USC football assistant head coach Monte Kiffin runs to his position during… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Monte Kiffin senses the heat.
After USC gave up 101 points and 1,318 yards in its last two games, he knows some Trojans fans are screaming.
"Oh yeah," said Kiffin, USC's assistant head coach for defense. "But you've got to stay focused on what you're doing, you really do, or you'll get way out of whack."
That's how the Trojans looked on defense in their 62-51 loss to second-ranked Oregon last week.
But although USC could not effectively execute its defensive game plan in the defeat, Trojans coaches unwaveringly have stayed on point in the aftermath.
Just as his son, Coach Lane Kiffin, did after the game, Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron on Wednesday took turns falling on the sword and accepting blame.
"It starts with me, it really does," Monte Kiffin said.
Said Orgeron: "I take full responsibility."
OK, now that the accountability issue is cleared up: Will anything change?
Monte Kiffin referred to last season, when the Trojans gave up a combined 84 points in games against Arizona State and Arizona.
In their next game, the Trojans held California to nine.
"We went through it a little bit last year," he said, before quipping, "Don't you remember? You were asking me the same questions."
On Saturday, USC plays Arizona State and will face a spread offense for the third consecutive week.
The Sun Devils, who have lost three consecutive games to teams now ranked in the top 20, are not as relentless or fast-paced as Oregon.
But quarterback Taylor Kelly and running backs D.J. Foster, Cameron Marshall and Marion Grice are standouts for an offense that has averaged 457 yards and 37 points a game.
"Every spread is different," Monte Kiffin said, "they're totally different."
So, what will the Trojans change?
"I wouldn't say for sure right now what we would do different because it wouldn't be very smart," he said. "Except, we need to play better, that's for dang sure. But you can't get into specifics of a game plan, no doubt about it."
Lane Kiffin said he could see "excitement" from defensive players eager to get back onto the field and put the Oregon game behind.
"Saturday," he said, "can't come fast enough."
"You have to show them as a coach when you get up in the morning that it isn't bothering you," he said. "Now, I'd be lying to tell you I don't think about it night after night. But you have to deal with it and move on."
The Pac-12 Conference reprimanded and fined USC because a football student manager intentionally deflated, below NCAA-regulated levels, several balls used by the Trojans in their game against Oregon, the school announced on its website.
“Game officials discovered and re-inflated three of the balls before the game and two others at halftime,” the website said. “All balls were regulation in the second half.”
According to the website, USC investigated after it was informed of the allegation by the Pac-12.
“The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game,” the website said.
The student manager has been relieved of his duties.
USC's Nov. 24 game against Notre Dame at the Coliseum will kick off at 5 p.m. and will be televised by ABC…. Arizona State ranks second nationally with 38 sacks. Lineman Will Sutton has 9 1/2, linebacker Carl Bradford 7 1/2. USC has given up 12 sacks.