The USC Trojans suffered a bad loss on Saturday against the Washington State Cougars as they lost their first home season opener since 2000. The way in which they lost made it even worse, though, as the offense looked anemic, particularly in the passing game. The execution was poor but the play calling may have been even worse. Has Lane Kiffin given up as the head coach of the Trojans?
Last season, Kiffin’s quarterback, Matt Barkley, told the media that his head coach had forced plays towards their biggest playmaker, wide receiver Marqise Lee. That led to Lee putting up dominant stats and walking away with the Biletnikoff Award. Kiffin has a track record of pushing the ball down the field to get stats for his stars and has said repeatedly that this Trojans’ offense needs to be “flashy” this season.
That makes it all the more mind-boggling when you break down the playcalling from Saturday night. USC threw bubble screen after bubble screen, breaking it up only occassionally…with a five-hard hitch route. Despite having one of the best receiver tandems in the country in Lee and Nelson Agholor to go along with a pair of NFL-caliber tight ends, there appeared to be a cap put on the offense, like nothing was allowed to be thrown more than five yards down field.
The result was disastrous. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler COMBINED for 54 passing yards and completed zero passes longer than eight yards. The passing game averaged just 2.6 yards per completion and each QB threw a costly interception that gave WSU the victory. USC fans, clearly fed up with the way things are headed, broke out into a “FIRE KIFFIN” chant as the game wound down after cascading boos onto their sideline for most of the game.
Through the whole ordeal, Kiffin stared stubbornly at his play sheet which apparently contained just a handful of short passes and running plays on it. After the game, he was defiant, refusing to acknowledge that there was an issue with his offense or his handling of the playcalling. At some point, a thick skin and confidence in one’s ability turns into delusion. Kiffin has plunged into the deep end of delusional.
USC AD Pat Haden has insisted that Lane Kiffin is not on the hot seat this season. After the impotent performance of his offense in the first two games, against arguably the two easiest games on their schedule, that can no longer be true. If Kiffin’s keys still work on the facility on Monday morning, Haden has the patience of a saint which is much more than Kiffin deserves.