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USC's Lane Kiffin faces old friend in Washington's Steve Sarkisian

The Trojans coach and Huskies coach worked together as USC assistants for five seasons. Sarkisian says coaching against Kiffin is no different from coaching against other Pac-12 coaches.

October 09, 2012|By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times
  • Steve Sarkisian, left, and Lane Kiffin joined Pete Carroll's USC staff in 2001 at age 26 and 27, respectively.
Steve Sarkisian, left, and Lane Kiffin joined Pete Carroll's USC… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

USC Coach Lane Kiffin and Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian worked together as USC assistants for five seasons, sharing responsibility for the offense the last two.

As they prepare to face each other for the third time Saturday, Sarkisian said coaching against Kiffin was no different from coaching against other Pac-12 coaches.

"If we were on the same staff at 'SC when we were younger and he was a defensive guy and I was an offensive guy, and then now we had moved on and then we were calling plays against one another, I think it would be a bit different," Sarkisian said Monday during a news conference.

Kiffin and Sarkisian remain close friends and communicate regularly but will dial back the conversation as they near the game between the No. 11 Trojans and the Huskies at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

"We don't talk quite as much on game week as we normally do, but I'm sure we still will a little bit," Kiffin said during an interview with USC's website.

Sarkisian's Huskies defeated USC with a last-second field goal in 2010. Last season, the Trojans routed Washington, 40-17.

USC is 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 Conference. Washington is 3-2 and 1-1.

"I know Lane hates when I say this, but they're probably the most talented team in our conference when you just look at their starting 22," Sarkisian said.

Said Kiffin: "He says that every year, so he's just going to say that no matter what."

Reserving judgment

Through five games last season, USC had faced two quarterbacks who would be selected in the first three rounds of the 2012 NFL draft and two other quarterbacks who were proven veterans.

So although the Trojans' defense is statistically better through five games, Kiffin is reserving judgment.

USC has allowed an average of 338 yards per game, 41 fewer than at the same point in 2011. The Trojans have allowed seven fewer points (19.4), 42 fewer passing yards (225.4) and about the same number of rushing yards (112.6).

"We have not played the quality of quarterbacks that we had played in the previous two years to this point," Kiffin said this week. "Before we make this statement that, 'Boy, we've improved so much on defense,' we have to make sure we look at the whole thing together."

In 2011, USC faced Minnesota's MarQueis Gray, who played receiver against the Trojans in 2010; Utah's Jordan Wynn; Syracuse's Ryan Nassib; Arizona State's Brock Osweiler; and Arizona's Nick Foles.

The Denver Broncos drafted Osweiler in the second round, and the Philadelphia Eagles took Foles in the third.

This season, the Trojans faced Hawaii's Sean Schroeder, who was making his first start; Syracuse's Nassib; Stanford's Josh Nunes, who was making his third start; California's Zach Maynard; and Utah's Jon Hays, who became the starter after Wynn suffered a career-ending shoulder injury in the second game.

Washington's Keith Price is a returning starter, but he has struggled in the last few games and is ranked last in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency.

Quick hits

Tight end Randall Telfer, who caught a touchdown pass with one hand and also blocked a field-goal attempt against Utah, was selected as the Pac-12's special-teams player of the week. Telfer suffered an apparent ankle injury against the Utes…. The Trojans' Oct. 20 game against Colorado at the Coliseum will kick off at 3 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks…. The Trojans did not practice Monday. They resume practice Tuesday morning.

gary.klein@latimes.com

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