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Lane Kiffin disappointed in USC's red-zone defense

The Trojans have allowed opponents to score 16 out of 17 times, including 14 touchdowns, when they've advanced inside the 20-yard line.

October 02, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Wildcats running back Ka'Deem Carey scores on a run against USC's Drew McAllister (19) and Hayes Pullard in the first half Saturday at the Coliseum.
Wildcats running back Ka'Deem Carey scores on a run against USC's… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)

After watching film Sunday of his team's 48-41 victory over Arizona, Lane Kiffin saw red.

Not that USC's coach was angry.

The Trojans, after all, are 4-1.

USC gave up 37 first downs and 554 yards — "Nobody's happy with that many first downs and that many yards being put up," he said during a teleconference with reporters — but Kiffin was most concerned about the Trojans' inability to stop the Wildcats inside the 20-yard line, commonly known as the red zone.

"That's the most disappointing part," he said, adding, "If a couple of those are just field goals then the game is a blowout."

USC entered the game ranked 100th out of 120 major college teams in red-zone defense. Now they're 110th, having allowed opponents to score 16 of 17 times, including 14 touchdowns.

But USC's defensive problems are not limited to 20 yards: They encompass the entire field.

The plan against Arizona was for defensive backs to avoid giving up long pass plays to larger, more experienced Wildcats receivers, Kiffin said.

But that does not explain USC's poor tackling and lack of consistent pressure on quarterback Nick Foles, who was sacked only once after being sacked 12 times in the first four games.

Arizona entered the game as the nation's second worst rushing team. The Wildcats finished with 129 yards rushing — double their season average — and scored touchdowns with the aid of poor or missed tackle attempts.

So Kiffin welcomes an open date before the Trojans' Oct. 13 game against California.

"It's coming at a good time," he said.

The players agree.

"You can't be unhappy with a win," safety T.J. McDonald said Saturday after the game. "Unfortunately, we had to do it in this fashion as far as giving up this many points. But we're going into the film room, we're going to fix everything we need to fix, get the bye week and come back ready to play."

Kiffin is hoping that the open date will allow linebacker Lamar Dawson to return from an ankle injury. The freshman has been sidelined the last two games, forcing senior Chris Galippo to play every snap.

"His first three games were better than his last two," Kiffin said of Galippo. "The one main difference is Lamar hasn't been there."

Kiffin added that Dawson can give Galippo a break during games and practices and also put competitive pressure on the senior for playing time.

More records

Quarterback Matt Barkley, who set a USC single-game record with 468 passing yards, finished with 470 yards of total offense, another school record.

The combined 399 receiving yards by Robert Woods and Marqise Lee was the most ever by a USC duo.

USC and Arizona combined for 1,137 yards, the most in a USC game since the Trojans and Texas A&M combined for 1,139 in the 1977 Bluebonnet Bowl. USC won that game, 47-28.

Quick hits

Kiffin on the sideline interference penalty he drew in the second quarter: "It was ridiculous. And there is no explanation — not one that will ever make sense to me." … The Trojans resume practice Tuesday.

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