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Kicking game has Coach Lane Kiffin 'extremely' concerned

USC FOOTBALL FYI

Joe Houston and Jake Harfman combine to go 0 for 6 on field-goal attempts in practice. The competition for the job was reopened after Houston made only two of six kicks in the first four games.

October 06, 2010|By Gary Klein

It was not exactly a performance that inspired confidence.

Or hope.

USC Coach Lane Kiffin was anxious to see if either Joe Houston or Jake Harfman would establish himself in a reopened kicking competition, but the two went zero for Wednesday, combining to miss six field-goal attempts.

Asked how concerned he was about the Trojans' kicking game, Kiffin did not hesitate.

"Extremely," said Kiffin, whose team is preparing for Saturday's Pacific 10 Conference game at No. 16 Stanford.

Houston, a fifth-year senior, won the placekicking job and a scholarship in training camp. But he has made only two of six field-goal attempts, the longest from 34 yards.

His 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter against Washington put the Trojans ahead, 31-29. But his 40-yard attempt with less than three minutes left bounced off the right upright, setting the stage for the Huskies' game-winning drive, which ended with a last-second field goal by Erik Folk, who is seven for seven against the Trojans the last two seasons.

Harfman punts and also handles kickoffs.

"We still have parts of the week," Kiffin said. "Maybe we'll make one here in warmups."

Baxter factor

With Allen Bradford rushing for 223 yards and Marc Tyler running and scoring touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation for the first time, Dillon Baxter got only one carry against Washington.

But the freshman is not pouting. In fact, Baxter looks and sounds reinvigorated.

"I was on the sideline and obviously it was for a reason, so I'm just trying to come out here and make a new and improved Dillon Baxter," he said this week. "It was real frustrating but now that I look at it, overall, it was basically my fault.

"So I can't really be mad. I haven't been working as hard as I can. It's all been on me this whole time."

Kiffin was generally pleased with the Trojans' execution of the Wildcat.

"You want it to be productive like it was," he said, "and you want it to make [opponents] work on it the rest of the year, which now they'll have to."

Good deal for Stanford

Stanford's "What's your deal?" ticket mini-plan, inspired by last season's postgame exchange between former USC coach Pete Carroll and Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh, has proved profitable.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the school has sold all 1,081 "What's your deal" packages — USC and two other games — and with an average price point of $90 has generated $100,000.

Quick hits

Because of soaked turf at their practice facility, the Trojans worked out on the artificial surface at Cromwell Field in the track and field stadium. … Defensive end Wes Horton did not practice and Kiffin listed fullback Stanley Havili, defensive end Nick Perry, cornerback Shareece Wright, offensive lineman Butch Lewis and receiver Robert Woods as limited.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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