac-12 receivers with eight touchdowns and 72 receptions on the season, while his 128.9 yards per game only trails Keenan Allen's 129.4 for the top spot. Freshman Marquise Lee has served as a talented compliment to Woods on the outside, but has only six receptions in his last two games.

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:45 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 11:46 am
 

USC's booted Baxter to 'focus on academics'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Trojan career of USC sophomore running back Dillon Baxter is hanging by a thread--if it's not finished already.

Lane Kiffin finally addressed Baxter's absence from the traveling roster for the team's win over Notre Dame Tuesday morning, confirming in a statement on the Trojan website that Baxter "will not be part of our football program" for at least the remainder of the season.

"The decision has been made for Dillon Baxter to focus on his academics," Kiffin said. "[W]e will continue to support him with our academic services department. There will be no further comment regarding this from me or any member of our program."

Though the statement would seem to leave the door open for Baxter's potential return, few seem to expect it after the former blue-chip recruit struggled mightily to find playing time in the Trojans' first seven games. For the season, Baxter has only nine carries for 29 yards and is well behind Marc Tyler and Curtis McNeal on the depth chart.

Baxter has also been something of an off-field distraction during the 2011 season, with his parents requesting (and receiving) a meeting with Kiffin to discuss his lack of playing time in the season opener and his absence from the Notre Dame game reportedly due to his decision to remain with his girlfriend as she gave birth.

Whatever the issues between Kiffin and Baxter -- or Baxter and his grades -- it seems highly likely that if the San Diego product is to ever fulfill his ample recruiting hype, he'll have to do it somewhere other than USC. The consensus five-star seemed poised for stardom after Kiffin offered him rave reviews in spring camp 2010, a camp in which he did this just days after graduating high school:



But barring an impressive career rehabilitation, that play will be as close as Baxter ever gets to stardom for the Trojans.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Pac-12 poll reactions, Week 8

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Pac-12 fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

4/3. Stanford

With the national audience and a ranked opponent, Stanford put on an explosive show at the right time for the voters. The 65-21 track meet victory against Washington highlighted everything dominant about Stanford not-named Andrew Luck. The 446-172 advantage in rushing yards showed the Cardinal have much more to going for them than just their junior star quarterback. The nation took notice, and now the Stanford has moved into position to possibly contend for a national title.

7/7. Oregon

Oregon showed no need to test their injured offensive backfield against Colorado during the 45-2 beatdown in Boulder. The Ducks move up in the polls to fill open spots, but unlike their Pac-12 rivals at Stanford they carry that one loss from the season opener. Oregon's best chances to continue to climb will require more top teams losing, but if LSU defeats Alabama and retains the top spot that one loss will continue to look "acceptable" in the minds of many voters.

20/N/A. USC

NCAA sanctions will keep USC out of the Coaches Poll, but their third 30+ point performance in as many weeks was enough to get them back into the AP rankings. USC's defense held Notre Dame to just 267 total yards and only one offensive touchdown in the impressive 31-17 victory under the lights in South Bend. The Irish got back to their turnover-prone ways, and the Trojans made sure to take advantage. Now Lane Kiffin gets the opportunity to play spoiler to title-contending Stanford when the Cardinal come to town this Saturday for the primetime showdown on national television.

23/20. Arizona State

Very little movement in the polls for the Sun Devils, as Dennis Erickson's squad got the enjoyed their off week. They will return to action on Saturday against Colorado at home (basically part of the bye week) before focusing on the home stretch and a potential Pac-12 South division crown. The schedule sets up well for the Sun Devils, who should be favored to represent the division in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. All they need to do is make sure they don't slip up along the way.


Others receiving votes: Washington was dropped from the rankings after their loss at the hands of Stanford, but still received 32 points in the AP and 20 from the Coaches.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:35 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 8



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The Stanford Machine

There are two ways that you can take Stanford's 65-21 win over Washington on Saturday night. You can tell yourself that Washington was just a bit overrated coming into the matchup, or you can tell yourself that Stanford is just insanely good at this sport called football. Odds are, for mental health reasons, the rest of the Pac-12 is going to convince itself that Washington was overrated. I'm not in that camp, as I think the Huskies are a good team and that Stanford is just really, really good.

We're nearly two months into the season and I haven't seen any sign that would indicate there's a Pac-12 team that will be able to slow down this Cardinal offense. Just another mind-numbingly efficient, throat-stomping 65-point performance from an offense that is now averaging 48.6 points per game. Stanford ran for 446 yards on Saturday night. 446! Another 7 yards from Anthony Wilkerson and the Cardinal would have had three 100-yard rushers in the game. Good luck trying to stop that, everybody else in the Pac-12. The Stanford Machine will gladly keep coming out with that unbalanced offensive line and pulling the guard just for the fun of seeing you trampled beneath it.

LOSER: Washington State's bowl dreams

This one hurts me a bit because I wanted to believe in Washington State after its 3-1 start just for the story, but the Cougars have now lost three in a row following a 44-21 loss to an Oregon State team that's been anything but good this year. Now Washington State needs to find three more wins on its schedule to go bowling and with road dates against Oregon, Cal and Washington, along with home games against Arizona State and Utah, I just don't see it happening.

