USC head coach Lane Kiffin walks off the field after losing to Arizona in… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
A day after USC's national championship hopes died in the Arizona desert, Coach Lane Kiffin stood by his clock management and play-calling during a final drive that came up short.
USC's 39-36 loss to Arizona dropped the Trojans from ninth to 17th in the Bowl Championship Series standings and from ninth to 18th in the Associated Press media poll.
Despite five turnovers and 13 penalties, USC had a chance to tie the score and send the game into overtime. With 55 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, the Trojans got the ball at their 13-yard line but failed to move into field-goal range.
Kiffin said Sunday that the Trojans did not spike the ball to stop the clock because each of the first three plays — Matt Barkley passes to running back Silas Redd, to receiver Marqise Lee and again to Redd — resulted in first downs.
"If you can get lined up, you're not really wasting any time," Kiffin said during a teleconference with reporters. "You're going to snap the ball at the same time you're going to clock it, so if you do it really efficiently, there is no difference in the time."
Kiffin, however, said that looking back "in slow motion" he probably would have clocked the ball before the second-to-last play, a long pass down the sideline to Lee that fell incomplete.
"That's not because of time saved," he said. "That's really more to give Marqise a rest."
Lee had caught 16 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns and also returned three kicks for 123 yards.
Kiffin spoke before the season about giving Barkley more opportunities to call and change plays at the line of scrimmage. When asked after the game whether he had considered spiking the ball to stop the clock, Barkley said, "I don't make those decisions on the field."
"That's all on me," he said Sunday. "I don't know that I've heard of a coach giving the quarterback the ability to do that because the quarterback's got people chasing him, running around. He's not understanding the time situation as much as you would think the coaches would."
Look and learn
With second-ranked Oregon coming to the Coliseum on Saturday, Kiffin showed his team video of every major Trojans penalty this season so that players could "see the magnitude of what these things do."
"That was basically our team meeting," said Kiffin, whose team has averaged a nation-worst 10.3 penalties a game. "We kind of talked afterward that, I think seeing all that together, that we're not protecting the team with our decision-making. There's some selfishness in there. And a lot of it is over-aggressiveness toward the opponent."
Lee's 469 all-purpose yards were the third-most in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision history. Emmett White of Utah State amassed 578 yards against New Mexico in 2000. USC's Reggie Bush had 513 yards against Fresno State in 2005…. Arizona ran 94 plays, the most by a USC opponent since Stanford ran 96 in 2000.