Many of us watching last nights game were perplexed at some of the play calling and execution.
A lot of this will fall on Lane Kiffin. This is his shop and these are his players, so after three years, with all of this talent we should expect better performances against inferior teams.
Lets start with execution, Kiffin doesn't catch or throw the ball. Barkley's INT wasn't a great play by the UW defender...it was more like Barkley misread the coverage. Barkley stared down the receiver and the defender jumped the route. I can live with a defender making a great play but that was routine...it happens.
Marqise Lee is the best receiver in the game but he has had NUMEROUS issues of catching perfectly thrown passes. While there have been times that Barkley has not looked sharp, you can't blame him when his receivers drop well thrown balls. Marqise Lee is a tremendous weapon. He has made some spectacular catches, we saw one off a tipped ball last night, but you earn your money on catching the balls that you should catch, Lee continuing to drop easy passes will become a bigger issue if he doesn't clean things up.
With Lee, this isn't a talent issue, it is more like a concentration issue.
I could go on.
This all circles back to Lane Kiffin and he made some interesting comments after last nights game.
"Yeah, we played conservative once we got a lead like that, but we said it all along, it's not about anybody's numbers, or Heisman, or anything like that," said Kiffin. "It was about the best thing to win the game."
Kiffin noted they wanted to run the ball and avoid mistakes in this loud and unfriendly atmosphere, but why would that include running even on third-and-long situations?
"There were a few really long situations on third down, and the last thing I wanted to do in this environment was sit there and drop back and let these guys rush us and let the quarterback get hit," Kiffin said. "Going back to that Stanford game ... there's some times that I was getting Matt hit in those same situations and I made sure I didn't do that today."
When Barkley was informed of Kiffin's words, it was his turn to wince.
"I've never heard that from him," he said, the surprise showing clearly in his voice. "I can take any hit. That's surprising."
Just another one in a season full of them.
I want to focus on Kiffin's words here, NOT Plaschke's article because we know how Uncle Bill can skew things.
It is pretty clear that Kiffin is playing things conservative. I can buy into the team concept over individual numbers, but that is a hollow argument to me. I have a hard time believing that Matt Barkley came back for this. The school has a Heisman campaign for Barkley but Kiffin takes the ball out his hand? I won't argue that Barkley staying would probably tighten some things up in his game, but not like this.
Running the ball for the most part last night was a successful game plan. It ate up the clock, gained a lot of yards and protected the QB. But you can sense that Kiffin is more worried about failure...playing not to lose, instead of stretching his legs and playing to win.
Things feel vastly different than last year.
Kiffin looks and is acting tighter as the meat of the sanctions are taking root. I have said numerous times that depth would be an issue. When you don't hit in practice and when players take longer to develop coupled with injuries it takes its toll.
Kiffin's comments also take their toll as you saw at the end of the article. Matt Barkley handles most things pretty respectable but those last comments clearly caught him off guard.
Many have questioned Kiffin the playcaller. Is it too much to be the head coach and the play caller?
Kiffin explains his position on this.
"Sure, I've thought about (not calling plays)," Kiffin said. "You better look at everything you are doing with your program. At the end of the day, I feel it is too valuable, the relationship that playcalling helps develop with our skill players.
"I go back to having the conversation with Coach (Pete) Carroll when I took the Raiders job. He said the worst thing I can do is to give all that up, because the players feel that from you. That's always kind of sat in the back of my head when I've thought about it."
Kiffin said his dual role might have played a part in Barkley's decision to return for his senior season.
Again, focus on Kiffin's words and not that last sentence from Wolf's article which seems contradictory based on Kiffin's surprising comments above.
I was under the impression that Kiffin's relationship with his stars is solid? Maybe someone can explain to me how not calling the plays undermines that relationship...I mean come on, these are HIS players!
More important, many see Kiffin as underachieving with things not looking like they are improving.
I know many are happy with the win, but I think many want to see the team get better as the season progresses. I don't think anyone can definitively say that this is happening.
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Here is Kiffin's post game presser.