WINNER: Lane Kiffin

Kiffykins finally got that signature win he's been looking for since taking over the USC program. The Trojans marched into South Bend on Saturday night and took care of their hated rival with relative ease. In fact, I'm not sure Kiffin has ever called a better set of plays in his life than he did on USC's first two drives of the game, as his offense had the Notre Dame defense completely off-balance and looking lost. The Irish were able to make things close late, but the Trojans defense came through with some huge turnovers to salt this one away. Making things even better for Kiffin and the Trojans, the Irish had a lot of recruits in the house on Saturday night and they were all witness to the USC victory.

LOSER: Colorado football in general

Man, what a beating the Buffaloes took from Oregon on Saturday. The Ducks came into the game without their starting quarterback in Darron Thomas and leading rusher LaMichael James, but it didn't matter all that much. The Ducks still put up 45 points with ease and had 527 yards of offense despite the fact that Chip Kelly called off the dogs with more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter. The highlight of the night for Colorado was a safety late in the third quarter to account for its only points. Still, there's something about losing 45-2 that seems even worse than just getting shutout.

WINNER: Streakers dressed up as referees

Arizona's 48-12 victory over UCLA on Thursday night wouldn't be all that memorable if not for one fan who decided it would be the perfect time for him to debut his new field-storming techniques. For too long streakers have entered the field of play in street clothes, making them easy to spot for security and others. This innovator, however, entered the field in a referee's uniform so that by the time anybody was really aware of what was going on he was taking off down the field shedding clothing with every step. Now, we here at CBSSports.com don't necessarily condone this type of behavior, but we're not going to discourage it either. Especially when it's so creative.

LOSER: Rick Neuheisel

Was there anybody watching UCLA's loss to Arizona on Thursday night who didn't feel as though they were watching the final nails being driven into the coffin of Rick Neuheisel's tenure at the school? Sure, he may survive the rest of the regular season, but I don't think anybody who read between the lines of athletic director Dan Guerrero's words earlier this week can actually believe that he'll be returning in 2012.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 10:53 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 11:50 pm
 

QUICK HITS: USC 31, Notre Dame 17

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's first home night game since 1990 was supposed to be all about the Irish. New gold helmets, multiple five-star recruits on the sideline, even talk coming into the game about winning out and going to a BCS game.

USCheard all of the talk about the game and shrugged it off. Rivalry game? It was just another game to them. They were disrespected - first time in school history they were 5-1 and unranked in the polls on top of being a nine-point underdog - and were taking a business trip to the Midwest.

Behind a surprising rushing attack and the reliable duo of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods, the Trojans pulled off the upset 31-17 and stunned a capacity crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish offense struggled most of the night. Despite allowing Tommy Rees to pick up a few big games on checkdowns and some open receivers in the middle of the field, the Trojans much-maligned secondary held Michael Floyd to just four catches and 28 yards. Outside of George Atkinson III's kickoff return for a touchdown right late in the second quarter, the offense was limited to just 10 points and well under 100 yards rushing.

USC had won eight in a row in the series before dropping (literally) one in the Coliseum last year. After establishing the tone early with their longest scoring drive of the season on USC's opening drive, oft-criticized Lane Kiffin picked up his first signature victory as head coach of the Trojans. Both Kiffin and athletic director Pat Haden, a former analyst for Notre Dame broadcasts, have discussed how wins and losses against the Irish are different from others the school might have.

Coming in the talk was all about the blue and gold. Coming out, thanks to Barkley, Woods and Kiffin, it was all about the cardinal and gold.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 12:42 am
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:21 am
 

QUICK HITS: USC 30, Cal 9

Posted by Bryan Fischer

USC WON: As the great Charles Barkley would say, "that was turrible." The Trojans were held to a season-low 310 yards of offense but got a win gift wrapped for them after Cal turned the ball over five times. It's not like USC had to work for the turnovers either, quarterback Zach Maynard just seemed to throw it right to cardinal and gold defenders at the most inopportune moments. While the Trojans' defense looked much improved following a bye week, the offense struggled in the second half and dealt with several injuries.

WHY USC WON: The Trojans came into the game with five turnovers on the season and doubled that number on their annual trip to the Bay Area. Linebacker Dion Bailey had two interceptions and eight tackles to pace the defense and the front seven was active all night getting pressure on Maynard. The offense wasn't sharp but was much more balanced than they have been, with running back Curtis McNeal rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown after replacing an injured Marc Tyler.

WHEN USC WON: Lane Kiffin's squad pretty much took control in the 2nd quarter and never let the Bears back in the game. They started four times in Cal territory in the first half thanks to turnovers and nearly had a pick-six from Nickell Robey to really blow it open. They still had a nice drive early in the third before Matt Barkley hit freshman Marqise Lee on a beautiful fade route with the freshman tip-toeing along the sideline and in for a touchdown. Maynard threw an interception and the defense stuffed a fake punt on the next two possessions before Brandon Carswell scored a seven yard touchdown to put USC in control 20-0.

WHAT USC WON: A game they needed to win before the long trip to South Bend. The Trojans haven't proven they're a good team but they can be an above average one if they can beat rival Notre Dame next week and move to 6-1 on the year. 

WHAT CALIFORNIA LOST: The Bears dropped their third straight this season after running into a tough stretch in their schedule. It eases up a bit with Utah, a trip to UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State but they'll need to go 3-1 or better if they want to make a bowl game and keep Jeff Tedford's seat from being burning hot. There just hasn't been any execution in previous games against USC and that continued Thursday night.

THAT WAS CRAZY: USC has outscored Cal 92-3 in the first half the past four years. The Trojans were up 20-0 heading into the locker room in this game.

 
 
 
 
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