Friday, October 5, 2012
Kiffin revisits Utah victory
By Pedro Moura
LOS ANGELES -- USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin addressed the media in his normal day-after game conference call Friday night, discussing several topics pertaining to Thursday night's win over Utah and looking forward a bit to the Trojans' long week of practice before their next game at Washington.
Here are notes and quotes from the call:
Still no answers at corner
Kiffin has been looking for a solution at the second starting cornerback spot all season, but he said the Trojans aren't any closer to finding one after Thursday's game.
"No, we're not," Kiffin said Friday.
Torin Harris and Kevon Seymour were both burned on touchdown passes by the Utes, Harris flailing his arm well away from the pass in the end zone and Seymour getting out-positioned on another attempt downfield.
Kiffin did say he and his staff have discussed the possibility of moving safety Josh Shaw to corner to provide a different look -- a move he has steadfastly resisted so far this year.
Shaw has played well in limited snaps as a reserve safety this season and also looked good during his temporary switch to corner in fall camp.
He said in August that he prefers playing corner over safety.
More on Woods' situation
Receiver Robert Woods, who fell to the field in a scary moment in the first quarter of Thursday's game, is "fine," Kiffin said.
Woods, who said after the game he felt "dazed," sat out one play and was administered a concussion test, which he passed. He then returned to the game and performed normally.
Kiffin said it was not his decision to re-insert Woods into the game.
"For obvious reasons, the coach has nothing in that decision," Kiffin said. "The medical staff always errs on the side of being safe."
Interestingly, Kiffin cited the example of former USC linebacker Jarvis Jones as proof that the school's staff is careful when dealing with medical situations.
Jones was not medically cleared for competition with the Trojans because of a neck injury but has been dominant since transferring to Georgia.
Kiffin called him the "best defensive player in college football."
Marqise pulling double duty?
USC's other starting receiver, Marqise Lee, leads the country in receptions with 52 after another huge performance against Utah.
He had 12 catches for 192 yards and a score and is now on pace to finish the regular season with 125 catches for 1558 yards and 17 touchdowns.
"You can't play much better," Kiffin said of both Lee and quarterback Matt Barkley, who had his best game of the season Thursday.
Kiffin noted that Lee has had 10 or more receptions in five of USC's last six games, going back to the 2011 season finale against UCLA.
"People don't do that in their entire career, let alone seven games," Kiffin said.
The Trojans' coach also humorously brought up an exchange he had with Lee on the flight home from Salt Lake City on Thursday night. He was watching defensive film when Lee approached him and told him he could fill USC's need at corner and still play receiver.
"He tried to convince me that he can physically play all of the snaps on offense and on defense and be physically fine," Kiffin said.
Kiffin said he was not convinced but joked that Lee could play corner in the red zone occasionally.
Special teams struggles
Kiffin was pleased with his team's overall play on Thursday, saying the Trojans played "really sound football" after the fiascos of the first three minutes.
But he had one major critique: the special teams. He said USC's kicking, punting and returning was the worst it's ever been in his three-year tenure.
Sophomore kicker Andre Heidari pushed two field goals wide right -- doubling his career miss total -- and punter Kyle Negrete also had a short punt in the fourth quarter. The Trojans didn't do anything special on any returns, either.
Kiffin attributed Heidari's misses to him being "a little bit too hyped during the game," not to the installation of third-string quarterback Cody Kessler as the team's new holder.
"We'll get him to calm down," Kiffin said of Heidari.
Final notes: Kiffin said running back D.J. Morgan played the best game of his college career on Thursday night. Morgan had missed USC's three previous contests while recovering from minor knee surgery. ... Nickell Robey's fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown was the third such play of his career, which ties a school record set by Charles Phillips in the 1970's. ... Kiffin said he talked to Pac-12 coordinator of officiating Tony Corrente about Utah's oft-used strategy of moving its defensive line just before the snap to draw false-start penalties on opponents. He said Corrente agreed with him that teams "shouldn't be able to" do that in college football. The practice is outlawed in the NFL.