This will not be popular and many will disagree, but it is becoming more clear to me that Lane Kiffin may not be ready for Prime Time.
Forgive me if I go all over the map here...
You can't put it all on the players. They execute the plays that are called, but its what was called (or not called) that is more of a concern to me.
Yesterday's squeaker of a win was flush with questionable 2nd half play calling, lack of 2nd half adjustments and strangely, a lack of substitutions. Didn't Kiffin say he was going to work more guys into the game this season in order to rest guys?
In the first half, USC had the Gophers on their heels. The bubble screens were working flawlessly. When the offense mixed it up and went no huddle, things looked to be humming along. The Minnesota D-line got some pressure but Barkley handled it.
Bad plays happen, drops by both Grimble and Telfer were drive killers...one leading to to a high snap that led to a turnover on downs, leading to a Minnesota score. It happens, Grimble and Telfer are seeing their action so I get the jitters, but those dropped balls hurt.
Holmes has had problems with snap exchange all through training camp, it just wasn't discussed. We saw it a number of times yesterday.
USC has all the talent you could possibly want at the skill positions, a heck of a lot more than Minnesota has, yet Kiffin hardly used it...it was Woods, Woods, a little Lee and more Woods. Robert Woods took some shots yesterday, those will start to take their toll if they continue, which is why Kiffin needed to spread it around.
The backs might not be bruisers, but they are capable...and they're production will get better once (if?) the O-Line comes into its own. Not using Dillon Baxter but for two plays was a head scratcher. Why not a little Bax-Cat to mix some things up?
Speaking of the O-line, right now it is average at best. I realize that some guys are starting for the first time or are now getting quality playing time but the interior O-Line is going to be the bane of our existence until they mesh with the outside guys. Yesterday's O-Line played EVERY SINGLE SNAP. I'm sure we had one or two guys that could have filled in for a play or two.
No offense to our opponents but this Minnesota team is not very good. They have all sorts of holes on defense. That makes Kiffin's management of this game so frustrating.
Kiffin's game management is coming into question because of the things he does and then the comments he makes.
Kiffin made ZERO adjustments in the second half. Minnesota changed things up on the bubble screens and those easy gainers were not as plentiful as before. He didn't want to go into play action because he wanted to keep Barkley healthy, but this is one of the worst teams at sacking the QB...even with our O-Line. Minnesota's secondary has two players who moved over from the offensive side of the ball, a safety that missed almost two years due to significant leg injury and we couldn't light them up?
Why not take a few shots with play-action and see what you could get.
If Kiffin doesn't have the faith in the offense making plays then it will only get worse from here as USC faces defenses with a lot more experience coming down the road.
No huddle was working pretty good and then it disappeared.
Kiffin's fascination with the 2-point conversions is mind boggling. You have a new kicker, get him out there and let him kick!
You have a 4th and 1, in range for what some would call a chip-shot field goal and you go for it...only to be stuffed?!
That's just nuts. Even if he misses it the result is the same as getting stuffed.
This team should NEVER leave points on the table!
Either Kiffin doesn't know what he is doing or has NO faith in his new kicker. When will the kid get his chance? Will it be when the game is on the line with no significant pressure kicks under his belt?
As for the defense...
Minnesota is not a team that we should be giving a 5-7 yard cushion in the secondary. The soft zone was killing us yesterday...again. Our guys outclass the Gophers receivers by a mile but we made them look like world beaters. Gray may be a mobile QB but he is hardly a threat to light up the passing lanes every time he drops back.
When Gray went out with an injury it didn't get better for us.
Shortell comes in and rallies his team. All Shortell did was gain some confidence when he should have been sweating bullets.Torin Harris had a bad series that got the gophers to within two point but he redeemed himself with the pick at the end.
It never should have got to that.
So much for Kiffin expecting to make the Coliseum intimidating like it was under Pete Carroll.
The defense was much improved than last season. The talent looks a little more polished but the schemes were the same old thing we have seen from the past. Chris Galippo even had a pretty good game.
I just don't understand why Kiffin is so conservative. He says one thing then does another.
I thought we would win comfortably yesterday. We didn't and now there are a lot more questions.
I am not sure how this season will play out...