Notre Dame is back on top of the football world, and they can thanks some friendly calls from the officials in the Pitt and Stanford games for helping them get there. They can also thank USC boy wonder Lane Kiffin for his awful playcalling and clock management at the end of Saturday’s game for a major assist.
The Trojans were down 22-13 with 5:58 left in the game and got a great kick return from Marqise Lee to the 45 following a Notre Dame field goal. Quarterback Max Wittek then completed a 53-yard pass to Lee that took the ball down to the two. At that point, it looked like the Trojans would score a touchdown and have plenty of time to get a defensive stop and the ball back for a game-winning field goal. But things didn’t unfold as planned.
Kiffin’s offense operated with the urgency of a retired senior citizen on vacation. They routinely took at least 15 seconds between plays, and they used over three minutes in clock time to run eight plays. They didn’t even score a touchdown. The team was undisciplined, getting penalized for a false start on their first first-and-goal play. Kiffin then for some reason called for a run from the seven. Then after back-to-back pass interference calls, the Trojans were stuffed on consecutive QB sneak attempts. I actually didn’t mind the sneak call; Wittek needs to go airborne to get in on that, so I blame him for failed execution. But it wasn’t until after the second failed sneak that Kiffin finally called a timeout. He tried another run again, which didn’t work, and finally called a pass on fourth down that was a good call, but the pass was too low for Soma Vainuku to make the catch.
Everything about that possession for the Trojans marks what’s wrong with Kiffin. He has bravado where it doesn’t belong, and it costs the team. He thinks he can pound it in when he can’t, and that his team will push the opponents around when they won’t. The playcalling, lack of urgency, and undisciplined players were all hallmarks of a poorly coached team.
USC finished 7-5 after losing four of its last five games. They became the first AP preseason No. 1 team to finish with five losses since Ole Miss in 1964 (per ESPN Stats and Info). They were heavily hyped but didn’t live up to the billing. They lost five games despite their coach having players change jerseys and student managers deflate balls to gain advantages on the field.
The reality is that Lane Kiffin is not much better than an average football coach. If you want an unethical coach who is going to create a buzz in recruiting, cause controversies with the media or opposing teams, and then underachieve in the season, he’s your man. I guess that’s what AD Pat Haden wants, because he’s planning to stick with him.
Here’s video of the Notre Dame goal-line stand for the ages/USC debacle in case you want to relive it: