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Trojans' offense gets a move on, but defense can't find its groove

After watching film of a second straight last-second defeat, Coach Lane Kiffin at least finds more encouraging signs in Saturday's 37-35 loss at Stanford -- specifically, the offense's ability to convert scoring chances. The defense, though, remains a major issue.

October 10, 2010|By Gary Klein

Two weeks, two last-second losses.

For the second consecutive Sunday, USC Coach Lane Kiffin pored over game film knowing it was going to end the same crushing way.

The conclusions Kiffin drew, however, were different.

In contrast to USC's Oct. 2 defeat by Washington, the Trojans offense converted opportunities into touchdowns that put them in position to beat Stanford before losing, 37-35, on a field goal Saturday. That, and quarterback Matt Barkley's continuing development, were reasons for optimism.

But while Kiffin described the Trojans' effort as "a step in the right direction," he added that "some things are getting better and some things aren't."

USC's offense, ranked 13th among 120 major college teams, is doing the former.

Its defense is doing the latter. The Trojans rank 100th in total defense and 116th in pass defense.

Nevertheless, a major overhaul of the Trojans' scheme is not forthcoming, Kiffin said.

"I don't think you can have a major overhaul in the middle of the season," he said. "I don't think that would ever be successful in any phase of the game because you just don't have the hours to do that.

"And even if we did, we wouldn't."

Monte Kiffin, the coach's father, is the architect of a scheme that was successful with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and at Tennessee last season. Lane Kiffin said it also was similar to what worked for USC during its best seasons under former coach Pete Carroll.

"It's obviously a system that worked for years at Tampa and did really good things last year in the SEC," Kiffin said. "We just have to continue to do a better job coaching up our players and just continue to work at it."

Officiating review

Kiffin said he had contacted Pacific 10 Conference administrators about several officiating issues in Saturday's game.

One was in regard to the game clock's not starting after officials reviewed a play that gave USC a first down at the Cardinal three-yard line with 1:15 to play.

"My wife reminded me we have a lot of house mortgages, so I'm going to answer this very carefully," Kiffin said.

He then went on to say that the clock should have started well before the snap and that Barkley was "faking" audibles to use more time.

USC was penalized eight times for 53 yards, Stanford three times for 10.

"There was never a flag thrown on them that was a judgment call," Kiffin said. "The only flags were offsides or false start the entire game, so I'm going to have to ask [Stanford] Coach [Jim] Harbaugh in this off-season how he does such a great job."

Quick hits

Freshman running back Dillon Baxter, who injured his foot, had X-rays taken Sunday and was awaiting results, Kiffin said. Baxter told reporters after the game that he sprained several toes. The Trojans also were awaiting word on a knee injury suffered by linebacker Malcolm Smith early in the game. . . . Barkley remains 14th nationally in passing efficiency. He has passed for 15 touchdowns, with four interceptions. "We have leaders on this team," he said after Saturday's loss. "I will not allow us to quit at this point. We know there are better days ahead of us."

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